Today was another day with road and boat travel in the morning and chill time in the afternoon. We left Pakse for Si Phan Don, the 4000 islands area in the Mekong River, all the way at the southernmost tip of Laos at the border with Cambodia. We were excited to experience something completely different from our last three days trekking and ziplining in the jungle of the Bolaven Plateau and to get a chance to maybe see some of the last Irrawaddy dolphins.
We woke up early and quickly packed to be ready in the lobby for our shuttle to Si Phan Don. The minivan showed up around 8 AM, on time. It had about a dozen people total, all relatively young backpackers. We bumped into a German girl that we had previously seen at the Treetop Explorer tour. Another girl from the Netherlands sat at the front of the shuttle, next to the driver and talked with him for the full duration of the ride, or about two and a half hours. Sitting in the next row, we were entertained by their conversation. This guy spoke so many languages: Laotian of course, but also Thai, Khmer and Vietnamese. As to his English it was absolutely perfect, perhaps better than the Dutch girl he was talking to. They asked each other questions about cultural differences between Western/Dutch way of living and the Asian/Laotian one, mostly around dating & relationships as well as taking care of the elderly.
Thanks to their entertaining chat, we didn’t see the time pass and by 10:30 AM we arrived at Nakasong, the mainland village closest to the islands of Don Det and Don Khon. Our travel ticket included the boat ride to Don Khon. The driver walked our group to the Nakasong pier where a longtail boat was already waiting for us. We boarded and took a selfie a few minutes into the ride.
We quickly agreed that the region fully deserved its “4000 islands” name. While we did not count, we did find ourselves surrounded by many islands, most of which were really tiny and did not have any construction on them. These were covered with plants and trees. Some of the smaller “islands” are so low they are most likely covered in water during the wet season.
Our boat made a first stop at Don Det where most tourists disembarked. From the two islands, Don Det is without a doubt the more popular one where young people go to party, it’s like the Ko Phangan of Si Phan Don. It has most of the infrastructure, hotels and other places for tourists to hang out so it’s obviously more built up.
We and another couple from France opted for the tranquility of Don Khon so we kept going further South. We got there about twenty minutes later and had to literally jump from the boat as there was not even a pier for it to dock at. We also had to walk to our hotel since there was no tuk tuk or other form of transportation available on the island. This was the main street and as you can tell it’s not as dense as Don Det.
It was not a long walk but it was incredibly hot and pushing our rolling luggage on the sand and mud with such weather was rather unpleasant. We checked into our hotel, Pan’s Bungalow but wanted to postpone recording a video tour of our guest room until we had something to drink and eat. It did not take too long before we found a place with lounge chairs and delicious watermelon shakes, our favorite. We ordered food as well.
It was 1 PM by then, pretty much the peak of heat for the day, so we took our time sipping our shakes down to the very last drop. We also used the restaurant’s WiFi to research activities we could do for the next day, as we figured we should just take it easy for the rest of the afternoon. We left around 2:30 PM. The restaurant was located directly on the main street, just like our hotel and most businesses on the island.
As we got back to the room, we took a few minutes to shoot a video before unpacking our stuff.
We booked a river view room and really did not regret spending additional money on the view. The Mekong was right there, a few meters in front of us. It was calling us to play in the water which we could not resist for too long. After taking some pictures, we changed to our swimwear and jumped to the water. It was pleasantly warm, very different from the rivers we had been to in other parts of Laos.
Soon after we got in the water, a bunch of local kids joined us. One of them started the hostilities by splashing water in my face. I retaliated. This quickly escalated to a general water splashing battle with Mimi and I on one side and the kids on the other. After fighting for a while we decided to surrender unconditionally and got back to the shore to dry.
The sun started setting over Southern Laos around 5 PM, giving us several opportunities to take some of the most breathtaking sunset pictures of our trip so far. This is my personal favorite shot.
The kids we played with were still having fun in the water. Their parents were keeping an eye on them from the shore (the current is quite strong in this area which can be dangerous for kids that may not be strong swimmers).
After that we took a walk through Don Khon to the only bridge that connects it to Don Det. On our way there, we saw this adorable little boy playing with a little puppy that reminded us of our Lulu very much. Yes it’s true, we tend to see Lulu everywhere but that one puppy does have some similarities with her, right?
We arrived to the bridge and stopped for pictures of the Mekong River. We loved the pure reflection on the water. The Mekong is quite wide there and we took pictures of both islands from the bridge. Here is the Don Khon side.
And this is a view of the Don Det side.
We did not go far into Don Det as the area where the bridge is doesn’t have much to do. We decided to head back as it was getting dark and we did not have our headlamps. We went straight to dinner and decided to return to Lao Long, the same place we had lunch at since it was very well reviewed online, good and cheap.
That was the end of our day and we went back to our room to get a good night of sleep.