Si Phan Don, in the southern Champansak region of the Mekong, is the Laos name for what is better known by locals and tourists alike as the 4000 Islands. It’s called this owing to the fact that it is an archipelago (look at us getting all fancy) made up of somewhere in the region of 4000 small islands. Admittedly a lot of the “Islands” are actually just big rocks, plus we’re pretty sure whoever was in charge of counting probably got bored after about 100 and just rounded up, but it’s still an impressive amount none the less.
Of the 4000 Islands there are three that are frequented by tourists and travelers; Don Khong, the largest and most upscale of the three, Don Khone and Don Det.
If you’re reading this blog and you’re headed to the 4000 Islands, then chances are good you’re headed to either Don Det or Don Khone (no offence it’s more of a judgement on us than you). Don Det has a bit of a reputation for being the new “party place” in Laos, but apart for the northwest corner, where all the bars are, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of nightlife. Even those bars all seemed to shut down early enough (about midnight), although we were there in off season.
From Pakse To The 4000 Islands:
From Paske centre, you’ll need to take a tuk tuk 8km to the South Bus Terminal it will cost about 40,000 LAK (€4) for 2 people.
From there take a Songthaews to Ban Nakasong. They run (when full) from 8am-4pm, it takes around 3 hours and costs 40,000 LAK (€4), although you may be able to haggle down to 35,000 LAK (€3.50).
From Ban Nakasong, the last boat leaves for Don Det and Don Khon between 4.30pm-5pm.
Don Det costs 15,000 and to Don Khon 20,000.
Paske Travel & Motorbike rental on the northern end of No.13 Rd (near the Wat Luang Temple) run regular 4000 islands promotions with a deal for only 55,000 LAK (€5.50) that includes a minivan and boat combo ticket, which is cheaper than the local transport option and includes local pickup. The bus leaves at 8am. You could email ahead to see if the promotion is still running Mr. Souk: [email protected].
Otherwise transfer prices from Pakse to the 4,000 islands around town cost from 60,000-65,000 LAK (€6 – €6.50).
So in this instance the tour operator / transfer route is actually cheaper In the long run.
Note: At Nakasong Bus Terminal there are two ATM’s, a tourist information point and money exchange office (There are NO ATM’s on the islands so bring plenty of cash)
You’ll need to flash your bus/boat combo ticket to board your boat, if you didn’t get a combo ticket, boats to Don Det cost 15,000 LAK (€1.50) and Don Khone 20,000 LAK (€2) from 7.30am-5.30pm. After 5.30pm until 8pm you will pay an extra 5000 LAK (€0.50) for both
Accommodation On The 4000 Islands:
From the port follow the road right for guesthouses and hostels with sunset views, or to the left for sunrise (sunrise are slightly cheaper and less of a walk).
The guesthouse we stayed in had no name but its modest and comfortable and at 40,000 LAK (€4) for a bungalow with private bathroom and a large balcony facing Mekong it was an absolute bargain! It had Wi-Fi but only at certain times, and not great at that. You shouldn’t depend on the Wi-Fi on the island. Even if there is some, it won’t always be strong.
Head towards the Street View Cafe bar, down along the main tourist street, and veer to the left at the end. Another 150m or so you will pass Mama Phouwan guesthouses, here rooms are 30,000 LAK (€3) per night (low season) but with no wifi.
Pass Mama Phouwan and up ahead, on the left hand side are white bungalows. Pop into the house facing them and ask for Adrian (a Brit!) he is there until March 2019 and will gladly look after you. Adrian is a total character; he can help you with anything you need and has a few decent stories to tell. We bought his book…
Things To Do On The 4000 Islands:
To be perfectly honest, there’s not really a whole lot to do on Don Det other than relax.
You can rent a bicycle for 10,000 LAK (€1) and cycle around the island, or to the water falls on Don Khone, but if you do just bear in mind; The Island is rough and ready, quite rural so in rainy season expect mucky trails and flooding.
There is no fee to cross over to Don Khone via the Old French Bridge, however if you wish to continue onward to Li Phi Falls there is a 35,000 LAK (€3.50) charge at the second bridge.
You can (and we did) hike around the whole Island in about 2 hours, but we suggest you make a day of it and get lost in local life here, it really is quite beautiful.
Catch a sunrise and a sunset. If you stay on the sunrise side, you can just get up and watch the sun come up over the Mekong from your balcony safe in the knowledge that you can then just go straight back to bed. If you want to catch a sunset though, you’ll need to sit in one of the many bars or guesthouses on the sunset side. There’s not really anywhere “free” to watch from, so maybe have a beer lao.
A few places run kayaking day tours at 200,000 LAK (€20) including the waterfalls, dolphin spotting and lunch (in case you get really bored)
Visit our samosa Lady and eat your weight in these delicious treats. They’re only 3,000 LAK (€0.30) each, very large and very filling and come in a range of flavours including pumpkin, veggie, chicken, coconut, banana and pineapple.
So taking into account that there’s no really a whole lot to do here would we recommend you spend a few days anyway? You bet your ungraceful backside we would. Take a few days, kick your feet up and chill out, read a book, go for a walk, eat, drink and be chilled.
So it’s come time for us to part ways again, but as always we are your digital servants, should you require any further information, advice or maybe a sandwich please feel free to comment or send us a message.
Happy Travels TUG x