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  • Writer's pictureDonna Kitchen

No Monkeys at Monkey Beach

Updated: Sep 3, 2023

After yesterday’s craziness of being abandoned on the Mekong with Kevin having a sleep in.

Mama Tanon's

I was awake so headed across the road to Mama Tanon for breakfast.  At this point I needed a break from the typical American breakfast so I ordered these delicious cacao and banana pancakes with my usual iced coffee latte.  It’s simply been too hot to drink hot drinks like a cappuccino. I must mention that the two Italian (?) owners were so lovely, offering heaps of info on what to do and where to go. On our last day, we even hugged it out.

Cacao pancakes for breakfast - why not!

By the way, it was still very hot even at 9am. Kevin joined me for coffee and we made a plan for the day.

Already needing to find water to swim, we headed to Monkey Beach which is on Don Det. Searching google I also found a couple of decent maps of the Don Det and Don Khone.

On the way we found one of the old locomotives left from French colonial days.  From 1893 they were building a narrow gauge railway, a continuous trade route between French Indochina bases in Vietnam and Cambodia and Laos.  It’s a very interesting story and if you’d like to read more about it head to this website.

Continuing on our way to find Monkey Beach, we road down a dusty, bumpy track until we came to a handmade sign indicating we had arrived at the right spot.

'Free entry' to Monkey Beach

It was set up with some shade cloth covered lean-to’s, mats on the floor and makeshift table with tablecloths and faux flowers.  A little hut was set up as the ‘restaurant’ where you could order drinks or food.

Monkey Beach 'bungalows'

Not ‘beer o’clock yet’ we settled for a large bottle of icey cold water to refill our stainless steel bottles that we brought with us.

Here at Monkey beach there was a small stretch of beach sand as you entered the river.  Again, being the dry season, the depth of the water here was at knees height still absolutely enough to get wet in.  As we were coming accustomed to, the water was again warm.

Kevin trying to cool off.

We had a few other spots we wanted to check out so if we trundled in search of Khong Nyai beach.  On the way we wanted to find the old suspension bridge near Khone Pay Waterfall but google maps was not being our friend.  What google maps didn’t know was that the concrete path had been laid all around the two islands and it was only showing us the old roads which were slightly different.   

Somehow we ended up at the end of Don Khone island where the old French pier was along with another locomotive.   That’s okay as we wanted to visit here anyway.  This spot is where one of the tributaries joins back into the Mekong.  Cambodia is just on the other side of this part of the river which is also the area the famous Irrawaddy Dolphins used to be found.  As far as we can work out, these beautiful creatures are now extinct due to fishing in the area.  So very sad.

It was very interesting wandering under the old pier and imagining how goods were loaded and unloaded.

Kevin holding on to the rail so he doesn't fall off the edge (he is scared of heights)

Checking our various maps as well as Google maps, we set out to find the illusive Kyong Nyia Beach. We found no reprieve from the heat as we rode to the beach.

Arriving at Kyong Nyai Beach, we were quite parched and it was now beer o'clock. With what looked like grandpa and the grandkids minding the restaurant, we checked out the big esky, digging deep for a cold beer. Finding one that was reasonably cold we very much enjoyed it.

The 3 grandchildren were entertaining themselves with a push button musical phone that played different tunes. We recognized one, Old MacDonald Had a Farm, and my early childhood training jumped straight into action. Kevin joined in as we sang many courses of Old MacDonald Had a Farm using animals that they would know. Of course we threw in Kangaroo as one of the animals.

Feeling like we had earned our swim we found the easiest path, avoiding the burning sand. Clambering over some rocks, we found 'the spot' to swim. Sinking into the water wasn't as refreshing as we'd hoped but again, it was wet.

With the temperature soaring to 38c, feels like 44c, it was just too hot.

I found this pic which I and realised I’d forgotten to right this little story.

This lovely old lady carry a small tub, walked very easily into the river and squatted down. Kevin watched her for a while before curiosity got the better of him and he went and joined the lady. He found she was collecting snails and other crustaceans from rocks and the roots of the shrubs. From the distance I could see there was lots and smiling, gesturing between the two. It was pretty obvious that this was a ritual she had been doing for many years. In the late afternoon, wandering down to the river to collect ’dinner’ which would possibly be used to create a broth with some water spinach and possibly rice.

Kevin also noticed that the lady had red teeth (those which were remaining) and gums from chewing the betel leaf. This was a common occurrence among the older generation possibly to help with ailments of the aged.

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