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Published: January 31st 2013
Our trusy canoe
We only had to bail it out once an hour or so
Our guesthouse in Champasak helped us get to Don Det and it was one of the easiest transports we had in a while. We love taking the local bus when we can but it's always a nice treat to have someone else do all the planning for you. A minibus, a boat, a “VIP” bus and another boat later we were on Don Det and it was smaller than we had expected.
We were dropped off at a small beach and as soon as we got to the road everything was right in our face: Guesthouses, bars, restaurants, tour companies. It seems rather cluttered until you find the bungalows. The reason the main part of town seems so cluttered is because all the bungalows and restaurants have the better riverside locations. The bungalows are all pretty much the same – small with a hammock, bug net and balcony. Some are newer or cleaner but unless you are paying extra to have a bathroom in your bungalow (which generally isn't possible right on the river due to plumbing complications) they are all the same and you won't be spending much time in them anyway. A lot of bungalows charge up to
60,000 Kip but we walked a little further down the west side and found bungalows for 30,000 Kip. The island is so small that as long as you are in the north you are close enough to the action (unless of course you prefer to be in the south near or on Don Khon).
The local man that helped us find our bungalow became our go-to guy for the 5 nights we stayed. Anything we wanted, Loy could arrange. Also his wife makes the best Lao food we had in Laos. They recently moved to Don Det only 4 months ago after getting married and are going to do very well. The newlyweds will soon have bungalows, restaurant, tour office etc. up and running but during our stay they just had a small platform with two tables and a couple of big yellow signs offering transportation, local food, and “happy another”. Our bungalow was close to Loy's place and two other restaurants (south past One More Bar and Happy Bar) and we rarely went much further than that small half a kilometre.
Our first few days were spent reading, lounging in the hammock or at a restaurant and
walking around the island. There were some really nice people staying in the bungalows near ours so we would all sit out on our balcony's and chit-chat or swap DVD's/music. Don Det is another place where time stood still but flew by at the same time.
Every day was sunny and hot. We rented tubes the one day and floated around in the Mekong and rented a canoe (from Loy of course) another day to explore some of the other islands. We didn't walk all the way around the island (which only takes a couple hours) but we did walk down to the south to see the bridge and Don Khon. If we had 5 more nights, we would have moved down to Don Khon for a change of scenery but we were perfectly happy with our small bungalow next to Loy's place.
There are no cars on Don Det just bikes – motorbikes and bicycles. You can generally hear the motorbikes coming and if the bicycles don't have a bell it's always funny to hear another backpacker saying “bring bring” as they come up behind you on the dusty sandy path. The locals are all just as
welcoming and friendly as the rest of Laos and it would be so easy to stay indefinitely. We laid pretty low finding little things to do each day but tried to stay out of the mid-day heat as much as possible (we enjoyed many afternoon siestas). Many tour companies offer fishing/BBQ tours or Irrawaddy dolphin tours but it was just as fun to walk around or rent a canoe and see it all for ourselves.
The day we rented a canoe, we stopped on a nearby island to walk around it a bit. It wasn't nearly as touristy as Don Det; in fact we were the only Falangs (foreigners) in sight. We walked up and down the island in search of a restaurant. Every home had little kids running up to us yelling “Sabaidee!!!” (hello). The one kid had just finished in the toilet when he saw us and ran up to the path butt naked, still waving his little hand and yelling at the top of his lungs to greet us. Eventually we found a shack serving noodle soup and sat down for a bowl. A small crowd of children grew around watching us eat with huge grins
on their faces when a local woman came by with fresh spring rolls so we had a couple of those as well. When we went to pay we were shocked! Only 7,000 Kip for the soup (less than a dollar) and 1,000 Kip per spring roll (about 12 cents). Definitely the cheapest meal we had in Laos.
We felt like we should stay up past 11pm at least one night so after having dinner with Loy and his wife (they actually invited us to dine with them one evening and had made some special dishes including fish soup) we headed to Pool Bar for some beers. At 11:00 all the bars are forced to shut down but that's when the bon fire gets started on the beach. We had a great time talking with some other backpackers and both lost our flip flops. Luckily Tyler woke up with someone else's Havaianas that were dark blue instead of his black ones. Rebecca's pink Mixstars are lost forever.
The worst part of our time on Don Det was the realization that our visa expired one day sooner than we thought. That meant we had to leave earlier than expected and
the date we were prepared to leave already seemed too soon. We weren't able to get our money back for the extra night we had already paid for but we packed up and caught a boat back to the mainland at 8am. Getting to and crossing the border into Cambodia was an interesting and fun way to remember our last morning in Laos.
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