The Dokchampa guesthouse deck overlooks a lazy stretch of Mekong. A wide girth of water separates us from the green shores of the fishing island of Don Daeng on the opposite bank. The gentle amble of the water in your ears gets you thinking, helps you to tackle the big questions. If a double room is the same price as a plate of fried spring rolls, which is better value for money?
It is hot here and we have had a big day. For the most part we are the only two guests, so the relaxed rhythm of Lao life continues around us. The owner’s extended family shares lunch at the next table. A rooster picks his way through the ground beneath the house. Women take turns checking each others scalp for nits. Barefoot children sit on the floor sorting through plates of dried chilli while they watch rubbish soaps on television. The landlady uses a stick to evict a flock of geese from the courtyard. Lao pop music plays on the sound system. Occasionally, we are joined by groups of the tourist staple of these parts, recent retired French couples. They wander in, eat, drink, laugh then wander out.
Sipping BeerLao in the afternoon shade I take a moment to appreciate it for what it is: a tribute to Communism. How else can you describe an abundance of excellent beer without the complication of price fluctuation? A BeerLao longneck can be purchased anywhere, any time for about a dollar.
The modern day Champasak is a one-horse town, expectantly waiting for three horses to wander through. It is a laid back riverside town, one street, plenty of guesthouses but not many guests. It wasn’t always like this, it was once the capital of the Laos kingdom.
It is the UNESO world heritage listed ruins of Wat Phu Champasak that day-trippers come to see. We took a tuk tuk out there and spent the morning exploring the jumble of stone causeways, stepped trails cut into the mountain side and at the top, majestic temple ruins with spectacular views of the Mekong valley.
I order another Beerlao, day’s end approaches, soon the fishermen will pull their drift lines and a thousand dragonflies will dance to the setting sun.