Tag: kayaking

Don Det – Four Thousand Islands


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:

Getting There

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.

don det pier four thousand islands laos Alex Explores the World

Don Det Pier

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.

don det waterfall khonephapheng falls laos four thousand islands Alex Explores the World

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.

don det sunset four thousand islands laos Alex Explores the World

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.

Final Thoughts

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!

To read more about Laos, see my posts about Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng.



Vang Vieng – What’s Left Of The Former Party Town?


Vang Vieng, former party haven in Laos, was to be my next stop. Infamous for tubing, until the deaths of a number of foreigners forced the government to close almost all of the bars in 2012, I’d heard that Vang Vieng was still fun to visit. Was it all it was cracked up to be? Let’s see…

Getting There

As I mentioned in my last post, getting to Vang Vieng was an adventure in itself. I travelled by minivan with a group from the guesthouse I’d been staying in, in Luang Prabang. The minivan driver had a real need for speed and used the windy roads as his own personal racetrack. This is not unusual in South East Asia but it tends to be scarier when the roads are on the edge of mountains. The minivan reached a section of unsurfaced road, which coincided with being in the clouds. I looked out of the window and it was almost like looking into the abyss. Somehow, we made it through without falling off the edge of a mountain.luang prabang to vang vieng laos Alex Explores the World

The driver decided to stop just before sunset, a move welcomed by everyone in the van. The bar we stopped at had the worst karaoke I’ve ever heard which was bad news for all of those in the minivan nursing a hangover. The journey soon resumed and I continued listening to an ‘All Time Party Classics’ playlist on Spotify. Darkness fell and suddenly the driver stopped the minivan.

“You each pay me 5,000 kip and I’ll drop you in the centre of town. If you don’t pay, I’ll drop you off at the bus station where you’ll have to pay 5,000 kip to a tuk-tuk driver.”

Fortunately, the majority of us were on the same wavelength and we told the driver to drop us off at the bus station. There was no way we’d be giving him any extra money after we’d already paid for our ticket to Vang Vieng. The driver, in fact, did drop us off in the centre for no extra cost. Ideal, because our hostel was in the centre of Vang Vieng.

Where’s the party?

The bizarre thing about Vang Vieng was that during the day the place was a ghost town then at night the place would start to gain some life. The busiest bar was Sakura, a bar anyone travelling South East Asia will likely have heard of from the free tank tops they hand out with the purchase of 2 drinks.  I went to Sakura once, had a couple of drinks then left. In that short amount of time, I witnessed a fight between 2 guys which is slightly unusual for the backpacker scene. Gary’s Irish Bar offered a more chilled out scene and a pool competition. Apparently, they also screen Game of Thrones on Monday nights. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t overly impressed with Vang Vieng’s party scene. Fortunately, I wasn’t really looking for a party scene.


Adventures in Vang Vieng

Every other shop in Vang Vieng is a travel agency so booking a tour is simple. I chose one that included tubing, kayaking and a trip to the Blue Lagoon. The first part of the tour involved tubing through a cave. I really enjoyed this, pulling myself through a cave, wearing a headlamp the whole thing was fun. There was a point where we passed another group tubing through the cave and someone thought it would be funny to start splashing water. Suddenly, almost everyone was splashing water. I was busy shielding my eyes and by the time we’d passed the other group, I realised my GoPro had fallen off my wrist. One of the guides was kind enough to come back and help me look for it. Luckily, the water in the cave was shallow so the guide found it in no time.

The second part of the day was kayaking 8km down the river. This was easygoing kayaking and halfway through we stopped at Mr LaoLao, the only bar that appeared to be open on the tubing route.The bar was very quiet and was blasting out dance music. Perhaps in the past, this bar would’ve been busy but it certainly wasn’t  the day we were there. I only saw about 5 people tubing on the river that day. There were some cute kittens in the bar which was a bonus!

After kayaking, we got a tuk-tuk to the Blue Lagoon. It’s basically an outdoor pool with places to jump in. The water is freezing but it’s a nice place to relax with plenty of places to soak up the sun.


Final Thoughts

Ok, so the kayaking and tubing were really fun but they certainly weren’t the party they’d been hyped up to be. I think Vang Vieng is in a transition stage between its recent party days and it’s future as an adventure holiday destination. Perhaps in a few years it will be very different to the Vang Vieng I found a few weeks ago.






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