Our first stop in Laos was Don Det, an island in the Mekong River, part of the 4000 islands group, just across the border from Cambodia. We thought we had seen the last of being ripped off by Cambodian’s but we were in for one last surprise. The Cambodian bus driver tried to sell us our boat tickets to Don Det for double the normal price. We said no thanks and headed down to the river front to buy the tickets off the Lao boat driver. Unfortunately the bus driver followed us down there, angrily yelled at the boat driver, we presume threatening the boat driver to ensure he still got his cut. The boat driver was friendly, old, couldn’t speak English and looked like he had worked hard his whole life. It makes us sad to see the likes of him exploited by the “educated” upper class.
The main thing to do at Don Det is relax on your hammock outside your bungalow overlooking the Mekong River. At night the bungalow hosts often make small fires on the beach where the guests can sit around and chat and relax which we did on one night. Also we hired a bike to visit Khone Phapheng falls which are famous for being the obstacle preventing the upper Mekong from being navigable by the early Europeans. A railway had to be built to circumvent them.
It was on Don Det where we got the now infamous “worse meal ever served in any restaurant anywhere”. Hanging out for some pasta after being rice and noodled out, we ordered the penne bolognese from the restaurant adjoining our accommodation Run only by locals, this should have served as a warning that maybe their western food might be a bit dodgy. Actually the pasta was inedible. The meat in the bolognese was chunky stewed beef. It had a very strong stewy flavour, like it was fermented and salted and stewed for a month. Tomato was totally absent from the dish. Instead it was topped with grated carrots and spring onion. Nothing else. Sharni could not swallow even a single piece of pasta. Joe struggled with a few pieces, not wanting to make the chef feel too bad. But no amount of good will could have made this dish palatable. We quietly snuck out to our bungalow and went to bed a little hungry.