Where We Be
Four Thousand Islands offers simple living
and a relaxing respite for the weary traveler
Si Phan Don, Laos
We had fun trying to snap photos just as the nets were being cast
Si Phan Don, or Four Thousand Islands, is the
name for a bunch of islands, islets, and bushy
tufts that sit in the middle of the Mekong River.
Called the “hammock capital of Laos” for its
laid-back vibe, it's located in extreme southern
Laos near the border with Cambodia. The two
most touristed islands are Don Det and Don
Khon, which are connected by a bridge. From
Don Det the bungalows get sunrise views over
the Mekong, and from Don Khon sunset views.

Our favorite experience was a private sunset
boat ride. We paid 100,000 kip total ($12.50) for
the two-hour trip. Straight off we enjoyed the
cooling breezes as we motored along. The
scenery was pleasant -- lots of little islets of
greenery in the Mekong -- and it was especially
fun to watch the local fishermen casting their
nets. At the far point our boatman banked the
boat on a sandbar in the middle of the Mekong
and we got out and watched a glorious sunset.
This is how locals like to spend their days: we saw dozens
of islanders casting their nets during our short boat ride
We liked watching local fishermen casting their nets. Stones
weigh down the nets, allowing the fishermen to cast further.
We got out and walked along a tiny spit of land, reveling in
the peace and quiet and a terrific sunset over the water
At the far point of our journey we banked on a sandbar in the middle of the river
Boats puttered by as the day came to an end.
What a great two-hour trip for just $12.50!
A short boat ride brings you from the mainland to Don Det
Bungalows line both banks of the Mekong. Here we're looking across at Don Det.
Next day we went on a morning hike to Somphamit waterfall. On the way
we passed this historic locomotive from the days of French colonial rule.
Somphamit Falls is a local landmark on Don Khon. It's not so much a waterfall as a series of
whitewater cascades that descend rapidly through a narrow, impassable stretch of the Mekong.
We walked along the falls area then continued to “Gone to the Beach,” a series of open-air bugalows with comfy
lounging pillows and a bar where you can order drinks. Lower down is a sandy stretch of beach along the Mekong.
On the way home we passed these "four-leafed clovers" growing in a shallow pond
We followed a dusty path through a local village. This young boy zoomed past us
on his motorcycle -- with his dad keeping a careful eye from the attached sidecar.
At Fasai Happy Island Restaurant on Don Khon, we sat on
cushions at extra-low tables -- a common way to dine in Laos
This small monkey tied up outside the restaurant seemed to like
French fries best but was willing to try an ice cube and some fruit
On our final evening, we sat on our verandah and enjoyed the sunset views
We liked Don Det: it wasn't as rowdy as we had been led
to believe. Instead the vibe was laid-back and comfortable.
We paused for Lao iced coffees at a restaurant overlooking the arrival beach
Around 4 pm we headed out on a private sunset cruise. Great idea! We enjoyed
cooling breezes, pleasant scenery, and a gorgeous sunset over the water.
Next morning we walked with our backpacks on along this easy path towards the bridge connecting the two
islands. We saw very few tuk-tuks, so be prepared for a 20-minute walk to the bridge to get to Don Khon.
Eventually the path split and we followed the smaller walking path along the water. We really enjoyed the
quietness here: lots of mom and pop bungalows and restaurants, plus great river views with little green
"islands" sprouting up out of the water. Note the water buffalo wallowing contentedly in the foreground.
Not knowing much about water buffalo temperament, we
decided to skirt around this big one standing directly in our path!
Ahead you can see the concrete bridge connecting
the two islands. Don Khon island is to the left.
This view from the concrete bridge gives you a better
understanding of how the count of islands gets up to 4,000!
Don Khon is even more laid-back than Don Det
We opted for simple lodgings at Bounphan Guesthouse ($9 per night). We loved the water
views but found the lack of AC difficult under such hot conditions (March is a hot month in Laos).
These floating rentals next door to us went for about $60 per night.
Perhaps we should have splurged for the AC and a bit more luxury!
This local map shows the two main islands, Don Det
and Don Khon, which are connected by a bridge
We enjoyed watching this mom and her baby pause for a drink
We decided to stay put on Don Det for our first night. We slept
at Don Det Bungalows ($16) and awoke to this pretty view.
Being on an island means you're
guaranteed water views wherever you go