The "Happy" Emerald Isle
We took the road north from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Don Det, one of the smaller of the 4000 islands of Laos, arriving as the sun set on the little emerald isle. It was quite peaceful; the only hint of its “party island” infamy was the chalkboard menus touting “happy shakes”. Night one, “downtown”, we took up a pillow on the floor of Monkey Bar. Like many cafes, everything “happyized” was promised from shakes to wraps to brownies. While we didn’t partake, the atmosphere was chill enough to send anyone into bliss. Our days were spent on bikes exploring Don Det and Don Khong, its sister island. Those who feared moon lit raves on Don Det lodged here. The paths followed the Mekong, stilted guesthouses, outdoor cafes and huts bordered the river. Our wanderings took us over a rickety bridge that the French left behind in the 40s onto Don Khong. The main road lead to a pier, where tiny islands pushing out of the river, most only big enough for one, invited us into the maze. We rented a canoe one afternoon and were treated to Irrwaddy dolphins who delighted us with breathy whooshes every time they surfaced. Little Eden was our favorite sunset spot, a pink and orange sun blessed the Mekong as fishermen glided by. Lao Lao mojitos made for a perfect day’s end. Our last morning, I retraced our steps on my run, stilted bungalows, colorful temples, “dangerous” waterfalls, the “blue lagoon” swimming hole, and water buffalos in the island paddies will stay forever in my daydreams.