Saturday, June 2, 2018

Si Phan Don ສີ່​ພັນ​ດອນ - 4000 islands in the Mekong

See the locations on Si Phan Don Google Map
See the Pakse Weather Forecast

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Boats in the evening sun

"Si Phan Don" in Lao means "4000 islands". Around 110 to 60 kilometres down from Pakse the Mekong River forms different streams and these form hunders of islands. More than 60 000 people are living here, mainly from fishing. And here you find also the Irrawaddy Dolphins. See a picture by peterjones79. The best time to see the Irrawaddy dolphins is in the morning or in the late afternoon. But: Be aware: The Mekong Dolphin is endangered. Read: Is there a future for the Mekong Dolphin?

The best time to visit Si Phan Don is between November and January when the weather is cool and dry.

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Mekong River at Si Phan Don

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How to arrive

By bus:

Pakse-Don Khong: From Southern Bus Terminal in Pakse buses or Songthaews leave several times between 10 am and 3 pm. After 120 km (three hours) you arrive by ferry in Muang Khong.

Pakse-Don Khon/Don Det: From Southern Bus Terminal in Pakse buses or Songthaews for Ban Nakasang leave several times between 7.30 am and 3 pm (three to four hours), then you take the longtailboat to Don Khon or Don Det.

Ubon Ratchathani-Pakse-Khon Phapeng Waterfalls: Air-conditioned buses operate on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and public holidays. The bus leaves Ubon Ratchathani at 0730 and arrives at the waterfall in southern Laos around noon. From Khon Phapeng it departs at 1400 and arrives in Ubon Ratchathani around 1830. The bus stops in Pakse for people who want to overnight there. For more information call Ubon Ratchathani’s bus station (045 314 299) or the Transport Company at 1490.

By car: There is a car ferry from Ban Hat to Ban Na on Don Khong island.

Don Khong ດອນ ໂຂງ - the big island

See the locations on Don Khong Google Map

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Rice field

Don Khong is the main island, the big one, as lokal people say, when they want to prevent you from mistaking it with Don Khon, which lies near the Mekong waterfalls. Don Khong is 18 km long and 8 km wide. The island can easily discovered by bicycles, which can be rented from a woman on the street near the pier of Muang Khong or also in the guesthouses. On the bike you will discover a quiet rural life. But don't forget a hat, to protect your head from the strong sun. Read, what Stevie_Wes saw on a bike tour.

Muang Khong
Muang Khong is the main village - a former French settlement. A large gold Buddha in the subduing Mara pose is overlooking the Mekong at Vat Phuang Kaew, also known as Vat Kan Khong:

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Vat Chom Thong at the upstream end of the village dates from the Chao Anou period (1805-1828). You find a Khmer-influenced sim with an unusual cruciform floor plan and carved wooden window shutters:

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Khmer influenced door

The naga heads on the roof of the main sim spill water from their mouths during raintime. Coconut and betel palms and Mango trees give the temple grounds some shade.

View across the Mekong towards Hat Xai Khun and its temple:

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A more detailed picture of the temple by Jo

Muang Saen

Muang Saen is a little village with view to the Cambodian boarder across the Mekong.
By bicycle it's about 45 minutes from Muang Khong. About 6 km north of Ban Muang Saen Nua you arrive at Wat Phou Khao Kaew (Glass Hill Monastery):

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Wat Phouang Keo

An entrance leads to the underground location of the nagas (Muang Nak). The legend says, the nagas will come to the surface to protect the Lao poeple when the country is in danger.

Ban Hua Khong

Ban Hua Khong at the north-western end of Don Khong was in 1924 the birthplace 0r Khamtay Siphandone, who became a postman and later the president of Laos. He has renovated Wat Hua Khong Pha Nyai with a cement seated Buddha image in the main sim.

At the southern tip of the island you discover two small villages: Ball Huay and Ban Hang Khong. Here Wat Thepsulin Phudin Hang Khong, also known as Wat Hang Khong, has spacious grounds and a small sim. Nearby is a carved and painted wooden Buddha sanctuary and the dharma sermon hall. Then there is Wat Sllimangkhalaham in Ban Huay.

Where to stay on Don Khong:

In Muang Khong:

Auberge Sala Done Khong: Closed in December 2010 - for renovation? No information on their website. From 26 USD. Air-con rooms with hot shower in wooden french colonial houses. Veranda areas to relax. "Popular with tour groups", notes Very good reviews on See picture by June.

Bounma Guesthouse: Basic rooms in an old wooden house.

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Don Khong Guesthouse
: 20 USD. Choice of rooms with fan or aircon (upstairs). Upstairs you find a balcony with reclining chairs and you overlook the Mekong River. The guesthouse rents bikes and you can book transportation to Pakse and Si Phan Don. Good review by Captain_Bob on thorntree

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Mali Guesthouse: 30 USD. Ban Kangkhong.

Mekong Inn: Ban Kangkong. 250m south of the boat landing. Fan rooms with shared bath are on the wooden second floor, air-con rooms with attached bath on the concrete first floor. Good review on Read also the review by Free Pants.

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Villa Muong Khong Hotel: From 43 USD. 22 rooms in bungalows with air-con and bathrooms with hot showers. Bicycles can be rented here. Good reviews on holidaycheck and virtualtourist. A "comfortable midrange option" according to

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Pon Arena Hotel and Pon's River Guest House: From 20 USD. "It feels more like a small hotel than a guesthouse", comments In fact a hotel has been added not far from the guesthouse.

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Pon's Guest House with the small road along the Mekong

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Pon's Arena Hotel

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Souk Sabay Don Khong: Next door to Pon's guesthouse. Good review by Tannith. "The rooms here are nothing special", comments No good view according to

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Senesothxuen Hotel: From 50 USD. See picture by Diane and picture on Critical review on holidaycheck

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Souksan Guesthouse: From 35 USD. One kilometer from the boat landing. With air-con and hot-water bath. The former dorm-style accommodation was replaced with a new building. There are also bungalows and a restaurant with Chinese, Lao and Thai food at the river. Critical review on

Villa Kang Khong: From 15 USD. Aircon from 15 USD. Resembles a traditional Lao wooden house, 12 rooms. They rent bikes. Good review on "Try for an upstairs room though as the downstairs ones are a bit dark and cellar-like", is the advise of

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See also pcitures by Karin 1, 2 and 3. And also pictures by Ben and mypuffin

In Muang Saen:

Say Khong Guest House: Opposite the boat landing. Cold shower.

Muong Sene Guest House: *Go there for the huge wooden rooms with charm and the relative tranquility (rooster around)", notes

On Mekong River from Don Khong to Don Det

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Leavinmg from Don Khong

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One of 4000 islands

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Car ferry to Don Khong

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Another of the 4000 islands...

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...and more of them

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French Bridge between Don Khon and Don Det, with mountains in Cambodia

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Arriving at Ban Nakasong

Don Det

See the locations on Don Det Google Map

Map of Don Det

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The French Pier on Don Det - the end of a railway, that started on Don Khon, to move goods from the lower side of the Mekong Falls to the upper side, because ships could not get trough.

Don Det can be quite full of backpackers you may have met before on Khao San Road in Bangkok. It's no longer the quiet spot you may be looking for. "The northern tip of Don Dhet - where the boats set down - has become very heavily developed towards backpacking tourism. Cafes, restaurants, pseudo-bars, tour and travel agents and (slooooooow) internet cafes", notes Stevie_Wes. But he adds, that it's relative here: "It is quiet. Super-relaxed. And not over-hustled or bustled by either touts or tourists. Yes ‘happy’ food stuffs and drinks and ‘buckets’ are available but not shoved down your throat." See a bike ride throigh Don Det on a video by iamgreg007

A guide for Don Det you find on

Where to stay on Don Det:

Billee's Guest House: See picture by fritz_da_kat

Cafe Don Det: Read about on

Cindy's Guesthouse: See picture by anlis

Hangdet Bungalow: Read about on

Little Eden: Good reviews on Read how the Belgian Mathieu started the guesthouse and see pictures of Little Eden on Jenni & Michael's Blog

Mr. Mo Guest House:

Mr. Phao's Sunrise Bungalows: Read the review by Martin-Stefan in German.

Mr. Thos Bungalow: Read about on

King Kong Bungalows:

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King Kong Restaurant

Nouphit Guest House: See picture by fritz_da_kat

Paradise Guesthouse:

River Garden Guesthouse:

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Santiphab Guesthouse:

Souksan Guesthouse:

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Thawan Daeng Guesthouse:

Don Khon

See the locations on Don Khon Google Map

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Mekong sunset, seen from Salaphae.

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Sunset in Don Khon

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French colonial railway bridge between Don Khon and Don Det

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What's left of the French railway

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French school on Don Khon

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Chan Thouma Restaurant

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Wat Khon Tai

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Wat Khon Tai

Where to stay on Don Khon:

Bane Khone Guesthouse: Read about on

Mr. Bouaphanh Guesthouse: Two bungalows with shared bath on the river bank and more bungalows with private bathroom off the river. "One of the best budget locations", commemnts . Read about on See a picture by Travels in Southern Lao

Kampheng Guesthouse: Wood and bamboo bungalow, no electricity, cold shower. See picture by Vix. Read review by TheSnowQueen

Mr. Bounh's Guesthouse: Read about on

Pakha Guesthouse: Read about on

Pan's Guesthouse: From 18 USD. Bungalows with river or garden view, at the riverfront, facing Don Det. Here you can book tours in and around Si Phan Don and rent bicycles or motorbikes and hire minivans and boats with drivers. Internet is available. See picture by Cecilia74 and planettreasures

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Sala Done Khone: From 22 USD. Spacious, nicely decorated rooms in an old teak house in French colonial style and three floating studios. All of the rooms have air-con plus private bath with hot showers. "The main building has been refurbished without interfering with its historic character", adds Read more on Good reviews on - except for one complaning about a house party all night long om opposite Don Det. Can arrange boat trips for Khonephapheng waterfall. Picture by June


Salaphae: From 25 USD. "Outstanding" according to Raft houses with solar heating and more rooms in French Residence and Ban Lao Residence. Salaphae has also a camping with bungalows on Khone Pa Soi - with waterfall view. See pictures by

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Outlook from the raft house

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Ban Lao Residence

Seng Ahloune Guesthouse: Fro, 34 USD. Wooden bungalows are raised on stilts, set around the garden and on the river front.

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See also picture by Uwe.

Somphamit Guesthouse: 10 USD. Six guestrooms in three wooden buildings on stilts with communal balconies. Simple fan rooms with mosquito net. Next door to Sala Dhone Khone. Go for one of the new bungalows, is the advise of Read also review on

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Xaymontri Residence: From 09 USD. Good option off the river according to

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Khon Phapheng Falls

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How to arrive here: Take a boat to Ban Nakasong. (20 minutes from Don Khon, 5 minutes from Don Det). Take a Tuktuk to the falls, ask for at least two hours staying at the falls.

Somphamit Falls, also called Li Phi Falls

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Li Phi means "spirit trap" in local words. Many Lao people believe the falls catch ghosts and spirits. But there is also another explanation for the name: During the Indochina-war dead bodies were dumped in the Mekong and carried into the fish traps near the falls. This story was reported by The Nation

Si Phan Don by boat-tour:

Vat Phou Mekong Cruises:

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What's more funny?

Read more:
Trekking around Kiet Ngong and Phapho wetlands - in Xe Pian National Protected Area
Champasak, Vat Phou and Lingaparvata
Is there a Future for the Mekong Dolphins?
Don Sahon Dam project threatens Mekong Dolphins

1 comment:

  1. What a great overview of 4000 islands. I cant wait to go back.
    thanks for the photo link : )