Si Phan Don is situated right in the south of Laos, in the stretch of Mekong River that borders Cambodia. Si Phan Don is a place for relaxation and not doing anything in a hurry. Imagine yourself lying in a hammock with a book, while watching the sunset over the Mekong River that drifts by your bungalow.
Islands of Si Phan Don
There literally are thousands of islands in Si Phan Don, but only a handful of them are permanently inhabited by people. Of those, only three have any tourism infrastructure. These three islands are quite different and you should choose which one would suit you better before you arrive. Here is a quick overview to help you decide:
Don Det: By far the most popular island in Si Phan Don, Don Det is also known as the “backpacker” or “party” island. Although all of Si Phan Don remains pretty relaxed and quiet most of the time, Don Det is where the partying types like to go, particularly at the northern end where the boat arrives. If you’re looking for something a bit more lively, this is the island for you. Don Det is also quite a small island, so it is walkable, though most people get around by bicycle.
Don Khone: Don Khone is situated just south of Don Det and is connected to the island via an old French railroad bridge. This is the island that we stayed on as it is much more quieter and relaxed compared to Don Det. In fact, when we were there we felt like we had the island to ourselves a lot of the time, only sharing it with the locals. Don Khone is also quite small and easily navigable by bicycle.
Don Khong: This is the largest island in Si Phan Don, and also the least visited as it is located further north from Don Det and Don Khone, where most of the popular attractions are. This can be a great thing though if you are after a more authentic experience. Fewer tourists head here, and things are about as relaxed as you can get. Head here if you want to stay away from any crowds.
Things to do
There is a small pod of Irrawaddy Dolphins that inhabit a part of the Mekong River at the bottom tip of Don Khone, and there are boats there that can take you out to view them. These dolphins are very rare and should be treated with respect. Make sure that your driver shuts off his engine when you get to the area, then the dolphins will pop up out of the water to get some air.
There is no better way to see Si Phan Don than by bicycle. There are lots of roads on the islands that lead through some beautiful areas, plus cycling is a lot of fun. You can also cycle across the bridge between the islands of Don Det and Don Khone. Most places rent bicycles for 10,000 kip per day.
Fishing is a way of life for the people of Si Phan Don, and some fishermen will even take you out on their boats with them early in the morning to do some fishing. This is a great way to experience the life of a local fisherman, and you will be supporting him and his family while doing so.
Kayaking has started to become popular in Si Phan Don, and its a great way to get out on the Mekong to explore its maze of channels. Some tours will even take you down some decent rapids.
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