Last Stop in Laos: Idle River Islands- Si Pan Don


I don’t have too many nice things to say here, sorry. We just simply weren’t impressed with Don Det, one of the popular islands of Si Pan Don (literally meaning 4,000 Islands).

These islands in the Mekong River are in the far south of Laos. A river that is like pretty much all rivers in SE Asia. Very brown, and in my opinion, not somewhere I would dare swim. So we expected this but wanted to give the islands a try.

It does have the relaxed nice chill island kind of vibe going, but there isn’t much to do or see. We thought about visiting the other nearby and popular island but apparently it was more desolate that this one. If you want to just chill, then you might have a nice time lounging in the hammocks outside your shanty little bungalow. We were focusing on seeing and doing a bit more, and we would have chosen another place to chill if that’s what we wanted. We also had to walk to dinner in the pitch black with a flashlight every night which wasn’t something we wanted to do for too long.

The tours from this island involved another waterfall, but we had seen enough. There were also tours to see some rare Irrawaddy dolphins; something we were about to go see in Cambodia. The tours were also wicked expensive! Again, due to the lack of people in the area going on the same tour on the same day you want. We chilled for a few days while contemplating trying another island or tour. Were about to go to the next island for a night anyway while we were here, until we got pissed off…

Oh yea, the power went out here tons of times. At least they were honest about it...


On the third day, we were waiting at a restaurant that was near the “pier”, aka the area where small boats gather, for the first boat to the next island. And so we were waiting… and waiting for the boat… It had now been hours which we were thankfully working online at the time so they didn’t go wasted. When we asked a few people when the boat was finally coming they kept saying it will come soon. Of course, 5 hours later, still nothing. So Sarah goes up to the woman at the restaurant and asks her in Thai (Thai and Laotian are extremely similar) about the boat. The woman ignores her. Sarah asks in Thai again, just to be sure, “is this the correct pier to take a boat to the next island?” She replies “I don’t speak English.”


Sarah was not happy since she obviously wasn’t even trying to listen at all and replies in Thai, “I’m speaking to you in Thai!” The woman straightens up, Sarah asks her question again and she finally got an answer back. “The boats come sometimes. If they want to.” The thing that was really annoying was the same woman understood me a few hours ago when I asked her for the wi-fi password and when we ordered our breakfast. Yea. All in English too!

4,000 islands




4,000 islands

4,000 islands

There were plenty of motorcycle boats going to the mainland…But no boats for people going to the next island.



So I go and ask someone completely different at a tour place if there is any boat at all going to the next island and she told us to wait where we had been waiting for hours already. We got fed up and immediately bought tickets to Cambodia for the next morning and checked back into another guesthouse for the night. Goodbye Si Pan Don. Goodbye Laos.



Other information for 4,00 Islands:

We had a decent room at Don Det Bungalows. It came with your own “do-it-yourself” mosquito net that took us a good 30 minutes to put up but it kept them out which was good.

The food was not good at their restaurant at all. We ate there and had ants in our food. Like… A LOT of ants. We started counting them there were so many. We later saw cats jumping around the kitchen as well. On the counters and everything. Gross.




4 thoughts on “Last Stop in Laos: Idle River Islands- Si Pan Don

  1. Can’t believe everyone just left you standing there for so long! Can completely understand why you don’t have many nice things to say about the area! Hope you enjoy your time in Cambodia :)

  2. 4000 islands was great when Van Vieng was hitting the big-time as the must-see on the drugged and drunken tourist circuit. No guide book told you it was a must-see, people you met just said “yeah I went there and stayed on a few weeks”. I did the same. I should have shut my mouth now people expect it is something and they all turn up there with the other tourists expecting something that it is not and was maybe never. If you get my meaning?

    • Interesting Mat! My biggest gripe about the place was OK, these “islands” are surrounded by river water…gross. If there isn’t a fun beachy feel to these islands, there’s got to be something else!!!! But there wasn’t…Maybe I also went at a bad time since it was low season? I’m sure others share your admiration though as we did meet a few people who had been there a long time and even a foreign couple who actually LIVE there. They may have died of boredom by now though ;-p

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