Day 47 | Chasing waterfalls and dolphins on Don Khon Island

On our full day on Don Khon island, we rode bikes to see the Irrawaddy dolphins, swim in a sandy beach on the Mekong and see the famous Somphamit waterfalls.

We had breakfast at Pan’s Restaurant just across the street from where we were staying, Pan’s Guesthouse. It was pretty basic: eggs, baguettes and fresh fruit.

Breakfast at Pan's Guesthouse

We rented bikes from a shop next to our guesthouse. With a rudimentary map of the 4 km wide Don Khon island, we forged west out of the main street and then south towards the old French Port where motorboats take tourists out to see the rare Irrawaddy dolphins who congregate in the Mekong between Laos and Cambodia.

Riding bikes on Don Khon

It was another 100+ degree Fahrenheit day and we biked through dried rice paddies and forests.

The old French Port is a very dominating structure in an otherwise low key, sparsely populated area. It was used to accommodate large steamer ships transporting goods up the Mekong River. Nowadays it only serves small motorboats.

Old french port

We paid a young boat driver to take us out to see the Irrawaddy dolphins.

We stayed in the middle of the particular section of the Mekong River for about 20 minutes. We saw at two separate times, a dolphin as it emerged out of the water to breathe. We heard the sounds of their blowholes expunging water. We were happy to see dolphins at all, however, each time was quite far away and we only saw their fins and half of their bodies for a couple seconds each.

We then headed back through the small islands back to Don Khon’s port.

Si Phan Don islands

We relaxed and had fruit shakes at a café above the port overlooking the river. The café had a sign noting this was the southernmost point in Laos.

Don Khon and Don Det islands used to have a railway connecting them to mainland Laos. French ships were unable to navigate up through the treacherous Somphamit waterfalls section of the river, therefore the French colonists had to build the railway to bypass the waterfalls and then reload the goods onto other ships waiting north of these islands. We took a picture in front of an old train engine left over from those colonial days.

Steam engine

Riding our bikes back north, we passed by a tiny village with a schoolhouse on stilts.

Village school on Don Khon

We then turned onto a westward road to reach a sandy beach. We walked a few steps through a rocky section and plunged into the water with our T-shirts on. Although the water was warm, it was heaven to our sweat-drenched sun-parched skin.

Sand beach on the Mekong

We relaxed in the natural fish spa as little fish started nibbling at our skin.

Mekong fish spa

We swam across the river and back again. The current was very strong and we would end up on the other side of the river several meters downriver from where we started.

Then we relaxed in a yet another restaurant with fresh coconuts. The restaurant is run by a family: the mother lured us in and prepared the coconut, her young daughter served us, the father was napping on a platform near us and their toddler son provided us with entertainment. The little boy was interested in my mosquito repellent wristband and my sunglasses case. I then showed him my cell phone and nothing else mattered of course. He took about 40 selfies in a row of just his forehead on my phone.

Selfies in Laos

Then the little boy eyed my coconut. I scooped up coconut meat and fed it to him. He chewed on the coconut happily. After a few scoops of this, he decided to pay it forward and feed coconut to the dog, who was less enthusiastic.

I had a hard time getting my phone back from this boy as I introduced him to the game Two Dots. Here he is with his sister on a hammock. Their dad is still sleeping behind them.

Kids at the restaurant

The next stop on our bike tour was Somphamit waterfalls. The falls are also located on the west side of the island, on the north. We paid for admission tickets and walked into the large park. We saw a pack of the largest turkeys I have ever seen. Some of them were quite beautiful (for turkeys).

Wild turkeys at the falls

The waterfalls were impressive. They came rushing off of rocks in all directions, converging into the wide flow at the base.

Waterfalls 1

Waterfalls 2

Waterfalls 3

Waterfalls 4

We walked along the rapids until we arrived at the Oasis Restaurant and “beach bar.” We finally got lunch and more fruit shakes! There were hardly anyone there so we occupied this entire bungalow overlooking the rapids. We vegetated here for more than an hour, too hot to move.

Oasis Restaurant at the falls

We had a long walk to the sandy beach since it is dry season and the waterline receded a lot. Here Maurice is standing at a shallow pool with the river behind.

Beach after the falls

We could not wait to jump into the water again since it was too hot for us to function on land. The current was much stronger here than at the previous beach since we were immediately downstream from the Somphamit waterfalls. Maurice demonstrates his Olympian swimming skills on the river. Michael Phelps who?

We showered off at the beach bar’s outdoor shower after swimming. Then we biked through the farms back to town.

Afternoon light on Don Khon

A herd of cows grazed on the dry grass.

Cows grazing on dry grass

On the way back to town, there was loud music emanating from the local Buddhist temple Wat Khon Tai. We walked in to explore.

Entry to Wat Khon Tai

There seemed to be a festival going on. Monks were blessing people on the left. People were eating barbecue on the right. Loud music blared from three separate areas. All were playing different songs, of course.

In front of Wat Khon Tai

We enjoyed another sunset on the Mekong.

Sunset on the Mekong

The main stretch of Don Khon does not have many restaurants. We liked Lao Long restaurant where we ate lunch and dinner yesterday and decided to go there for dinner again. Maurice got the noodle soup in a bowl so big you can wash your face in it.

Noodles in the kitchen sink

5 thoughts on “Day 47 | Chasing waterfalls and dolphins on Don Khon Island

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *