With the days of 1$ bungalows with a complimentary bag of weed and a bottle of rice whiskey being long gone, is Si Phan Don still worth the visit on your trip backpacking Southeast Asia?
Still in 2011 you could stroll down the main road on Koh and have the bungalow owners touting 3-5$ bungalows. According to online sources travelling to Si Phan Don in 2015 will still give you the same prices, a big thumbs up for that.
Laos doesn’t have any seaside and is completely landlocked. Si Phan Don is located in Champasak province and the cool thing about these islands is that they’re all located on the Mekong river. The name Si Phan Don means 4000 islands in Lao language, and while I’m not sure if there are that many, there’s still a fair few, with Don Det, Don Khon and Don Khong being the most accessible. Worth mentioning is that Don Det and Don Khon are the more affordable islands while Don Khong hosts some accommodation that could be considered upscale.
I order you to do nothing, absolutely nothing. Except maybe get a bike and bike to the biggest waterfall in Southeast Asia. The Khone Phapheng falls is easily biked to and it’s well worth the visit. There’s a T-crossing when you get over to the other island, turn right to get to the waterfall. When you bike back try the other way and you’ll find a nice secluded beach. While you’re at the beach you could talk to the boat people about the possibility of going dolphin watching (your guest house can probably help you with that too). There’s also a narrow-gauge railway on the island which was officially the only railway in Laos until 2009.
Apart from that, do absolutely nothing.
Getting There / Getting Out
Si Phan Don is on the common backpacking route between Pakse in Lao and Kratie in Cambodia. Getting in and out both ways is just as easy (Tickets $8-12). It’s also possible to cross the border by boat with the terminal station in Stung Treng, Cambodia. Bottom line is, It´s probably worth a small detour just to have a few days lying in the hammock.
– If you’re interested in history, read up on the kingdom of Champasak.
– There’s tubing available on Don Det. Boats will take you up the river, but you can also start from the beach from the north side which also works well. Remember not to go too far as there’s a waterfall further down the stream.
– Weed and Mushrooms are widely available, even at the bars. Just saying.