In Laos’s 4000 Islands (Si Phan Don), the Mekong River flows fast and time seems to grind to a near standstill (and that’s without even tasting the “happy” food and drinks openly sold on Don Det’s bars).
It is in this area near the southern border of Laos and Cambodia that the French ambitions to extend their regional influence further North into China stalled at the turn of the past century. Here, the Mekong River becomes almost insurmountable as it splits into hundreds of channels thus giving rise to a myriad of islets and sandbars, as well as some mighty rapids.
If Laos is, generally speaking, a rather serene country, the 4000 Islands take this quietness up a notch. Relax for a few days here in a bamboo bungalow, watching the Mekong flow from the hammock in your porch, and you will forget about everything else.
During my stay there, I got so relaxed and lazy that I couldn’t be bothered to lug around my camera and lenses. This is why all the photos shown here were taken with my phone. It’s not the best quality, but they’re ok.
Don’t forget to check out the section after the photos for some practical tips to visit the 4000 Islands.
*Note: All photos in this post were taken with my phone camera.*
(All photos are © 2015 Fernando Cortés-Cabanillas. Please contact me if you wish to use them).
If you want to go to the 4000 Islands:
- Most people stay at Don Dhet (smaller, busier, more backpacker-oriented) or Don Khon (not to be mistaken with the even larger, but apparently not that interesting Don Khong). You can hop easily between the two, albeit at a cost of about 25,000 kip (roughly €/$ 3) for crossing the old bridge or taking a boat from one to the other island.
- If you want to see fewer tourists and don’t mind having limited eating and drinking options, stay at Don Khon. If you want to meet people and chill at the bars, Don Dhet is your place.
- Bear in mind there are no ATMs on either island. You can exchange money at a few shops and guesthouses in a pinch, or take a short boat trip to Nakasang, where there’s a cash machine.
- This part of Laos is even hotter than the rest of the country. While it is tempting to stay at one of the many bamboo bungalows on offer for under €8/$10 a night, most of these lack air conditioning and will be equipped with fans at best. You won’t be spending much time inside during the day, but heat might be an issue at night. Bugs, including roaches, can also be a nuisance in these cheaper guesthouses. In my view it’s worth giving it a shot, though.
- Also, watch where your bungalow is located, as the noise from cicadas (and/or other insects) can get unbelievably loud at some spots. This happens day and night, and could be an issue if you’re a light sleeper.
- Expect poor internet anywhere, even at the more upscale hotels, as its based on 3G tech. But then, you will be there to relax, right?
- Where to eat: there are plenty of dirt-cheap, correct (if not inspiring) options that will do. Otherwise, I can recommend Mama Leuah and the restaurant at the Little Eden Hotel; while not the cheapest around, they both serve delicious, largely Westernised, food in very nice and relaxing surroundings.
So what do you think? Does this look like a place you’d like to spend some time in? As always, do not hesitate to leave a comment or share this post if you enjoyed it!