4000 Islands – Don Det & Don Khon
Sitting in the Mekong river in southernmost Laos lies a chain of islands named ‘4000 islands’. Don Det and Don Khon are two of the more popular islands in the chain with many tourists arriving for a secluded and relaxing break.
Don Det and Don Khon are joined together by an old railway bridge which was built by the French back in 1893, when they occupied Laos. We learnt that these two islands were strategically important for the French as they needed to use the Mekong river to access China and to stop British expansion in Myanmar. However the river surrounding the islands has many rapids, making it impossible to pass. Due to several expensive failed attempts to scale the rapids, a railway was built on the islands. Vessels were dismantled downstream, transported via the railway, reassembled then launched further upstream.
We weren’t planning on staying on 4000 islands as long as we did, but upon arriving and sinking ourselves comfortably in the chilled vibe of the place, we found our intended two day itinerary lazily stretch on to three very chilled out days.
We stayed on Don Det island in very modest accomodation on the banks of the river (we didn’t book, just rode to somewhere we liked the look of and stayed there) and our bikes were parked up for most of our visit. We walked through the village and spent time stretched out in cafe hammocks, reading and enjoying the company of the local playful cats and dogs. Evenings were spent in riverside cafes watching the sun set and enjoying the local cuisine.
We spent one day riding around Don Det island and then rode over the railway bridge into Don Khon. The roads on the islands were not the easiest to ride on – lots of large pot holes, deep mud and loose gravel – but the beautiful villages we passed through made the struggle worth it. We saw scenes of quintessential thatched huts with joyful children, farm animals and pets all playing in the lime green grass, it is a truely beautiful part of the world.
We rode to the south of Don Khon to the old French pier where we saw one of the old trains on display – this spot is also where Irrawaddy dolphins occupy the river and so we stopped for a refreshing drink in the shade on the river bank and kept a look out, but none were out to play. We then rode onto a beach area for lunch and watched the river lap up against the sand, which we thought was a pretty strange sight! After lunch we rode by some waterfalls and then back across the railway bridge to Don Det and home.
It was a very hot day and I think we were riding around for about five hours all up, so we were a bit tired when returned – we found the best cure was to resume positions on the hammock with a nice cool beer in hand and admire the sunset. Cheers!
An honerable mention goes to the new lodger we found upon returning to our room, a massive spider… Eddie evicted him while I cowered under covers!