Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands) is a group of islands in the Mekong River in Southern Laos.
The Four Thousand Islands have three main destinations for travellers：Don （Island) Khong is the biggest, but apart from the usual chill&look there's nothing great to do there. Most people head to Don Det or Don Khon, where accommodation is cheaper, you can walk to one of the big Mekong-Falls by yourself, and biking and walking and swimming in the river is just the same as in Don Khong.
It's mostly people power. The islands are small enough that you can walk, although to get to some of the more far-flung destinations a bike will be nice. They can be rented everywhere, typically for 10.000 kip (€ 1) per day. If you're feeling super-lazy, you can rent motorbikes from around 70,000 per day in many locations on Si Phan Don, passport required. The road in Don Det is very rutted and muddy so one should take caution, either on a bike or motorbike. Once one leaves Don Det town, the road is much better and one can ride as fast as one wishes.
A beautiful set of islands, set against a lazy and winding section of the Mekong. Be sure to check out the largest waterfall in Southeast Asia, and have conversations with the friendly locals. Outside of the tourist town, one can get a glimpse of local people, rice farms and plenty of farm animals, especially cows. There are also several temples about of average quality, however, it is interesting to get away from the tourists to see the locals and their life. One must take care to take off one's shoes (important in all of Laos!)
The island is also oddly overran by domestic dogs and cats which roam from place to place looking for scraps and whatnot. Most of these animals are sweet, friendly (and mostly clean) animals who like to be petted and especially fed. One of the foreigners stated that he (and the islanders) would be happy if people took the animals away as pets. However, it may be difficult and expensive to import an animal from Laos to one's own nation, plus the fact that the animal will only understand Laotian and not English. Warning! Some of the dogs do get vicious at night, so bring a stick as they're usually easy to fend off.
There isn't much to do in Si Phan Don, but that's not the point. The islands are laid back, with small huts mixing in with guest houses along the banks of the Mekong. But, if you get a bit restless, try these:
· Rent a bike for about 10,000 Kip and pedal around the two main islands (Don Det and Don Khon), which are connected by a bridge. When you cross the old railway bridge from Don Det to Don Khon they will make you pay for the Donkhone Somphamit Waterfalls Park (Mekong Falls). A ticket costs 35,000 Kip.
· Take a boat tour around the area. These start at around $US5, or just ask a local boatmen if you want to go some place specific.
· Some visitors take candles, guitars and a drum to the north beach (boat landing) on Don Det for a beach party. Be warned, these parties meet with little enthusiasm by the authorities and the locals.
· Pink Dolphin Tours are very popular day trips on the island. For around $US10, you get taken by bus and boat to a small patch of sand, which is techinically in Cambodia. There you drink beer -- Angkor, not Beer Lao -- and watch small pink spots bop in the distance. It's not bad, and usually includes a stop at a nearby waterfall to round off the afternoon.
Not too much. Stock up in Pakse or if you forgot something look around in Nakasang before boarding the boat to the islands. that is your last chance for forgotten items.There are some items for purchase on the islands, including sunscreen and other items. Don Det also has small markets with other items.
Many travel agents and drivers will tell you there are no ATMs on Si Phan Don and that exchanging money on the islands will only be possible at a very poor rate. This is not true, and is more often than not an attempt to scam you out of money by offering a 'better' rate from them. There is an ATM in Nakasang about 100m up the road from where the boats leave for Don Det. There is also an ATM on Don Khong (photo below). Money can be exchanged at a decent rate on both Don Det (near spot) and Don Khong.
A standard menu of Laotian food and backpacker favorites (banana pancakes, garlic bread, pad thai) are on top at most places. Some try to get fancy with special pizzas and exotic smoothies. It's very hit and miss, but never terrible and the service is friendly. You'd be hard pressed to spend more than $US3 on a meal here.
Eat the Lao food. It is delicious and everything is handmade. The food is very spicy, so if you do not like hot foods, you may try to ask to use less peppers. Try to avoid "western foods" because the quality will be lower. Don't eat the pizza, happy or not.
Beer Lao on the Mekong. Available about every 200 feet on the island, and big bottles for 12,000 Kip, or 10,000 on Don Khong. Head toward the west part of the island (where there are only a few guesthouses) for a great view of the sunset.
Fruit Shakes on every menu. About 10000 kip. In most places they switch on the generators for preperation fans and music will work for some minutes (not in Don Det anymore).
The Don Det community, like most of Laos, closes down at around 11 PM. There is usually one place that might stay rocking for another hour or so.