The next morning we boarded the water taxi and took an hour and a half ride to Don Khon, our home for the next few days. Don Det and Don Khon are two smaller islands situated at the very southern tip of Laos. Don Det is more oriented towards tourists and is home to a bunch of bars, shops, and bungalows while Don Khon has a more laidback local feel to it. There are a few guesthouses and restaurants, but the lifestyle is more aligned to the locals living there, they aren’t catering to tourists. The islands are connected by a small and simple bridge that was built in the early 1900s making it pretty simple to hop back and forth from one to the other. Once we got off the boat, Saleem and I walked the road looking for a suitable and super cheap bungalow. We didn’t want to spend more than $5 a night. After looking at several places, we decided on a riverside bungalow that had a big porch overlooking the MeKong. The hammocks on the porch were definitely the seal on the deal and it was only 40,000, which is exactly what we wanted to spend. We put down our things and immediately rented bicycles. We hoped on and followed signs to a nearby waterfall. I had no idea what was in store. It was a raging waterfall; tons and tons of water were pouring down it each minute. The water was so powerful and you could clearly see that by the deep scars in the surrounding rocks. Saleem and I ducked under the fence posted “Danger” and climbed down to the water’s edge. We chose our steps carefully so that we weren’t putting ourselves in danger. I sat for a while in awe. It’s amazing how beautiful and captivating things like fire and water are. Much more interesting and thought provoking than today’s television shows. As I sat and watched tiny minnows jumping up out of the water to try and make it upstream, I wondered what they thought about all this. The water was their home, so surely they appreciated it, but did its force irritate them as well? After I had time to take in the scene, appreciate my surroundings and commit it to memory I climbed back up the rocks near the fence. On the way up, Saleem spotted a couple fishermen heading south. We decided to follow them and see where it would lead. By this time though we were both feeling a little sluggish and we quickly lost sight of them. After a bit we decided to get out of the sun, climb back under the fence and go in search of lunch. We stopped at a small place that said it had lemon-mint tea shakes. This intrigued me. There is nothing I love more than an icy drink on a hot day so I ordered one. The lady immediately called someone, so I knew that the ingredients weren’t on hand. This is a fairly common practice in Asia. Everything is local so restaurants and guesthouses buy it when it’s needed so they don’t spend money on wasted goods. The woman asked if I could wait ten minutes so I told her I would come back in twenty. In the meantime we followed a sign that said ‘beach.’ After weaving our way through the jungle in the desert (picture vines and trees and lots of sand) we came to an opening. We weren’t sure if this is the beach that the sign said. It was really sandy and sunny, but it didn’t look suitable for swimming. I felt like I would have been whisked away in the Mekong if I dipped my toes in, so we turned around and went back the way we came. I stopped back at the little restaurant and the woman started making my drink. I was presented with a bright minty green ice shake. It was definitely one of the best beverages I’ve had in all of Asia. It was refreshing and natural, no sugars. While I was slurping it down, the woman’s son, who is about two, wouldn’t leave me alone. He kept poking me and giggling; after a few minutes we became best friends. When I finished my drink I didn’t want to leave because the boy was so cute, but I was famished. We walked down the road and had a not so enjoyable, mystery meal. Meaning we really didn’t know what we were eating even though we knew what we ordered. After lunch we biked back for a little break. Around 3 p.m. we got back on the bikes in search of the rare irrawaddy dolphins that are so popular around the Laos/Cambodia border. Apparently they swim through every day around sunset. One the way to the dolphin spot we saw a sign for a beach. We decided to check it out. It was a calm little area of the river that was suitable for swimming so we jumped in. I was really creeped out by the water. It was nice and clean, but I tend to be scared of deep, dark water. I have no idea what’s hiding down there and I don’t want to find out. I tried to man up and deal with my irrational fears as I swam over to a rock island in the middle of the river, but the whole time I kept squealing and mentally freaking out. Once I made it to the rock I climbed up on and only left my legs in the water. After hanging out for a while I decided I had enough and swam back. Saleem stayed in longer than I did and when he finally came out he showed me a bite on his hand. Apparently he was holding his breath underwater and being motionless and then something bit him! It wasn’t anything serious, but if that happened to me it would have scared me out of that water for good. After we dried off we got back on the bikes and set off for the southern tip of the island. We got there about a half hour later and waited patiently until sunset, hoping to spot the dolphins. A few dozen people hired long tail boat drivers to take them out, but we read that it wasn’t worth it so we stayed on shore. After an hour and a half passed we looked at each other and decided it was time to head back. No dolphins, no big deal. The people on the boat said they did see them a couple times, but they were far away, which explains why we couldn’t get a glimpse. We weren’t too worried about it; we had a great day regardless. The next morning we decided to check out Don Det, the island directly across the river. We rode our bikes across the bumpy dirt bridge, it’s a cement structure, but the road part of it is filled in with dirt. The sun was scorching our backs as we peddled along the bumpy island road. After about fifteen minutes we started to see bungalows, restaurants and shops. We wound down the skinny path moving out of the way for songtows, pedestrians and locals pushing big metal carts full of supplies for their shops. I really wanted to post a blog so we stopped to eat brunch at a café that said it had Internet. It definitely did not, but the food was great. I had a blended ice coffee drink and a salad with tuna on top. It was just what I needed to start the day off right. After our meal we rode a few more yards up the road and stopped at another café that said it had Internet. Our plan was to buy some water and fruit and use their Internet, but unfortunately theirs didn’t work either. We gave up and went in search of our next activity. We had hopes of tubing down the Mekong and after asking a couple people who had “tubes for rent” signs we finally found a place that was willing to take us out. For 30,000 kip a boat took us up the Mekong and dropped us off. We floated slowly down the river past bathing water buffalos and children splashing on the banks. I overcame my fear of the water and it really helped that I had a tube to hop up on when I got spooked. Over an hour later we saw the banks of Don Det. When we got closer the current picked up and we started frantically swimming towards the shore. The water was really strong and there was no way we were going to make it. I clung to a big rock as the water rushed by me. I didn’t want to let go because then I would be headed down the wrong branch and past the shore of Don Det. I felt like a kitten stuck in a tree. Finally my fireman a.k.a. the boat captain saw us and came to pick us up. He was laughing a lot, probably because of the scared look on my face. After the tubing trip I felt so great. I had accomplished a little dream of mine, tubing down the Mekong. Saleem and I swam around for a little bit and then peddled our way back to Don Khon to find lunch. Before lunch Saleem took a shower, while I read my book on the porch. I heard him give a little shriek and I could tell he was hopping around in the bathroom. Ten minutes later he came out and gave me a full report: there was an enormous cockroach in the bathroom and it crawled on his leg when he was showering. I wanted to shower next and not with company, so I went into the bathroom where he had “trapped” the roach. He put a container on it, but the container’s top wasn’t level so the bug was half in and half out. I trapped it under a towel and shook it out over the banister and into the Mekong River, but it hung on and jumped off right when I brought the towel back over the banister. The enormous bug crawled at an alarming rate back into our room. That was not a good sign. To me that meant this bug knew where it’s home was and if it lived there it probably had family as well. Since it scampered out of sight I ignored it and got into the shower. Once I turned on the cold water, two more bugs crawled up out of the drain. I guess I should mention that these were flying cockroaches and were about as long as my middle finger. I was freaked out, but just continued to shower instead of worrying about them. We decided to leave our buggy bungalow and go eat lunch at a restaurant that claimed it had wifi. On the third café of the day we lucked out. It had wifi and delicious food. I ordered vegetable curry with coconut, which turned out to be my favorite meal in Laos. After I successfully posted a blog and slurped down a mango smoothie it was time to work off our meal. We got on our bikes and headed north on the island. Along the way the bungalows and restaurants ceased to exist and in their place we saw farms and small homes. All the people we passed offered us a welcoming curious smile. We could tell that travelers didn’t come this way often. We biked along for over an hour on skinny dirt paths. We took random turns and crossed bridges that seemed on the verge of collapse. It quickly got dark and we found ourselves in a deserted wooded area. We heard something in the woods, something really big. We could hear branches snapping and something rummaging around so we peddled our little hearts out. After a few minutes we came to a huge blazing fire. We were in a local village. Saleem and I stopped to take stock of our situation. We were both a little scared of what we heard, but glad that we were back out in the open and away from whatever it was. We peddled on and after a few moments we came to a main road. Two motorcycles were approaching so we asked, “which way to Annie’s?” a restaurant near our bungalow. The guys laughed and pointed in the direction we planned on heading in anyway. Saleem and I were going as fast as our bikes would allow, they didn’t have gears so there wasn’t much we could do. We just wanted to get back before it was pitch black. By this time we really couldn’t see a thing. My eyes weren’t able to focus on the road ahead, so I just kept moving, hoping I didn’t hit a rock or a ditch. Then hundreds of bugs started running into us. We were talking, but they kept flying into our mouths. We giggled through our teeth as we peddled and peddled. Finally after another half hour we saw a light ahead, we were back on the eastern side of the island, back to our bungalow. We both congratulated each other on making it home alive and decided to reward ourselves with dinner. That night we had a lot of company in the riverside bungalow. There were bugs perched on the wall near our bed and on the ceiling. Several flying cockroaches were standing guard in the bathroom and one even made a home in my towel. I didn’t realize that until I used it to dry off. I also saw a huge cockroach scampering across the bed. That was my breaking point. I was jumping and on the verge of bug insanity from that point on. During the night I woke up several times swearing that something had just bumped into my leg or crawled into my hair. Needless to say we survived the night. The next morning we woke up early and grabbed a quick breakfast to go at a nearby bungalow. We both ordered fruit and yogurt. We started eating the fruit on the boat, but boy was it bad. The bananas were brown and mushy, the pineapple was fermented and the watermelon was flavorless. I opened the yogurt and ate a spoonful, but it tasted funky. I looked on the lid and it was expired. Strike one, two, three and four. We fed our fruit to the fish and chalked it up as a loss. After picking up three other people our boat headed to the mainland. From there we were to board a bus to Cambodia. We hung around at the bus station for over an hour while we waited for dozens of other tourists to arrive and buy their tickets. When we first got there our boat captain asked for my ticket so I gave it to him. In Asia it always works like that, someone comes and takes your ticket and you just have to trust that they will bring it back or give you some other verification that you have a seat on the bus, train or boat. This time our captain didn’t give me my ticket back so I figured I was on a list somewhere and the people running the show would just know where I belonged and where I was going. While we waited for everyone to show up, I paid my visa fee of $35. I only had 20,000 kip left and I was feeling hungry. Saleem and I opted for a sandwich near the station. We saw everyone eating them and they looked so tempting. I ordered a tuna on a long roll. The woman toasted it over hot coals and then added carrots, onions, cucumber, lettuce and tuna. Thankfully I stopped her before she put any mayonnaise on it, Saleem’s had half a bottle on his. The first bite of my sandwich was pure bliss. I don’t know if it was because I didn’t have bread in so long or because I was hungry, but it was the bomb. After every bite I remarked at how good it was. I talked about that sandwich for the next week. I’m still thinking about how good it was. That tuna sandwich was by far the best part of my day. It also preceded the worst part of my day. Soon after the delicious sandwich everyone started boarding the buses. Saleem and I were the first ones to the buses, but the last to board. Everyone had tickets, but us. The guys in charge were raising their voices at us asking us where ours was and why we didn’t have one. We explained the situation, but he wasn’t hearing any of it. He just kept saying that we had to know which company so he knew what bus to put us on. We were baffled. I was getting upset. The buses were about to leave and they were telling us we would have to go back to our guesthouse and get another ticket. Yeah, right. That would mean we would have wasted $35 for the first one and we would be leaving a day later. Finally Saleem showed the one guy a photo he took of our captain. It was only his back, but somehow that was enough to identify him. One of the people in charge of the tickets called him and the whole thing was straightened out. We ended up being on the really nice bus with the bathroom so in the end it worked out perfectly. That was the first time in Asia that I ever had any type of mix up or dilemma about a ticket. It really stressed me out. In the middle of the conversation my favorite watch broke too. The band had ripped. It only last two weeks; I guess that’s why it was only $3. Finally we were allowed on the bus. Everyone inside seemed genuinely concerned and happy when everything worked out or they just wanted the bus to get going already. After an hour we reached the border of Laos and Cambodia. We all had to turn over our passports and sit and wait for an hour until our visas were issued. I preferred this method much better than the pushing and shoving at the Vietnam and Laos border. Then it was time to get back on the bus. I sat in the same spot for twelve hours and by this point I was a little worried I wasn’t going to make it to my intended destination. The bus I was on was headed to Phnom Penh, but I wanted to go to Siem Reap so at some point we were to switch buses. I heard that we’d be switching after only a few hours so when 7 p.m. rolled around I was sure that the switch was never going to happen. To my delight we pulled into a bus station at 8 p.m. and all the travelers going to Siem Reap were ushered onto another bus. We all piled in and sat for another four hours, finally arriving in Siem Reap around midnight. Saleem and I scored a great tuktuk driver and went to a hostel that was recommended to us by a couple Canadians way back in December. When we first pulled up all the lights were off, but then someone flicked on the porch light. Apparently there’s a night receptionist that sleeps on the porch in order to welcome visitors at all times. We were shown to our room where promptly dropped all our bags and got ready for bed. Before lying down, I plugged in Saleem’s computer. There was a spark and the lights and fans both shut off. Shit. It really was time for bed.