Don Det and Don Khone (Sipandone)
Khong Island Travel Blog› entry 21 of 27 › view all entries
"Sharing a dream,
On an island it felt right."
On an Island - David Gilmour
Siphandon means '4000 islands' and forms the most southern part of Laos. Here the Mekong flows into Cambodia and the river reaches its biggest width in its 4340 km travel from Tibet to Vietnam's Mekong Delta. During the rainy season the river can get as wide as 14 km. During the dry season the water recedes and leaves behind hundreds of islands. If you count all the sandbanks and bushes that appear above the water it's thousands, hence the name Siphandon. Life at Siphandon is even more relaxed than in the rest of Laos, especially since most of the inhabited islands are self-sufficient. We were staying at Don Khong, which with its 18km length is the biggest island in the 50km stretch of Siphandon.
Still, there's not much to do or see on Don Khong, so today we would take a trip to the southern end of Siphandon, close to the waterfalls we visited yesterday. Here you'll find two islands called Don Det and Don Khon that have some interesting sights. After breakfast we hopped in a longtail boat that navigated there through the countless islands and bushes. It's amazing how the locals find their way in this absolute maze. The journey to the French bridge that connects Don Det and Don Khon took about 1,5 hours, an excellent opportunity to relax and enjoy the beauty of Laos around us.
We got of the boat at the Ban Khon village and Shot explained us something about the history of the island. When the French tried to turn the Mekong in a trade route they ran into a problem because of the many rocks and high waterfalls around these islands. It was impossible to cross these by boat, so they built a railway and a bridge, enabling them to unload goods at the northern point of Don Det and - after crossing the bridge between the two islands - load goods back on boats at the southern point of Don Khon. The bridge seemingly was the first stone bridge ever built in Laos and the old locomotive stood rusting at it's southern point. Most of the old railway had been stripped and we could have sworn that we'd seen parts of it used at the ferry that had taken us to Don Khong yesterday.
We took a short walk past some decaying colonial buildings and the Wat Khon Tai temple to the Liphi waterfalls (aka Tad Somphamit) at the western end of Don Khon. Although not as impressive as the Khon Phapeng falls we'd seen yesterday it was again an amazing sight to see how the water crashed down towards Cambodia, which lay at the other side of the river. 'Liphi' means spirit trap and the locals believe that bad spirits of deceased people and animals that come floating down the river are trapped here. As a matter of fact, during the many wars many dead bodies had indeed been found in the fishing nets here. Because of these spirits locals don't swim in this area. Two travellers that have tried to swim here have drowned so the locals might well be right not to mess with bad spirits.
We had a cold coconut and some Beerlao and I bought a 'baw pen nyang' T-shirt at one of the stalls, while on the way back to Ban Khon we bought some nice grilled bananas. After a fine lunch at the Seng Ahloune restaurant near the French bridge we took the boat to the northern point of Don Det, where here was a small beach that was suitable for swimming and sunbathing. Cooling down in the Mekong water and sipping another Beerlao we discussed the 'hard life of travelling. ;-) The boat trip back to Don Khong took a bit longer because it took us upstream, but was as enjoyable as any other part of the day.
Back at Don Khong we decided to explore the Muang Khong town but realised that without bikes to cycle around the Island here was indeed nothing much to do and nobody to do it to.
When we got back at the hotel around 8 o'clock I was dead tired of doing nothing and soaking up the sun the whole day, so after packing my bag I hit the sack at nine. Tomorrow we would exchange the island life for the high plateau of Bolaven.