Across the Mekong to Don Sao Laos
While visiting Northern Thailand on our honeymoon we found ourselves in the Golden Triangle. What is the Golden Triangle you ask? This is the area where Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet on the mighty Mekong River. This area is known for it’s involvement and use in the Opium trade through the years. The river enabled the Opium to be transported from Myanmar and Thailand to China and Southern Southeast Asia.
Prior to our trip I had done some research on the area but hadn’t thought of taking a boat trip on the Mekong. When we heard that it would allow us to step foot on a province of Laos we decided, why not? We didn’t have enough time to visit Laos so we figured this was a good way to take a peek at the country. We weren’t required to have a Visa but we were given a stamped card with the date. ( Cool, but nowhere near as cool as a passport stamp would have been!)
To reach Don Sao, we boarded a boat that would sail up the Mekong- showing us some landscape views, a casino and a giant Buddha before docking on the Laos side. The first thing you see as you near the Laos side is a trove of children that run down the hill and onto the banks of the river. They are quite polite but very clear that they are there to beg money from you. They are aggressive, but harmless and I didn’t see one of them attempt to pickpocket (and I watched closely!)
No doubt about it, Don Sao is a tourist trap. However, it does give you a small glimpse at some of the Lao culture. You walk off the dock right into a market. You can find anything imaginable there from knock off designer purses to authentic snake whiskey. Overall we spent 2 hours walking through the markets and watching as people bravely bought shots of the whiskey. NO thanks for this girl! Snakes alone give me the willies, not. gonna. touch. that.
You aren’t able to wander too far outside of the village and market area, but if you push yourself to the outskirts of this area you are able to witness some of the everyday life that goes on outside of the tourist area. We saw children playing in the sand, chickens wandering in the bushes, mothers doing laundry and men fishing on the banks of the mainland.
It wasn’t much of Laos, but the experience left us wanting more and we plan to spend some time in mainland Laos on our RTW next year. As for those wondering whether it is worth the 500 baht boat trip, CERTAINLY. Grab your cameras and prepare to find some great items and see some crazy snake whiskey displays.