Earth : Asia : Southeast Asia : Laos : Southern Laos : Si Phan Don : Don Det
Don Det used to be a really off the beaten track place only five to ten years ago. While even still today you won't find the same crowds here as in Vang Vieng for example, tens of guesthouses have mushroomed around this once well kept secret. The installation of electricity poles and wires is now completed and Don Det does now have 24 hour electrical service. This will most likely lead to increasingly more services and development.
Mostly backpackers in their 20's and 30's come to this island to relax. Some stay a day or two, some for weeks and a few have decided to stay for good.
Don Det is a small island. Walking around it takes an hour or two.
It is possible to rent bicycles for 8,000 kip (although cycles in decent shape are usually 10,000 Kip) from guesthouses and restaurants.mountain bikes with 21 gears go for about twice that. Most tourists who do this cycle over the old railway bridge to Don Khon. The cost of crossing the bridge is 20,000 for a day pass.
There are not so many temple or culturally important sites to see in Don Det. That being said the island and tranquil surroundings are the real gem people come to see. Anywhere you walk you will be greeted by smiling locals, stunning islands and scenery and a new experience. The temple on Don Kon is interesting enough and has a very old stupa that is not typical for the region. It is also on the way to the waterfall.
If laying in a hammock in front of your bungalow isn't enough for you, there are some other very relaxing things to do in Don Det:
You can get US Dollars or Kip from Hanuman's restaurant, which is located 15 meters from the beach. The nearest Bank is at Ban Kee Nak, where they do cash advances through either Visa or Mastercard. There are no ATM as of the time of writing. They also provide western union services for emergencies.
The food situation is always changing now and has gone from simple dishes like fried rice to Belgium stew soaked in Guinness. How you choose to eat in the area will depend upon your budget and personal preferences. The following is a small preview of what you might expect.
Beer Lao available everywhere for 10000 Kip.
A plastic water bottle of rice whiskey (lao lao) is also widely available for 10,000 Kip.
They also have fruit shakes that vary from 8 - 12000+ kip
Marijuana is widely available anywhere on the island but should be used discretely. Unlike Vang Vieng the police don't make a business in collusion with dealers to bust people but that is subject to change at any moment. So far there are not many places offering 'happy shakes' but if you find a 'hangover special breakfast' it could have Valium or other drugs in it. If this isn't your thing avoid such places.
Dozens of Guesthouses from 30,000 Kip (although can be as little as 10,000 during the low season) a night and up - all have basic bungalows that usually have a porch with a hammock, a bed and a mosquito net. There might be a little difference between the conditions of bungalows, mattresses and mosquito nets. The most important thing when selecting your accommodation is whether you want to stay on the sunrise or sunset side of Don Det. Bungalows on the sunrise side can get pretty warm early in the morning, which can wake you up earlier than you would like.
In general the bungalows in the north and sunset tend to be more centered to the party crowd and the places in the south tend to get more of the nature lovers. The area around sunset and Hua Det are higher density tourist areas and the feeling of being in Laos is being somewhat lost. Avoid buying tours from such locations as they charge much more than other places.
Don't expect late nights out partying though because there is a curfew that often times changes it is now 11 PM closing time strictly enforced. In the areas away from the main settlements you can still basically walk around at will if you fancy a midnight stroll.
Most if not all accomodations have no wifi and even in internet shop/cafe, it is still slow. best to have a mobile connection.
There are three internet cafes on the island. They charge 400 kip per minute. Taking into account that they haven't got mains electricity yet, this is pretty amazing.
Alternatively if you have have a SIM card and a laptop or a smart phone you can avoid the net cafes altogether. The prices for connecting at them is quite expensive by Lao standards and if you can do as much of your online business while you are in Pakse. Tigo offers EDGE service and the coverage on Don Det is excellent although spotty in some rural areas of Laos. ETL offers slower GPRS data connections but is more reliable. Either way the service is dirt cheap. Buy your SIM in Pakse at either office and have them connect it for you before going onwards.
With the recent installation of microwave towers and power poles the prices of connectivity should drop dramatically as has been the case in other places in Laos.