Day 7: We were up early today to get ready for a trek around Chompet, a quiet area on the other side of the Mekong river. We had breakfast at the guesthouse – eggs for Lil, Asian rice soup for Jim – then got our walking boots on and headed off to catch the ferry. As we walked through the town, locals were already out cooking salted fish, and trays of rice cakes were laid out to dry in the early morning sun.
We waited at the dock for the passenger ferry, which carries people, motor bikes and cars. It’s just a few minutes ride to get across to the other side of the river, once the ferry gets going – it doesn’t leave until it’s full. Despite the ferry being packed with bikes and people, we had to wait a bit for a couple more cars and vans to turn up. The ferry started up and was already moving away from the dock, when a last motor bike came around the corner and shot up the ramp, just in the nick of time. No major concerns about health and safety here.
Once on the other side, we walked up the boat ramp and had a quick look around the local village, Ban Xieng Man – lots of little fruit stalls, a few small shops and locals going about their daily business.
We headed off along the walking path to visit a bunch of Wats (temples), then up into the hills in search of a rough trail that heads across the mountain and back down to the village.
Jim was sporting an outfit that made him look like the Milk Tray man from the English adverts (no idea if the ads made it to Australia or beyond). “And all because the lady loves Milk Tray”…
As with all ‘rough trails’ it’s easy to find you’re not on a trail at all and we quickly found ourselves crashing through the undergrowth and trying to pick out rough directions on our phones. At one point, climbing back down, the hillside was so steep and dry that it was nearly impossible to stay upright. Rather than risking injured limbs, we decided the only way down was on our bums. As we slid through piles of dry leaves, branches and snail shells, we tried hard not to think about the snakes that might well be lurking underneath.
We got down safely at last, picked up another better marked trail and wound our way back to the village.
Tired and hot, we caught the passenger ferry back to town again, then read and slept for a few hours before dinner. As we were heading out, a storm whipped up. We scurried along in the rain and into a Malay restaurant a few blocks away.
Dinner was buffalo with ginger, and chicken and eggplant curry – all superb. The choice of cuisine here is vast, with streets and streets of restaurants to choose from. As it’s low season just now, a lot of restaurants are pretty empty, though we suspect it’s a very different story in the main tourist season.
We grabbed a fruit shake at the night market for dessert, then wandered back home – passing some giant snails on the pavement that had escaped from a soaked garden.
Lastly, there was so much feedback on yesterday’s ‘7 Don’ts after a Meal’, by popular request we decided to post the full list. As the leaflet says: “Finally, don’t just keep this message… Please forward it to your friends. Let them be aware!!” So there we go – enjoy.
Hoping to get up super early tomorrow for the alms giving ceremony – let’s see how we go.