Don Det: the Laotian Mecca of backpackers
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After running the Pakse Loop (https://www.marsontheroad.com/en/destinazioni/79/an-amazing-motorbike-tour-in-laos), I take a bus and head to the famous 4000 islands, 3 and a half hours away to the south of Laos (bus cost: 50,000 kip including the boat that leads to the island that would cost 15,000 kip).
Don Det is considered a sort of the mecca for travellers visiting Laos. It is located in the middle of the Mekong River and is part of the Si Phan Don (which literally means 4000 islands). This island has become famous because here reigns absolute tranquillity and almost all the bungalows have perfect hammocks to relax.
On this island, there is only a beach near the port where many people swim or alternatively there is a private beach just 20 minutes from the centre where the entrance costs 10,000 kip and is slightly cleaner. Keep in mind, however, that the river Mekong is among the 10 most polluted rivers in the world so it's up to you to decide whether to take a bath! A good alternatives are the 2 pools on the island: one is that of the Little Eden facility that is free for people staying there otherwise the entrance costs 40,000 kip; the second one is very close to the bridge through which the island Don Khon is reached; here the entrance is 20,000 kip with a towel included.
Moreover, to get around the island, it is better to rent a bike for just 10,000 kip - € 1. The complete tour of the island can be done in about 1 hour. If you want to stay in the centre, that is where most of the restaurants, bungalows and bars are concentrated, then Ban Hua Det is the right area for you. Otherwise, just walk a few miles to find bungalows where absolute silence reigns.
On the island, there is only a dormitory called Easy go Backpackers that you cannot find for example on Booking.com and where a bed in a dormitory room costs 25,000 kip and it is reachable from the port by bike (or 20 min walking). Otherwise, if you want privacy you can stay in bungalows where prices range from 40,000 to 70,000 kip per room. Almost all the facilities are basic with bathroom in the room.
A building with beautiful sunset view is the Sunset Bungalow where we paid 65,000 kip per room per night; we stay here for 3 nights but then in the next 2 nights we move to the next Bungalow where the price is reduced to 40,000 kip and the only differences are: 1 hammock instead of 2, no mosquito net and cold water. But as usual, we adapt (I am here again with my friend Luis).
This island, moreover, is also very famous for the dealing of marijuana. Indeed, many bars have a list of food and drinks on the menu with the name "happy" which means that there is a secret ingredient inside (guess what!).
But all the pubs usually close around 11 pm forced by law. So, if you want to keep celebrating, there are always people on the beach with a campfire despite the high temperatures.
One thing you will surely notice by walking around this island is the presence of blue tubes that start from several buildings and end up directly in the river. This means that everything that comes out of the bathroom ends there and that the water that is used for the bathroom or to take a shower is also taken by the river, probably filtered but I'm not sure: there is no drinking water on the island!
Eating on the island is quite cheap. My favourite restaurant is Malina; it is easy to recognize it because it has a yellow table at the entrance visible on the street with all the names of the dishes and the prices. I have tried various restaurants decidedly this is the best, the cheapest, with a very friendly staff but above all with delicious dishes. I tried the famous Hotpot here: a cooker is placed on the table with some coals where you can cook meat and vegetables for only 20,000 kip.
Prices generally range from 10,000 kip to 30,000 kip. We usually come here for breakfast, lunch and dinner, spending a total of around 6 - 7 €.
I decide to visit also the island opposite to this one: Don Khon. You can easily reach it by bike. Here you can visit the Tad Khone Pa Soi waterfalls: they are free and it is pleasant to take a walk listening to the sound of the water (about 45 minutes from the centre of Don Det). Moreover you cannot miss the Tat Somphamit waterfalls where the entrance costs 35,000 kip. You can do a little trekking observing them from various perspectives. It is nice to spend a day here as at the end of the path there is an area with the beach where you can swim and watch the sunset. There is also a bar in case you want to sip a Lao Beer.
Other activities that can be done here are for instance are kayaking spending about 200,000 kip or tubing for 10,000 kip in the river.
Ultimately I've spent on the island Don Det 5 nights and it has been so nice to relax after several months of travel. I've also had the chance to go running in the early the morning enjoying the view with very few people around; moreover swimming in the pool and watching the sunset really helped me to reload and continue the trip in order to explore the next country: Cambodia.