4000 Islands | Don Det, Waterfalls and Kayaking

With our bus from Phnom Penh leaving at 4 am, we were stood waiting in the dark for our pick up for an hour with no way of contacting the company. Thankfully the bus eventually arrived and was taking us to 4000 Islands in Laos, our next destination. Due to it being Chinese New Year we assumed this journey would be a disaster, and we were very right. After several hours jammed at the back of our overbooked bus we were dropped in the centre of a random town where we were told to get on the back of two mens motorbikes. With much hesitation, we hopped on and were taken to an angry Cambodian mans guesthouse just out of town. He was insistent that we would not be able to cross the boarder that day so would have to stay at his guesthouse the night. When we made it clear that would not be happening, miraculously he’d ‘found’ a bus going to Laos, so we hopped on the next tuk-tuk into town and grabbed some lunch as this bus would be another two hours wait. The bus eventually arrived and we embarked on our next leg of the journey. At the border, Jess almost got into a fight with a Chinese traveller who felt the need to pull her out of the way by her bag to pay first, even though their tour had arrived half an hour later than ours. This quickly became a theme at this boarder crossing as many of the other Chinese tourists then cottoned on to the idea that they held priority over all the westerners waiting to cross. By this time everyone was very hot and very bothered. However, after the crossing had been sorted we hopped on the back of a pick-up truck and were dropped at the ferry port.

It really is 4000 Islands!

Nothing quite prepared us to see the ammount of green islands that littered the Mekong as we cruised through them on a very wobbly makeshift boat. Finding our hostel was easy as the whole Island of Don Det is only 6km in diameter and the strip of bars and hostels was at most 400m long with our hostel at the end. We dropped our bags off and went to find some dinner. The island we were on seemed to have an abundance of Indian restaurants so we went to the busiest one and sat down to a riverside curry before getting an early night. 

Jess_Puppy 4000 Islands

The second day we decided to rent some push bikes and cycle round the island looking for its hidden spots of beaches and waterfalls. Unfortunately for us, the only beach we found was private. Still, cycling the island really allowed us to see how beautiful it was (and how unfit we had become). That night we thought we would head slightly out of town for dinner and found a really nice authentic restaurant which happened to have a litter of puppies running around the resturant. The puppies were definitely the highlight of the evening as one joined us by sitting at our table and the food was a very welcomed change from Khmer food.

Kayak Tour

The most popular thing to do in the 4000 islands is to spend a day kayaking the Mekong, stopping to see astounding waterfalls and the last remaining Irrawaddy Dolphins. The first stretch of the paddle was about an hour or so long before we had to walk to the waterfall 20 minutes away. After negotiating a near sheer drop, we made it down to the rocks at the base of the fall. Thankfully, the climb up was much easier than the way down so we found our kayaks and a place to swim before setting off again, being careful to stay close to the sides as the current was lethal. The second stint in the kayaks was the longest, however, when we arrived at the beach we were to leave them and to board a motorised boat. From here we set off to see the dolphins and have a bbq lunch on the beach. For both of us, this was one of the most beautiful places we’d visited, only made better by the 3 dolphins playing in the current. The boat then took us to within a touching distance where they only used paddles and let the dolphins swim around the boat. With this sight still in our heads, we went back to the kayaks and started our third leg of the trip which took us through more scenic waters to Laos’s largest waterfall, Khone Phapheng. The falls were truly a sight to see and something that only added to the beauty of the 4000 Islands. After a 40 minute drive crammed in a truck with our kayaks, we arrived back at the same ferry port from the first day where we had one final paddle back to Don Det and a cold beer awaiting us. 

4000 Islands

Our final day on the 4000 islands was spent cycling to a bar on the far side and reading our books overlooking the Mekong whilst drinking mojitos made with local rice rum. As the sun set, we met up with some friends from Cambodia for a game of pool and all you can eat barbecue. The next morning we set off back to the mainland to Pakse, a quiet town but known for an incredible mountainous driving loop.

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