The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

1 Out Of 4000 Isn’t Bad

Days 379-381, December 11-13, 2011

Located a mere 5-10 minute drive from the border with Cambodia, the 4000 Islands of Laos are, for the most part, peoples first or last stop on their trip in the tiny, landlocked country. At this section of the Mekong, the river widens enough to create dozens upon dozens of islands. Maybe not the 4000 that the name implies, but there are plenty to see. However, there are only three that are usually on anyone's itineraries or radar. Most of the other “islands” are too small or too temporary to hold any sort of infrastructure.

My bungalowIMG_7732

The three islands in which one can choose from can be quite different from one another. There is firstly Don Khong, the largest of the three. It is big enough to hold a large town and is also the only one of the islands to have an ATM available. While there are budget accommodations on this large island, most are higher end, resort style places. Don Det is, as the guide on the bus said, the party island. It is the island that backpackers flock to. However, the party aspect is limited to a small street on the island. There are many places that one can go and stay that is quiet and serene. That said, Don Det probably has the largest selection of budget accommodation available.

The final island, and the one that Lucy, Janine, and I chose to go to was Don Khon. It is slightly bigger than Don Det, but much quieter. The choices for places to sleep are still quite numerous and there is little in the way of difference when it comes to price. We found a nice place, single rooms, overlooking the river and the sunset for 50,000 kip each(about $8).

While the girls only decided to stay on the island for two nights, I stayed for three, enjoying the amazing quiet and serenity that came with it. For things to do, admittedly, there’s not much if you don’t like hiking, biking, or lazing around in a hammock all day. Many of the guesthouses offer tours that include kayaking or boat trips to see the dolphins but I avoided those.


My time on the island was pretty laid back. The island was small enough that, if you left early enough in the day, you could leisurely walk the whole way around. Obviously, I didn’t though. That requires waking up before 11am and damned if I’m going to do that! Instead, I broke it up into two different days of combo biking/walking.

The island is also host to two waterfalls, one of which is the largest in all of South East Asia, or so it claims. The smaller of the two, Khone Pa Soi, is located on the eastern side of the island. The other, Li Phi Falls, is found on the western side of the island.

Khone Pa Soi is interesting in that, because it’s not as large, they have a couple bridges you can cross to go to other areas of the waterfall. At certain sections I felt that it was more like a series of river rapids rather than a waterfall, but that’s just me. After wandering around that area, I took to the trails and followed them all the way down to the southern most tip of the island where you can actually see the mainland of Cambodia. By then, the sun was beginning to set so I made my way up the main road that cuts the island in half back to the strip of guesthouses to watch the sunset the 4000 Islands are famous for.



Part of the walking roadIMG_7776

Li Phi Falls are not nearly as far from where I was staying as Khone Pa Soi, but I still opted to rent a bicycle to go there. This waterfall was much more popular than the previous one and I was unlucky enough to get there at the same time as loads of tourists from the larger Don Khong island. The falls are massive but you’re only able to glimpse them from the one side. No bridges cross anywhere to give different perspectives.



There is, however, a trail that leads down to a small beach. The water here flows a bit too fast to do any actual swimming, but the sand is beautiful and just being able to walk in shin deep water was wonderful. There was, according to Satellite images on Google maps, another white sand beach not too far away so after hiking back up to my bicycle I made my way to where I thought it would be. I did find it as it’s not that hard of a trek. Maybe ten or fifteen minutes by bike. And while the beach itself was nice, the sand was quite expansive, the swimming wasn’t much. Most of the beach front was taken up by long boats.


In the end, I was quite sad to be leaving the islands, but plans had been made for both Christmas and New Years and there were still plenty of other places I wanted to get to in order to not feel rushed. It cost only 50,000 kip for a boat back to the mainland and then a minibus to the small city of Pakse. Si Phan Don, the 4000 Islands, can easily become a vortex, sucking you in. It almost succeeded with me.

Sunset on Don KhonIMG_7845

And I wouldn’t have been too sad if it had succeeded.



  1. Thanks for the blazing the trail - looks like my kinda place too, one day I hope to get there myself.

    Dunno what your itinerary is (pretty loose I imagine), but I HIGHLY recommend Samosir Island here in the middle of Lake Toba, Sumatra (the orangutans weren't that shabby either) ;)

    I've been here over a week now, and there's plenty to do amid a setting nearly as wondrous as Ha Long Bay (and that's saying a LOT, yes?)

    I return to HCMC on the 11th - just today (finally!) accepted the teaching job with ILA so it looks like 6 months for me there before I can head to my beloved Dalat.

  2. Congratulations Dyanne! Now you can start making money! I probably won't be making it to Sumatra this time around. All that means is I'll have more places to visit on my next trip!

    Happy New Year!

    ps. setting up any geocaches in Dalat?