Don Det – An Island Paradise in the Mekong
March 10, 2015|Posted in: Laos
After witnessing the carnage that is Vang Vieng, I needed an out. After spending 4 days in the ‘party capitol’ of Laos and having only been drunk once and slightly tipsy whilst actually tubing, I couldn’t seem to keep up with the hoards of young people that seem to spend endless days drinking themselves into oblivion whilst ‘tubing’ down the ever so beautiful Nam Song River day after day. I had read a few blogs where people had spent at least 2 weeks, just tubing, then curing their hangovers by watching re-runs of Friends or Family Guy in the numerous restaurants that offer this service before heading out again and grabbing the free drinks at the popular bars happy hours. How, I still don’t know. Maybe it’s my age?
I needed something more chilled, and Don Det was on my list. I had already decided to skip the capital, Vientienne, as many people I had come across had said that there wasn’t much to do there. So, I booked the 23 hour journey to the 4,000 Islands. This included my very first experience with a Laos style sleeper bus. At first glance, it looked pretty decent, big beds for 1 and clean. It was even called ‘King of Bus’ – hopes were high. However, that bed for 1, was to be shared between 2 people! A bed just bigger than a single bed. I was originally put with a random guy from Norway but someone offered to switch so I ended up next to a Canadian girl – phew! Slightly less awkward. We settled in for what was the worst night’s sleep I’ve had in a while. Thinking I was taking up too much space so cramping myself up made for a very sore back in the morning!
We arrived in Pakse at 7 in the morning to board our next bus at 8 o’clock. As per usual SE Asia style it left late, and then picked up people en-route, meaning we arrived at the station in Ban Nakasang at 12.30pm. We got some cash out (there is NO ATM on Don Det!) and then took a short walk to the ferry dock. Boarded the ferry and 10 minutes later we landed on the port… or more accurately, the beach.
After walking for what seemed like an age as we walked the wrong way (turn RIGHT), we managed to find some decent bungalows on the Sunset side (Easy Life Bungalows) run by an Aussie guy. The beds are sooo comfy and the rooms are pretty decent for the island. And for 60,000 kip I chose to stay on my own for 2 nights for a recharge. They included your own bathroom and 2 hammocks on the balcony.
There’s not much to do on the island, except chill on the small beach, go ‘tubing’ around the island for 10,000 kip (although nothing like Vang Vieng) and just chill in the many bars. If you’re that way inclined you can also treat yourself to a happy pizza, space cakes or shisha – all openly advertised around the island. Many of the locals can be spotted smoking a spiff themselves. It’s one of those places where it is always acceptable to be in bed before 9.30pm, and that’s pretty much what I did.
In terms of activities, for 10,000 kip you can hire a bicycle for the day, but NOT recommended in the heat, so go early morning. If you bike on the sunrise (left) side, you’ll come to the bridge to the neighbouring island Don Khon. However, just before there is a… swimming pool! If you don’t fancy taking a dip in the Mekong, you can pay 25,000 kip to stay by a well kept and clean swimming pool! Why not! I did twice!
There is also a standard day trip run around the island, all the same thing, same price (180,000 KIP) and it includes a whole day of kayaking, seeing a small waterfall, the largest waterfall in SE Asia, lunch and more kayaking, rapids, dolphin watching, more kayaking, a little bit of trekking and then, yep, you guessed it, more kayaking! Looking back on it now, it’s wasn’t too bad, but at the time I wanted to punch the person that had invented the kayak… It’s a long hard day, but great way to meet people and see the surrounding areas.
If you’ve done some hard core travelling, or want to give your liver a rest from the amount of alcohol you consumed in Vang Vieng, this place is the place to do so. The bars shut at 11pm and it’s normal for people to just go to sleep. Trust me, your body will thank you for this! Go on, you deserve it!
Amy is the founder of thewanderlustadventures.com. Currently residing in Reading, UK with a love of adventure travel, writing and photography - she pretty much writes about whatever the hell she wants!