Don Det

The main street in Don Det

Don Det (ດອນເດດ), is an island in the middle of the Mekong River in Si Phan Don in Laos.

Understand

Don Det used to be a really off the beaten track place only five to ten years ago. While even still today you won't find the same crowds here as in Vang Vieng for example, tens of guesthouses have mushroomed around this once well kept secret. The installation of electricity poles and wires is now completed and Don Det does now have 24 hour electrical service. This will most likely lead to increasingly more services and development.

Don Det is somewhat of an attraction for backpackers and is often compared with the much less relaxing Vang Vieng. Backpackers, mostly in their 20s and 30s come to this island to relax. Some stay a day or two, some for weeks and a few have decided to stay for good.

Get in

By boat

Get around

Don Det is a small island. The walking path is 7.2 km, and takes about two hours.

It is possible to rent bicycles for 10,000 kip from guesthouses and restaurants. Mountain bikes with 21 gears go for about twice that. Most tourists who do this cycle over the old railway bridge to Don Khon. The cost of crossing the bridge is 20,000 for a day pass.

See

There are not so many temple or culturally important sites to see in Don Det, but the island and tranquil surroundings are the real gems. Anywhere you walk you will be greeted by smiling locals, stunning islands and scenery and a new experience. The temple on Don Kon is interesting enough and has a very old stupa that is not typical for the region. It is also on the way to the waterfall.

Do

Watching the sunset with a beerlao

If laying in a hammock in front of your bungalow isn't enough for you, there are some other very relaxing things to do in Don Det:

Buy

You can get US Dollars or Kip from 4000 Island Bar, Adam's Rogue in town or Little Eden, which is located near town. They charge your Visa or MasterCard for a commission of 6-10%. The nearest Bank is on the mainland in Ban Nakasang. There are two ATM's there, Lao Development Bank and BCEL. They also provide western union services for emergencies. Best to use before going to the island. Most guesthouses will provide boat trips there and back for about 50,000 Kip, waiting for you while you do your banking. Banking hours are between 8:30-15:00.

Eat

The food situation is always changing now and has developed from simple dishes like fried rice to Belgium stew soaked in Guinness. The following is a small preview of what you can expect.

Drink

one of the many guesthouses

Beer Lao available everywhere for between 10,000 & 15,000 Kip.

A plastic water bottle of rice whisky, lao lao, is also widely available for 10,000 Kip.

Fruit shakes cost from 8 - 12000+ kip

Marijuana is widely available anywhere on the island but should be used discreetly. Unlike Vang Vieng the police don't make a business in collusion with dealers to bust people but that is subject to change at any moment. So far there are not many places offering 'happy shakes' but if you find a 'hangover special breakfast' it could have Valium or other drugs in it. If this isn't your thing avoid such places.

Sleep

Dozens of Guesthouses from 50,000 Kip (although can be as little as 20,000 during the low season) a night and up - all have basic bungalows that usually have a porch with a hammock, a bed and a mosquito net. There might be a little difference between the conditions of bungalows, mattresses and mosquito nets. The most important thing when selecting your accommodation is whether you want to stay on the sunrise or sunset side of Don Det. Bungalows on the sunrise side are normally cooler. The morning sun is not as hot as the afternoon sun on the sunset side.

In general the bungalows in the north and sunset tend to be more centered to the party crowd and the places in the south tend to get more of the nature lovers. The area around sunset and Hua Det are higher density tourist areas and the feeling of being in Laos is being somewhat lost.

Don't expect late nights out partying though because there is a curfew that oftentimes changes, it is now 23:00 closing time strictly enforced. In the areas away from the main settlements you can still basically walk around at will if you fancy a midnight stroll.

Most, if not all, accommodations have Wi-Fi. However, even in internet shop/cafés the connections are slow.

Connect

There are three internet cafes on the island. They charge 400 kip per minute. Free Wifi is available at most of the restaurants.

Alternatively if you have a SIM card and a laptop or a smart phone you can avoid the net cafes altogether. The prices for connecting at them is quite expensive by Lao standards and if you can do as much of your online business while you are in Pakse. Tigo offers EDGE service and the coverage on Don Det is excellent although spotty in some rural areas of Laos. ETL offers slower GPRS data connections but is more reliable. Unitel has 3G coverage as of February 2012. Either way the service is dirt cheap. Buy your SIM in Pakse at either office and have them connect it for you before going onwards. As of January 2015 a Unitel SIM costs 10,000 kip (includes 5000 kip call credit) and for 100,000 kip 5000 mb/month data packages are available.

With the recent installation of microwave towers and power poles the prices of connectivity should drop dramatically as has been the case in other places in Laos.

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, March 03, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.