On the very southern reaches of Laos, close to the Border to Cambodia, lie the somewhat famous and mystical 4000 Islands. Also known by the locals as Si Phan Don it’s a large section of the Mekong River packed with shallow waterways and many different islands. A paradise for backpackers and travelers alike, a unique and tranquil piece of earth that will make you mind rest and relax for as long as you wish.
But let’s start from how we got there.
After surviving our adventurous journey across the border, we finally managed to take a boat to reach the island of Don Det. The island is probably the most popular one for travelers and backpackers, simply because it’s the cheapest and has the most affordable accommodation options. Alternatively, there are the islands of Don Khon (a bit more high-end) and Don Khong (if you are looking for a more secluded place). We decided to get to Don Det first, settle down and eventually discover the other islands after.
Where to Stay
There are many options of where to stay once you arrive on the island. The accommodations are spread across the sunset and sunrise side. The sunset side of the island is generally more undeveloped with a single, midrange hotel at the tip (Little Eden Guesthouse) and a wide variety of smaller and cheaper rooms and bungalows along the water. The sunrise side is the more developed part of the island. The tip holds the landing point for the arriving boats and you can find a large array of restaurants and accommodations for around a kilometer or so. A good place for backpackers is Mr. Tho’s (bungalows right by the river).
We had a longer walk around and decided to go for the sunset side. We love sunsets and prefer not to be woken up by the heat of the sunrise so we walked down the small path along the river. We found a very basic but charming little bungalow facing the river called Tena Guesthouse. Do not expect much luxury here, but it’s a nice place to go with the flow of the island. We had two hammocks and a nice view onto the Mekong River – pretty much all you need. Expect to pay around 50,000 kip (~ €6 – 7) per night here.
The great things here is that you can swim or use a tube to get to a very small island right in the river. Here you can relax and watch the sunset – a wonderful thing to do!
What to do
You can either chose to simply swing around in your hammock, swim and relax all day or do some activities around the islands. There are options of going around with a boat and discover the islands or do some kayaking between the waterways of the Mekong. Another activity is to rent a boat and visit the rare Irrawaddy dolphins. Apparently, there are just around 100 or so left in the river and you can only see them here and in Kratie, Cambodia.
As we have already seen them in Kratie we decided to rent some bicycles and discover the surrounding areas of the islands. You can ride around Don Det and also cross a bridge that will bring you to the Don Khon to explore some waterfalls, small villages and farms. We enjoyed watching the Somphamit waterfalls, a very beautiful area packed with lots of smaller falls and waterways. There is also a small restaurant and a bar where you can relax and enjoy the views. Also, we had a ride through the jungle to reach the Khonepasoi waterfalls – a nice place but not that easy to reach.
TIP: You will need to pay to cross the bridge to Don Khon, this will also allow you entrance to the waterfalls. Grab a used ticket from someone who has been there already and paid and just wave it at the guards while driving over the bridge with your bikes – don’t stop! They let us pass. We also walked through the bushes around the entrance of the falls and managed to get in. Be aware, this is for the adventurous ones out there looking for a little thrill 😉
Don Det and the 4000 islands have been an amazing place for us to stay. We met lots of great people and had a nice time relaxing, swimming and watching the sunset from our hammocks. We spent around one week here. The island is extremely chilled and also a nice place to party. Whether you decide to stay for a few days or even weeks – it was one of our favorite places in Laos and we will surely come back one day!