Don Det : Two more islands down, 3,997 left to go apparently!
Don Det Travel Blog› entry 126 of 268 › view all entries
A scrummy omelette and Lao coffee put away and Iâ€™m on one of the 8.30 long tail style boats south along the Mekong river for nearly 2 hours to get to Don Dhet and Don Khon. Two of the main, habited islands that sit at the southern most extremity of the Si Phan Don ( â€˜Four Thousand Islandsâ€™ ). I am now travelling with Hueng Chan (aka â€˜Grayâ€™, from South Korea), Aiden (Ireland) and Sven ( Germany). All good people. Upon arrival at the more backpacker oriented Don Dhet Grey and I jump in the first 40,000 Kip ($5.30) shared room we come across assuming thisâ€™ll be the cheapest in town but this is far from the case. With so much development and competition in recent years a decent enough private bungalow with contained bathroom can be had for 30,000 ($4) Kip so always wise to not go for Option 1 right off the bat.
As stated, the northern tip of Don Dhet - where the boats set down - has become very heavily developed towards backpacking tourism. Cafes, restaurants, pseudo-bars, tour and travel agents and (slooooooow) internet cafes. That said, this is still not a massively beaten part of the travel path, so â€˜heavy developmentâ€™ is relative here. Relative to the rural quietude that is the key note of Lao life in general, and especially laid back here in the Si Phan Don. It is quiet. Super-relaxed. And not over-hustled or bustled by either touts or tourists. Yes â€˜happyâ€™ food stuffs and drinks and â€˜bucketsâ€™ are available but not shoved down your throat. And yes â€˜tubesâ€™ can be rented at prices that pail in comparison to those in Vang Vieng (8,000 - 10,000 Kip compared to 50,000 + 50,000 deposit at V.
Grey, Sven and I dump our bags hire some bikes and cycle off, leaving Aiden to go in search of relaxation and â€˜happyâ€™ness. Both Don Dhet and Don Khon are pretty small islands 5 - 7km in circumference each but bike is the best way to get around for sure. Aside from a circuitous observation of Lao village life (again always slightly fused with tourist concerns here) there is little of visual interest to see on Don Dhet, although the views of the here seductively blue-green waters of the Mekong on the east and west shores are great.
First off the boys and I stop off to arse about at an old rusted steam train engine, hearkening back to the French colonial presence here. A deathly quiet Buddhist temple resides here too. A monk (or is it one of the â€˜White Nunsâ€™? : female Theravedic Buddhist adherents) lies almost emaciated and prone upon the floor in a meditative pose. Not to be disturbed.
The natural highlight of Don Khon really is Tat Somphamit or the Li Phi Falls.
All these thrills and spills aside itâ€™s farewell to Mario for now, and back astride our bikes for a nicely timed return cycle to Don Dhet to pedal gently along its western flank and find ourselves a nice quiet spot to sit and stop and spot us a beautiful Mekong sunset. Which is precisely what we do.