Don Det is an island in the Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands) archipelago in the southern part of Laos. Here’s where it’s situated in Laos:
I decided to take a huge gamble and travel from Vang Vieng to Don Det in one journey. Looking back, this may not have been the best idea. Nevertheless, I did arrive there in one piece. I started on a mini bus from Vang Vieng-Vientiane which was probably the most comfortable aspect of the journey despite the windy roads and need-for-speed driver. Vientiane-Pakse was to be a night bus. This was basically a bus with no seats and mattresses on the floor. I had very little space even though I’m 5’5″. I feel sorry for anyone over 6ft!
The final part of the journey felt like the longest. I arrived in Pakse around 6.30am. The bus to Si Phan Don arrived within 30 minutes and we loaded our luggage on. Unfortuantely, for us, someone had left a bag of garbage on the bus and it smelled terrible. Once the bus finally got moving, it was apparent that the air con was not working. The bus wasn’t even half full, so our driver kept calling his friends and waiting at the side of the road for them for up to half an hour to catch the bus. By this point, I’d been travelling for over 20 hours, I was hungry and tired and was less than impressed with the driver waiting for so long in the heat for his friends. Eventually, the bus arrived in Nakasong – 23 hours after I’d left Vang Vieng!
The last leg of the journey was to catch a boat from Nakasong to Don Det.
Activities in Don Det
There’s a tour which every tour company in Don Det sells and it’s the one every tourist ends up doing. The tour is similarly priced regardless of where it’s booked (I paid 170,000kip). The tour is a day of kayaking around different parts of Four Thousand Islands, including visiting two waterfalls and seeing Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong. The tour includes breakfast and lunch.
I booked the tour with a friend and we arrived at the meeting point for breakfast at 8.30am. I had scrambled eggs for breakfast but there were other options to choose from, such as pancakes and fruit. The group left at 9.30am in kayaks. The first section of river was relatively straightforward, although towards the end there was a lot of ‘island’ dodging (by islands, I mean tangles of reeds/bushes – this is why this area is called Four Thousand Islands). Some people in the group were unable to dodge these ‘islands’ and ended up capsizing. Funny for us, probably less funny for them. The guides should probably have checked that everyone was competent enough to kayak.
We walked to the first waterfall of the day – a torrent of rushing water. The guides spent a while attempting, and succeeding, to catch fish with their hands. We had lunch by the side of the river which was a mix of mashed potatoes, bread, skewers, and vegetables. There was very little shade by the river so we were exposed to the intensity of the midday sun.
Waterfalls & Dolphins
After lunch, it was time to get back into the kayaks, this time in search of Irrawaddy dolphins. We kayaked down the Mekong, close to the border with Cambodia. We were lucky enough to spot a few dolphins from a distance. A rainstorm rolled in so we paddled as fast as we could to get out of the torrential rain, to no avail.
The next stop was to see the largest waterfall in South East Asia (by volume), Khonephapheng Falls.
It certainly wasn’t the most spectacular waterfall to look at, but the sheer volume of water makes it impressive.
The last activity of the day was to kayak from Nakasong back to Don Det. By this point I was sunburnt, tired and eager for a shower. We paddled back as quickly as our arms would allow, racing the other kayakers.
Where to Stay
I stayed in Don Det for 3 nights which was more than enough for me. The first night I stayed in one of the typical riverside bungalows which are all over the island. These wooden bungalows are very basic and very cheap – only 40,000 kip per night. There was a fan in the room and an ensuite. For the next couple of nights I stayed in a guesthouse called Mama Leurth’s which was 60,000 kip per night and was a lot nicer than the riverside bungalow. This room had the option of air con for an additional cost and had wifi in the rooms.
Don Det was a lovely final stop in Laos. I enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of this small island. I went in low season so there were plenty of accommodation options. There are many restaurants on the island which all offer reasonably priced food. I felt like Don Det was more relaxed than the other places I’d visited in Laos and is a must visit for anyone in the area!