Si Phan Don

Don Khon

Our last stop in Laos was in Si Phan Don, or Four Thousand Islands as it is known in English. Here there are many islands in the Mekong as it rushes towards the Cambodian border. We opted to stay on Don Khon, a quieter island than neighbouring Don Det which is joined to Don Khon by an old railway bridge, part of the only railway ever built in Laos.

Bridge between Don Det & Don Khon

The main purpose of our stay here was to relax. Travelling through Laos had been amazing, if somewhat tiring with all the long bus journeys. We needed a few days to recharge our batteries before hitting Cambodia.

Don Khon

After a very long journey from Khong Lor involving more buses than I can remember as well as a fitful sleep on a night bus we arrived on Don Khon bleary eyed at 9am. Too tired to even look for a guesthouse we staggered into the first restaurant we saw to eat breakfast and to get some energy back. I had the best banana pancake yet in here, this is coming from someone who detested bananas until fairly recently!

Revived I set out to find a guesthouse leaving Alan in the shade with the backpacks. I was a bit naughty and decided that I was fed up with having showers that were in bathrooms so small that everything, including the toilet, gets soaked when you wash. I opted for something a bit more “luxurious.” This was our time to relax and I wanted to stay somewhere really nice to do it in. I opted for a room at the Sala Bin resort which had a bathroom that was ginormous. The toilet was many steps away from the shower (which had a shower door, such luxury!), the room was huge and the beds delightfully comfortable. This was to be our home for the next few days. I slunk back to confess to Alan that I had upgraded us from our normal standards.

We spent the first day lounging in one of the riverside restaurants reading our books. I get travel sick very easily which meant Laos had been a bit rubbish for me on the reading front as I can’t read on the buses. When we weren’t on the buses we had been busy seeing and doing things. Having the time to just sit and read was blissful.

Relaxing with a banana shake

Feeling a bit more revitalised on our second day we summoned up enough energy to hire some bicycles. We headed to the southern tip of Don Khon and admired the views across the river before turning our bikes around to head to the Li Phi falls. The road was more like a dirt path and it was very hot as we creaked away back north on bikes that were far too small for us. I was looking forward to reaching the falls and getting off the bike!

Cycling on Don Khon

Another couple cycled past us heading south. I did the typically British thing of making eye contact and saying “hello” like you do on country walks back home. Then I realised, just at the same moment the man in the couple realised, that we knew each other! It was Patrick who we had first met on a tuk tuk in Luang Nam Tha all those weeks ago and who had ended up in the neighbouring room to us in Nong Khiaw. Patrick leapt off of his bike, chucking it to one side so that it crashed clumsily to the floor, and enveloped us both in a big bear hug. It was great to see him again. They were also heading to the waterfalls and were going the wrong way so we teamed up and headed to the Li Phi falls together.

The Li Phi falls were pretty spectacular. Not because of their height or the colour of the water as we had seen in Kuang Si, but because of the ferocity and volume of the water spilling down through them.

Li Phi Falls

After lunch we headed to the “beach.” This is a sandy area where it is possible to take a quick dip in the river relatively safely as there is a cove with a big rock going across it shielding you from the lethal current of the Mekong. Alan and I got in, found a nice rock each to perch on beneath the water and stayed crouched down in the water to cool off. Southern Laos is far hotter than the north and we were suffering in the heat! We then said goodbye to Patrick who was staying on the other island, Don Det, to head back to wash the Mekong river water off of us.

The rest of our time on Don Khon was incredibly lazy. We caught up on the blog, read our books and drank lots of fruit shakes. Each day we would do the tiniest amount of exploring possible. One day we would walk to the old railway bridge to watch the sunset, another we ventured over to Don Det to take a look. The overriding theme though of our stay was to do as little as possible for a change!

Sunset on Don Khon

On our very last day we decided to exert ourselves a little bit more and hired some bicycles again (bigger ones this time, thankfully!) and headed back to the southern tip of Don Khon. Here we hired a boat to take us out to see the Irrawaddy dolphins. We were in luck and managed to see them, getting tantalising glimpses of dorsal fins and heads as they slid up and down through the water. It turns out though they are incredibly difficult to photograph as you are not sure exactly where they will emerge next, so apologies for my rubbish photos! This was the perfect end to our stay in Laos, a country that has won me over with its amazing natural beauty, friendly people and laid back atmosphere.

Going to see the dolphins - Don KhonIrrawaddy DolphinIrrawaddy Dolphin

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7 Responses to Si Phan Don

  1. Tim L says:

    What books have you been reading as you travel? Anything suitable? or worth reading?

    • Helen says:

      A lot of it probably wouldn’t be your cup of tea, a bit girly. But I am reading Nicholas Nickleby at the moment as I do like a bit of Dickens. Before that the Railway Man which is so much better than the film. Not really new material I’m afraid!

  2. Phil W says:

    Looks nice and warm where you are – a bit wet and windy here. Have you seen pictures of our leaning boat of Solent ? It will be interesting to hear how they managed to tip it over so far when only coming down Southampton water – your mother is refusing to join me in a canoe to go and take a closer look.

    • Helen says:

      I have seen the boat in the news. Maybe you should hold off having a look until it stops being windy? Tell mum she is a spoilsport for not joining you!

  3. amyblyth says:

    You captured the vibe of this place well, it’s perfect for relaxing and doing nothing. The only thing that ruined our stay there was getting sick from some dodgy food (happened a lot in Laos!). I’m glad to see you took a rest and enjoyed the islands 🙂

    • Helen says:

      Thanks, it was really restful. Made it hard to leave! We experienced the dodgy food situation in Luang Prabang. Worse food poisoning I’ve ever had to date. Guess it comes with the territory of travelling though…

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