After successfully completing the Laos Thakhek bike loop, some of the group decided to head down South for some chill time in Si Phan Don, more commonly known as ‘Four thousand islands’. We stayed on one of the more popular islands, Don Det, which is still a tiny little place very much backpacker orientated with a cool hippy vibe. We were there for four nights but again like in Pai in Northern Thailand, when I look back at our time spent there I struggle to pinpoint exactly what we got up to! It is very much a place to hammock-dwell with little planned. Many travellers we met said they had ended up spending a lot longer there than anticipated, simply enjoying the sunshine and having a chance to relax without rushing around doing activities and excursions.
So, what exactly did we do?
We arrived late afternoon, so took the opportunity to have a wander. The surrounding islands make it a beautiful place to simply take a walk and admire the scenery. Lucky for me, there were so many animals running about, from adorable tiny puppies and kittens to groups of water buffalo grazing in the heat. It was also common to rent a bicycle to explore the island, which I now wish we had done.
Long, leisurely lunches and dinners were spent eating and chatting in the wide selection of cute cafes and restaurants. The ‘Happy bar’ (you can guess what their speciality is) had drawings and quotes written all over the walls, which were nice to read. One of the best meals I had in Laos was eaten in Four thousand islands in a restaurant called Jasmine. I had a mouth-wateringly delicious fish fry curry and the poppadoms and bhajis were to die for! The Four Thousand Islands bar also had very yummy breakfasts.
Don Det has a small sandy beach where boats from the mainland drop you off. Not sure what to do with one of our days, we decided to play a few card games and enjoy some whisky mixers on the beach. This built up a sizeable crowd as other backpackers slowly joined in, making it a really fun day. Oh, and we swam which was lovely too.
But not as heavily as in Vang Vieng, for example. The bars in Don Det shut at 11pm so the nightlife generally consisted of a few casual beers or ciders (a taste of home!) after dinner. One night we managed to start a bonfire on the beach. This stretched on to the early hours of the morning as we sat around exchanging stories and tales of our travelling adventures with other like-minded backpackers. It really was a very nice evening.
For our last full day, we decided we had better have an activity day and get a bit of exercise done! One of the only excursions to do in Four Thousand Islands is a day tour exploring the area by kayak. We were up early for our complimentary breakfast and before you know it we were breaking a sweat as we paddled through the water. We managed to catch a glimpse of rare Irrawaddy dolphins, which was pretty cool even though they were so far away. We were also able to visit two waterfalls, one of which is the biggest in Southeast Asia. As with every time it seems I see a waterfall in Southeast Asia, I was impressed! The Khone Phapheng Falls were huge in width, gushing floods and floods of foam. Our day finished perfectly, as we kayaked back to Don Det watching the stunningly serene sunset in awe.
I loved Four Thousand Islands, but again I think it really depends on how much time you have and what your preferred style of travelling is. I met people who had lazed and lounged there for weeks, and others who felt like one full day was all they needed. Saying that, I didn’t meet anyone who didn’t actually like the place – it would be difficult not to! For me, four nights was perfect, no more no less. If we hadn’t had a busy and rushed previous week partaking in the Laos loop, perhaps I would have been more eager to move on quicker. But knowing me, four days on a chilled hippy island will always be much appreciated!