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Saturday, 01 July 2006

Honeymoon in Laos? - Page 4

Written by Michael McCarthy
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Close your eyes.  When you hear the word ‘honeymoon’, what do you think of?  Long walks along wind swept beaches, candle lit dinners overlooking a majestic blue ocean, some sort of tropical paradise, right?  How about a landlocked communist country in the middle of the monsoon season?  My fiancé was skeptical, but I managed to convince her. Despite (or because of) its geopolitical remoteness, Laos proved to be just as romantic as your standard honeymoon destination, if not more so.


The southernmost part of Laos was our last destination where we visited a collection of islands known in Laos as Si Phan Don (or “Four Thousand Islands”).  Having been dropped off by a bus driver who literally turned the bus around to make an extra trip for us, we boarded an open canoe with a lawn mower engine to take us to our island of choice, Don Khon(e) (not to be confused with Don Khong, our earlier mistake).  Along the way we savored the new environment:  islands lush with palm trees and dotted with simple huts for the few tourists who venture this far south.

Having been impressed with its northern counterpart, we decided to once again stay at a Sala hotel; this one entitled Sala Phae.  This time we were treated to a raftel, which is a hotel that literally was constructed on the Mekong River with bamboo poles underneath to act as both support and anchor.  Like the other Sala hotel, the room came with white linens and mosquito netting.  The outside balcony completed the room: a small patio where we enjoyed our breakfast delivered to us as we dipped our feet into the passing waters. All of this, including a hefty breakfast, was USD$15 a night.

We spent the better part of five days bicycling around Don Khong and Don Det (the neighboring island). It is a bucolic countryside of rice paddies, water buffalo, workers in triangular straw hats, and local children at play.  As we cycled, we would occasionally stop to eat a simple meal at a river restaurant.  Talk about fresh food! As we sat overlooking the river, we saw fish being pulled in right before our eyes, which then became the daily specials.


When we returned ashore from a short boat trip to see a local species of river dolphin, the Irrawaddy, some local fishermen invited us into their hut to dine on their catch.  Since it was that time of the day when the skies usually open for an hour and dump rain in buckets, we happily accepted.  Almost immediately, a plastic Coke bottle filled with the local rice whiskey, lao lao, was passed around as each fishermen took a swig and then handed it over to another.  Eventually, it made its way to us.  Not wishing to be impolite, I took a healthy taste and handed it back (note: Jamesonâ need not fear an Eastern competitor).  Not hesitating, the man passed the bottle to my wife.  After a brief moment of uncertainty, she followed suit, to the immediate cheers of everyone in the hut.  We passed the test and spent the remainder of the afternoon in their company.

Since the island only has electricity via generators, the service is spotty at best and absent at night.  Once again we relaxed in each other’s company, discussed island life with the hotel staff, and simply enjoyed the uncomplicated time without life’s modern conveniences.

Our time in Laos was simple, and therein lies its charm.  The country will not sweep you off your feet like the typical honeymoon is supposed to; nor will it support an image that a honeymoon should be uncomplicated, perfectly set amidst a Hollywood-like tropical paradise.  But like a real marriage, our honeymoon in Laos was full of smaller, remarkable events that complied together, fulfilled our wishes. Hopefully, this will carry on during all of our journeys together.


(Page 4 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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