Thursday, November 25, 2010

A River Song - November 26th, 2010

A River Song

The way down was confusing. Flying here, taking a tuk-tuk there crossing rivers and waterways.

In the end, I really had no idea where I was and I didn’t even want to look at a map to try to understand: I was enjoying that feeling of disorientation.

Disorientation, a strange word to use in the Orient; I was, after all, as orientated as I could possibly be. But the never-ending parade of stilt wooden Mekong houses and fish cages, boats and ferries, crossings and pagodas had left me teetering and blessedly confused.

The mark of a good trip is, after all, dépaysement.

Everywhere we went we were surrounded by the smell of water, that fresh water smell you get in Canada, for example, in the summertime when the lake water laps up against the dock. In that part of the Mekong the water not clear and bright, however, it is muddy and wide like the Mississippi. But the smell is almost the same, though warmer somehow.

One day we rented a boat with Danielle, a friend we met in Vientiane, and went down the Mekong to the smaller sister islands of Don Kong and Don Det. Don Det has become something of the backpackers’ magnet and little bungalows dot the banks of the river with hammocks on their balconies. Too many people, I thought, remembering the horrors of Vang Vieng.

Instead we went for a walk on Don Kong island and visited a waterfall, passing through the village and admiring the destitute French buildings and French bridge.

The ride down was splendid. Little fishing boats dot the river with children throwing nets out to catch the catfish. Families bathed in the shallow muddy waters at sunset, and everywhere we were greeting by the joy of recognition, by a Sabadee! and hands joined in reverent welcome.

On the river there is a filtering of the senses, as though the light and the air and the lazy water conspire one to complete rest.


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