Indulging in Sweet Nothingness on Don Det Island

with 23 Comments


Located in Southern Laos bordering Cambodia, Si Phan Don or more commonly known among travelers as 4000 Islands, is where the Mekong river is forcibly split into smaller waterways by the presence of numerous islands (or islets) creating a stunning archipelago. After nearly one month of rudimentary traveling through the country, we chose to end our adventures on the island of Don Det.




After checking into our excellent bungalow complete with gingerbread trim and white picket fence, I was ready to explore Don Det. It didn’t take me long to realize that the main hub of Don Det, a cluster of mismatched establishments lining the main ‘road’, was just a few hundred meters long.

These establishments were an agglomeration of tour agencies, shabby restaurants/bars catered to tourists and less than a handful of convenience stores. Some of the restaurants were decorated with funky floor cushions, exuding quintessential hippie style. Enticing, rhythmic reggae music echoed off the river. The vibe on Don Det was undeniably free-spirited, a far stretch from the more conservative culture of Laos.

I don’t usually like places that are completely stripped of local culture, existing primarily to attract young party-inclined backpackers all wearing the same harem pants travelers but I came here to indulge in the best Don Det had to offer – sweet nothingness. After enduring days of cold, wet temperatures, I was ecstatic to finally wear my flip flops again, toes sprinkled with warm sand. And the sun, oh the glorious sun – how happy I was to bask in its rays!

*cue your favorite Summertime music*



After spending the afternoon on the small beach, I continued my exploration towards the other end of the island. Much to my enjoyment, this stretch of Don Det was much more appealing; I was kindly reminded that I was in Laos. While strolling alongside the slow-flowing Mekong river, I saw wooden houses precariously balancing on stilts and I was greeted by friendly islanders including grubby, giggling children.

Yup, my first day in Don Det was a perfect reflection of its relaxed vibe.






On our second day, we decided to rent bicycles (for $1/day). We crossed the French-built bridge over to the twin island of Don Khone. Arriving on Don Khone, it was immediately apparent how different it was from Don Det. The ambiance was still quite relaxed but it was more ‘sophisticated’ (as far as dusty, fairly undeveloped islands go).



As we cycled through dried-out rice fields and quaint villages, we came across a sign indicating nearby waterfalls. Without a second thought, we took the small path and within a few minutes we arrived at Khonepasoi and Khane Pa Sy Waterfalls – each a series of waterfalls connected by flimsy wooden bridges. And bonus – both were free!

(Somphamit or Liphi Waterfalls are the most popular waterfalls on Don Khone but with a 35,000 kips admission fee we decided to skip it).



Related post: Traveling Isn’t Always Pretty – Mishaps of my Trip in Southeast Asia




Though life on Don Khone was very relaxed, there was always something interesting to see like this ambulant vendor who gave a whole new meaning to “at-home shopping” and this creamy-colored beach with rustic fishing boats dotting its shore. It was so pleasant to pedal at one’s leisure through the open fields while simply taking in the scenery!





This picture.

End of day 3.

Don’t judge me.



Unbeknownst to me, my day of complete farniente lead up to a night of partying…..Lao-style. That night a huge party was organized in the dried-out rice field smack in the middle of Don Det. Hundreds of residents from every other island came to take in the festivities and to let loose (which meant drinking way too many Lao beers).

Singers bellowing out lyrics through a screechy microphone were on one stage while a traditional dance show took place on another. Numerous stalls selling a panoply of toys and trinkets were haphazardly set up among vendors selling cigarettes or offering a choice of grilled skewers.

I certainly never expected to attend a party on Don Det Island but mingling with the locals in a non-fabricated way was a lot of fun!






With the incessant heat not letting up, I decided to do like the four-legged locals – I hung out on the porch in the shade all day (shamelessly indulging in sweet nothingness yet again – tsk, tsk).




Speaking of my fellow shade-seekers, I noticed that cats, dogs and chickens wandered around without the slightest worry about being shooed away. These furry island dwellers were definitely living la dolce vita!





After two days of doing only the bare necessities (you know like eating), the fifth and final day came along. It was time to get up off of my lazy ass to capture a few more memories of this charmingly unpretentious island.

And so off I went.



I encountered an inebriated-looking buffalo sporting a funky hair piece.



I got stuck in a traffic jam (no cars on Don Det meant this was as bad as it got).



I spotted some funky art.



I came across men playing a game of pétanque (similar to bocce) – a clear remnant of Laos’ French colonization.



I did some window-shopping.



I watched kids playing soccer/football on a dusty field.



And I took a few other random pictures depicting the real Don Det.






As our time on Don Det Island came to a close, I reminisced about carefree evenings spent watching the sun set over the Mekong river.




And the day my top matched the savory and incredibly sweet sugar cane I was eating.


Mellowing in yellow on Don Det Island




Enjoyed this post? Please pin it!



Has anyone else indulged in the sweet nothingness of Don Det?


Travel & design inspirations straight to your inbox. Subscribe to my newsletter & never miss a post!
No spamming. Your email address will not be sold or shared.

    Sorry for some reason I only saw your comment today. Thank you for reading and I’m so glad you enjoy my posts! Have a great time in Cancun!

  • Syam

    Great place to explore. The sunset is super lovely!


      It was really nice to just chill out and enjoy the surroundings! 🙂

  • I would love to cycle my way to a waterfalls someday. All the pictures are so beautiful! Thank you for adding one more destination in my bucket list! 🙂


      This bicycle ride was so much fun – the waterfalls were just a bonus! Glad you added Laos to your bucket list. 🙂

  • Cat Lin

    I love the way you explored Don Det. So relaxing and simply indulging in the nature. It’s so cheap to rent a bike there! And so funny to get stuck in a traffic jam with those farm animals 😛


      Don Det was exactly what we needed after traveling for one month! Haha….it was impossible to get mad at that traffic jam! 😉

  • Hi Lydia,

    I have heard many awesome things about the 4000 islands. Those dogs and cats sure get how the flow of life should be. Do some stuff then sleep away the rest LOL. Loving these images and your stories! Thanks for sharing 🙂



      Glad you enjoyed it! Visiting the 4000 Islands is well worth it. The saying “It’s a dog’s life” had a much more positive connotation on Don Det! 🙂

  • Firdaus Ysf

    This is really a great village to be at.Si Phan Don let you understand how the Asian countries are. It is really a good experience for someone who live in the western countries and do not know much about the Asian countries.Aside from that,it is a worthwhile trip and affordable.


      Yes 4000 Islands is definitely worth a few days if not for some well-deserved R&R! 🙂

  • Mike C

    Don Det looks like a fun place to hang out for a few days. It’s nice when you are travelling to have days when you do nothing. I’ve flipped this post into my Best of Travel Bloggers board on Flipboard.


      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for flipping! We were definitely in need of some well-deserved farniente and Don Det was perfect for that!

  • Paige Brown

    Don Det is definitely the place to have some ultimate relaxation. Unfortunately, I have bad memories there because I was so ill. Like, flu-ill the whole time I was there, then got bronchitis that I carried around with me for three more months which scarred my lungs and gave me asthma. I tried several times to get the right antibiotics, but couldn’t. So I should’ve just gone to the doctor, but I always joke that Don Det gave me asthma. haha! I have to say it was one of the best places for sunset though!


      Ugh that really sucks but I guess there are worse places to be sick than on Don Det. At least you had those stunning sunsets to console you! I had pneumonia a few years ago and also got occasional asthma until I went to India and consulted an ayuverdic doctor who prescribed some natural remedies. I haven’t had any breathing problems since then. 🙂

      • Paige Brown

        That’s seriously great to know! I’m going to India next year and I’ll have to check that out! Thanks for the tip!


          You’re very welcome! Unfortunately, I didn’t take note (nor keep the prescription) of the products but I remember one looked like black tar and tasted awful but it worked! With all the air pollution in India I was worried I would have a hard time breathing but I started the treatment in Kerala (Southern India which is much tamer than Northern India) so by the time I got to the worst parts of the country I was fine and still am till this day. Oh and everything was really cheap! The appointment was free and the medicine only cost about $18USD. 🙂

  • I love your photos of the animals! That adorable cuddly cat photo is my favorite. Don Det seems like a wonderful place to relax in the sunshine. I think it’s great that you did nothing when you felt like it. And you still got to party with the locals!


      I was only there for a few days but I was slightly jealous of those animals who lived like that all the time….lol!

  • Iuliana Marchian

    This place is so authentic. I really enjoyed your post about Don Det Island. And the pictures are great. However, I am not sure what it meant that small house on the tree which had oranges in front of it. Were locals offering fruit to the birds?


      Hi Iuliana! Glad you enjoyed my post! Laos is a very Buddhist country so that tiny house you’re referring to is actually an altar with offerings (oranges) to Buddha.

  • Vyjay Rao

    Wow! You seem to have thoroughly enjoyed every moment at Don Det. I too would love to just relax and slowly get to know the locals. It is a different feeling altogether. Loved reading about the bicycle ride, the traffic jam due to ducks crossing, eating of sugar cane and the wooden bridges. 🙂


      Don Det is a perfect place to just relax and take in the scenery while meeting locals! 🙂