Don Det

Backpacker Paradise in Don Det (4000 Islands)

Nestled in one of the thousands of islands called Si Phan Don (translates to 4000 Islands) in the mighty Mekong River is a paradise for budget backpackers and travelers alike. Spend your days, weeks or whatever here relaxing in a hammock, bungalow, or anywhere along the Mekong River. Don Det and Don Khone offer many affordable accommodations for any budget as well as relaxing activities and delicious food.

Don Det Sunset
Sunset First Night at Don Det

Where to Stay at Don Det

Find the right bungalow for you on Don Det. We stayed our first two nights in the heart of Don Det where most backpackers stay at the tip of the island and is a great place if you need a little party atmosphere. You can stay on the river on either the sunset or sunrise side of the Mekong with a balcony and a hammock. Rooms with a river view in this area typically are more expensive (but still cheap) than further down the island. We stayed at a locally owned bungalow inland next to Banana Leaf. We only paid 50,000 kip per night (~$6.25) and the room was nice with a private bath. You can also find many restaurants that make “happy” food or shakes in this area.

Don Det Restaurants
Your Typical Don Det Restaurant

Once we explored further down the island on a beach cruiser bicycle the next day (10,000 kip/bicycle/day ~$1.25) we saw there were more locally owned guesthouses and bungalows down the river. This part of the island is also where you go to get to the bridge to Don Khone Island.

This part of Don Det is charming and more relaxing plus you feel more mixed in with the locals. Walk or bicycle down the coconut tree lined path filled with baby chicks, hens, and puppies while taking in the beautiful views of the river, village, and farms. Once we made it here we realized we could spend at least a month living here.

Keep your eyes out for bungalows near the bridge. We snagged a cute green bungalow for 40,000 kip and felt like we were kings and queens. We spent the rest of the  time at the locally owned Khaohom Bungalow just across from King Kong restaurant. We felt pretty freaking sweet with our wifi, hot showers and just spending $5 a night!

Don Det Bungalows
Us Feeling Fancy in our Lime Green Luxury Resort

This part of the island is super quiet, which we love, except for those damn roosters!  King Kong has got it going on when it comes to food and poker every night. Just be sure not to lose all your kip. The owner has some uncanny ability to remember names.

We also discovered there are a few places on Don Khone Island right along the river. Don Khone is a freaking cute place connected by a bridge to Don Det and offers many natural sites to bicycle to. Along the river in the village are where the majority of the guesthouses are.

Don Khone
View of Don Khone from Don Det

What To Do at Don Det

This is where you decide if you want to do any activities at all or just relax in a hammock all day along the Mekong River. Our favorite activity was renting a bicycle for a day from one of the guesthouses and cruising over to Don Khone to check out the waterfalls, village, farms, and try to sneak a peek at the endangered Irawaddy fresh water dolphins.

Don Det Waterfall
One of many waterfalls

The Somphamit (Li Phi) waterfalls were our favorite. You must pay an admission to here, but well worth it. We ended up going twice we liked it so much. The raging waters are impressive especially when you try to count how many individual waterfalls there are. There’s also a restaurant and bar here offering great views and a bungalows to relax in. We tried our luck to see the Irawaddy dolphins from the beach there but unfortunately had no luck! Maybe next time.

Don Det Restaurant
View from the restaurant

If you paid an admission to cross the bridge to Don Khone then this will work as your ticket to the waterfall

Boats that offer to take you to see the rare Irawaddy dolphins. There are only about 100 of these dolphins known to be alive and hang out in the Mekong in this area and Kratie, Cambodia. Try to share a boat with others to make the price more affordable. You can easily get a boat for under $10.

Irawaddy Dolphins
Via WorldWildLife

There are plenty of paths to get lost on in Don Khone and places to see by bicycle. We spent two days getting lost all over and having fun by biking. Another way to get some exercise and see the island is by taking one of the many kayak tours. The tours are a whole day and include breakfast and lunch, but can be a bit pricey at $25 a person. You get to see two waterfalls and drift around the Mekong. If you’re lucky you’ll see some dolphins too.

Don Det Bike riding
BoBo & ChiChi Selfie in full effect.

Don Det is a place that just shouldn’t be but we are glad is. Somehow it’s an island in a land locked country. A comfortable retreat from the difficulties that Laos has to offer. A place to party, or just unwind and recap your horror travel stories. You may plan to stay a day, but end up spending a week at this island on the river. All we know is, we will be back.

There are no ATMs on the island. Make sure you bring enough cash with you. You can exchange USD to kip on the island if needed, but at a worse rate.

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