19-Aug-2003 -- We visited this Confluence on our bike tour between Hanoi and Phnom Penh on the 17th day of our trip and after Rainer attempted Confluence 15 N 106 E.
This Confluence is located in the southernmost part of Laos, surrounded by Cambodia. It is in a very remote region and the distance to the border crossing into Cambodia is just 8 km.
We spent the night on an island in the Mekong River called Don Khong. This pretty island is located 25 km northwest from the Confluence. While riding around that island by bike, we saw this monk walking through the rice paddies. We spent that night in a village called Muang Khong right on the waterside of the great Mekong River. The next day, we took a ferry back across to the main land and headed off in a southern direction, hoping to cross the border into Cambodia that day.
Route13 must have been paved just a year ago because our travel guide still warned for bad road conditions. This main road comes within 3 km of the Confluence, so we conveniently could go for a visit.
As always, when things seem to go suspiciously smooth, something happens. This time, my left pedal broke. Not carrying any spare parts and taking into account the remoteness of this area, it soon turned out to be a big problem. At every hut on our way we asked for a bike pedal, but without any success. Finally we found a man with a new set of pedals in a tiny store for 50 cents. The man also offered to mount the pedal. We should have gotten suspicious when he didn't have the right tools. Anyway, I gave him my tool and he continued to try and mount it. While tightening, he started having trouble. Now we stopped him and saw the damage: He had put the right pedal on the left side, destroying the screw thread. Everything was screwed up now! But we somehow managed to get the correct pedal screwed in and continued our trip.
Actually, this was the easiest Confluence visit we had. At a distance of 3 km from the confluence point there was a trail heading toward our destination. The little puddles didn't bother us anymore, after having travelled 2.5 weeks in Vietnam and Laos. The GPS told us to go more to the left, but our experience thus far lead us to the following rules:
1. Never leave a track too soon. If the point is to the front left, continue the path where you are on.
2. If the point is exactly to the left (or right), and there is no other way, still continue to follow the path, even if the distance grows, because there is still a good chance of finding another track - anyway, you can come back.
This time, our two rules applied successfully. We even didn't have to turn, since our track always curved back to the right direction. After 20 minutes we got as close as 30 m to the confluence point. We just had to hike one minute through some grass and little bushes and we were there.
The area is flat, scattered trees of unknown species. There is also high grass and some bushes around. This type of landscape seems to be throughout that area. There is hardly any cultivated land around, although there are single-family houses around. One little hut is just 100 m from the confluence point. On the way back, we met a very friendly hunter who wanted to shake our hands several times before we split up.
Not more than 3 km south of the confluence point, there is the Don Phapheng waterfall. It's an impressive view, watching the Mekong river fall down about 5 m while having delicious Mekong fish in one of the restaurants right next to it!
On that day, we had big trouble getting into Cambodia. On the Cambodian side, the road is almost impassable and has not even a single house next to it for 57 km. With such a remoteness and a traffic situation of one car every 3 days we didn't dare to go for the 57 km hop in the late afternoon. However, the friendly Cambodian border officers let us spend the night in their office.
This story is continued at 13N 106E.