The main street in Don Det
Don Det is an island in the middle of the Mekong River in Si Phan Don in Laos.
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.
- Ban Nakasang is 2 1/2 hours by mini bus or around 3 1/2 hours by local transport from Pakse. Local public transport leaves from the southern bus the station in Pakse.
- Cambodia The prices recently are actually more expensive for the local transport than they are for the chicken bus. Many visitors like the local style transport but if price is an issue for you then by all means shop around.
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.
Watching the sunset with a beerlao
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:
- Swim in the Mekong River. There is a little beach where boats drop people off. It's possible to swin in the waters infront of most of the guesthouses. There are even little fish in the water, which nibble off dead foot skin, if you keep still enough.
- Tubing. Rent a tube and float in the Mekong river for a few hours. 10k for a tube, and another 15k if you want to be driven out a bit by boat.. Bring some beers and or water and have fun! 10,000 kip.
- Waterfalls. Go see waterfalls on Don Khon island.
- Dolphin Watching. Take a boat tour and see dolphins
- Take any one of the numerous scenic tours to outlying islands. The sunset barbeque tours offered going north of the island to pristine sand beaches are also quite good. The people in this region are the main asset and do not hesitate to mingle with them. Even if the language is a barrier they will be more than nice.
- Go on one of the numerous kayaking trips available in the area.
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.
- Mr Mans restaurant (opposite Mr Mans accommodation) has an excellent and inexpensive menu. Their lentil curry and rice soup are highly recommended!
- Adam's Bar and Restaurant is located at the main Northern tip of Don Det. Adam's claims to sell the best burgers and meatballs on the island and so far this hasn't been disputed! It is also the only bar on the island and is able to host open mic acoustic sets and late night private party's and Bbq's at 24 hours notice. At Adam's you can also get the latest Movies, Music, and TV Series uploaded directly onto your ipod, mp3, hard drive, and computer with in minutes. Ask Adam for local information and prices as he always seems to be happy to help!
- 4000 Island Bar located on the main sunrise strip by the beach is an excellent restaurant serving asian and western food cooked to perfection. Stunning views of the Mekong along with the islands best pool table and all the latest DvD's to relax too, home away from home. English speaking staff will help ensure your stay is a pleasent one. New addition to the bar is proper broadband WiFi. The only real WiFi on the Island.
- Bakery: Surprisingly Don Det has its very own bakery. Serves carrott cake, various muffins and fresh breads cooked daily by Darren's expert hands.
- King Kong restaurant located in the south of Don Det has an ever increasing array of western foods. Including pizza, fish and chips and sunday roasts. The owner, Mini is quite a friendly and cordial guy.
- For authentic homestyle Laotian cooking Mr. Vong's restaurant approximately 500 meters north of the bridge offers very good local food and is very affordable. The proprietor speaks some of the best English on the island and is a wealth of local information.
one of the many guesthouses
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.
- Bungalows Peace & Love, Sunset Side (About a 5-minute walk along the sunset side path), ☎ 020-999-380-89; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Owned by a very kind and accommodating family, these simple yet clean bungalows, with shared bathroom, overlook the Mekong River for that perfect view.
- Paradise guestouse, (About a 5-minute walk north of the road to Dhon Khon), . Owned by a sweet family, helped by Lance and Donna, american couple installed there. Cold shared bathroom, Mekong bungalows, mosquito net, hamac. very good restaurant 6am-9/10pm (depending on season): shake 7k, chicken burger 25k, many lao food 15k, refill water small/large 1,000/3,000 Kip. 25,000 Kip.
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.
- Don Khon - An aged colonial era bridge built by the French connects the islands of Don Det and Don Kon. It is possible to visit the Dolphin viewing area and the waterfall before exiting to Cambodia. The prices for this service exceed those of what you can expect to depart from Nakasang but you need a combination of boats and ground transport to do it this way. Depending on your budget it is well worth it.
- Stung Treng - A bus service operates daily rides to Cambodia. A ticket to Stung Treng including the boat to mainland is about US$ 6. Even though ticket seller and bus operator tell you that the bus/van is going to Stung Treng bus station / center - they may not be telling the truth. If there are not enough passengers to fill an entire van to Stung Treng, you will be dropped at a small shack 3km outside Stung Treng. There is no infrastracture whatsoever and no motos are available. The driver will promise that he called a moto driver to pick you up and leave. The moto will never show up. Your only option is flagging down any vehicle going to Stung Treng, or walking.
- Kratie - The same bus company operates buses to Kratie (about USD 9) which will be just fine.