Sunset on the 4000 islands in Laos

Enjoying the sunset on the 4000 islands, Don Det, Laos

Enjoying the sunset on the 4000 islands, Don Det, Laos

Don Det is one of the 4000 islands at the border of Laos to Cambodia. Most of those “islands” on the Mekong just consist of a tree on a fleck of earth the size of the tree itself. But there are some major islands, of which Don Det is one of them.

Don Det is divided into the sunrise and the sunset side, both stretching 2km from the landing beach of the boats arriving to the islands. I have stayed on both sides and I prefer the sunset side, as it is quite beautiful and relaxed by around 5-6pm watching the sunset from the balcony or sitting a former truck tube in the water. Actually most people do prefer that side, so as for being a the more popular side of the island, the bungalows are more expensive. We are speaking of 30.000 Kip to kip (3-6 Euro) on the sunrise side versus 60.000 – 120.000 kip (6-12 Euro) on the sunset side (the first price is with a shared bathroom and the second to a room with private bathroom).

Though Don Det is the centre for backpackers and party animals, it is still laid back enough to enjoy a great time relaxing in the hammock, having a swim in the warm waters of the Mekong and seeing the waterfalls. As for activities it is mostly riding a bicycle around the island and to another island by bridge to see two waterfalls. Everything is within biking reach of 30min to 60min if you are biking very slow. At night there is more of a spring break crowd – so expect a lot of drunken college kids and backpackers, some of them also having too many happy shakes and happy pizzas.

If you want a more calm experience you can stay on the neighbouring islands Don Khon and Dong Khong. Those are more resort type areas and can really give you that lost island feeling.

Food quality varies greatly. Generally they are worst at bars, as their core competence is obviously drinks – the food is just an appendix to it. Guesthouses are on the mid-way, but the best food I had on the last day in the guesthouse before the sunset side starts. That guesthouse looks more neat than the rest of the islands, but costs 130.000. I had a “chicken steak with mixed vegetables” for 30.000 Kip (3 Euro) there and despite the same price level as everywhere else, it was one of the best meals I had in Laos. I would say it almost compared to “The Blue Lagoon” in Luang Prabang, though costing just one fifth of the price. Of course the ambience and service was way better in “The Blue Lagoon” but of course you must expect that at a price of 150.000. But as for food quality itself – similar.

One word of warning: Weigh your laundry before you let any guesthouse wash your clothes. Some of the scales on the island are defect or most probably show not kg, but pound. It may be not purposely done but it is very difficult to argue about the price after the fact that your clothes have been already washed. In my case it was a plastic bag of laundry weighing 2 kg but ending up being  5 kg on the weighing scale. After some heavy arguments which involved me and another person putting my notebook (2 kg) on the scale and in a fellow traveller putting two bottles of Lao beer (0,65l each) both showing 5 kg, I got my money back. As a consequence I needed to move to the sunset side as we were clearly not welcome anymore at that guesthouse – which proved to be a better side anyway. This event induced a lot of thoughts about value systems, social trust and externalities of swindling which I am writing more about on my other blog “The Mundane Philosopher”: Absoluteness of values – social trust and externalities of swindling

Besides that learning experience about the scale it is a very nice island to relax for a few days with a lot of nice locals. If you are the laid back type of traveller, you will feel very happy doing nothing for several days. If you want action, you can have it in the many bars of Don Det island. If you want culture, you need to wait until you move further on to your next destination north into Laos or south into Cambodia.

The Mundane Traveller on the 4000 Islands in Laos-2

Sunset view of the 4000 islands, Mekong river, Don Det, Laos

Sunset view of the 4000 islands sitting inside truck tubes on the Mekong river, Don Det, Laos

After the sunset in the cabana, Don Det, 4000 islands, Laos

After the sunset in the cabana of the sunrise side, Don Det, 4000 islands, Laos