We travel 365 days/year, year after year, and even we might have thought rookie travel mistakes were all in our past. But no, we went halfway around the world to a little island tucked far away in the Mekong River to discover not one but two new travel mistakes we’d made. Read on…to learn from us what not to do, so you don’t make the same mistakes.
We stayed 9 days at a very little restaurant and guesthouse in the village of Ban Hang Khone on Don Khon Island (Laos). Every single review on Tripadvisor had given it their highest marks.
We looked forward to an idyllic time at a remote location on a far away island. Then we arrived and discovered: it wasn’t quite what we’d been led to believe.
OK – we now realize that our preconceptions of “peaceful” and “relaxing” may not be the same as those of everyone else. During the hottest part of the day, life in the village and around the guesthouse quieted down nicely….that is, until darkness fell and the action began. The night sounds were never all identified. We did figure out the frog croaks as it called from various places around our suite (and we did finally see it gazing at us from its position on the bathroom door). The frog didn’t keep us awake.
The dogfights every single night were unmistakable as were the cats that screeched bloody-murder. (Who would have thought it looking at these two?)
We watched a number of boats during the day, but we didn’t expect the sound of boat engines revving up at 3 or 4 am.
We wondered – why did the roosters crow some nights at 3:30am and not start up till 5am on other nights? And there were other clanking sounds we never could figure out or stop. We’d wake up every morning exhausted.
A few weeks earlier, we stayed at another guesthouse in Laos that was up front about noise created from a nearby bar. Prepared for the worse, we found it easier to deal with that than the Ban Hang Khone village noises.
Travel Mistake #1: Reviews describing a lodging as “peaceful” and “relaxing” are not the same as QUIET. Rural and isolated also wouldn’t guarantee the quiet we hoped for in the middle of the night.
The next travel mistake became apparent on our first night when we dined in the guesthouse restaurant. A little board posted the one main item served for the evening. There were no appetizers, or desserts served by the restaurant and only occasionally a side dish. This is when we discovered that our version and the cook’s version of “mild” differed greatly. We explained our problem to the owner. We wanted no chilis. On the 2nd night the chilis were still all we could taste.
Clearly we were desperate to eat a soothing meal and one with vegetables or tofu (too expensive to bring over from the mainland, said the owner).
The temporary solution was to get on the bicycles and ride 45 minutes over the rough road to the main village on the island in search of another restaurant for dinner. (Photo credit: Cliff Mail)
We sat down at a table overlooking the water and started with a large salad, then dined on asparagus and tofu with coconut rice. Delicious and perfect! And the cost was less than we’d paid at the guesthouse.
Travel Mistake #2: Proceed with caution if the place you plan to stay is the only good option for your meals.
If we had the chance to go back to alter our plans, we would have stayed in the main village on the island and dined at one of many restaurants there.
Finally, we had to wonder about the reviews for this guesthouse. Every one gave it a superlative rating. Were we four out of step with everyone else or did reviewers just want to be “nice” and “supportive” since we all know a string of bad reviews can sink a business? We hope folks are always honest in their reviews and wish we’d been spared from the evening meals at the guesthouse, which turned out to be one of the more mediocre experiences of our trip.
Those new travel lessons we learned came with a little pain and suffering. We learned our lessons and won’t forget them anytime soon.