There isn’t much to do in Si Phan Don, so to speak, but there’s plenty to keep oneself entertained. A hammock hangs from the porch of every bungalow, making it a perfect place to relax with a book, take a nap, or watch the children swimming and bathing in the water below.
Si Phan Don is a sleepy cluster of islands in the Mekong delta, just above the Cambodian border. There are no roads, only dirt paths. Most people get around on bicycle or foot, and very few own motorbikes.
I rode a bike around Don Det (my choice of the only three islands offering accommodation, and I highly doubt there are actually 4,000), stopping to take pictures of the baby water buffalo, the calves, the chicks and the pigs. As a farm girl, I shouldn’t be awed by the sight of farm animals on an island, but I’m a sucker for their cuteness. They walked right up to me, not even disturbed by my presence.
The dirt path encircling the island was about four kilometers around, making Don Det the second largest of the pack. The waterfront is lined with bungalows for rent and homes for locals, while the inner island is covered with rice farms, intersected by more dirt paths. Pedaling around, taking in the beauty of such simplistic, local life was exactly what I had pictured myself doing in Southeast Asia.
On my second day, I joined a kayaking tour that was nothing short of fantastic. Another solo traveler and I shard a two-person kayak, laughing at our inexperience as we paddled out of sync, trying to catch up to the pack.
Our first stop was one of the biggest waterfalls in the region. The water forcefully splashes over rocks and plummets through the crevaces, leaving nothing in its wake. It is beautiful, but my pictures don’t do it justice.
We paddled again to a rock island where we would watch the local Irrawaddy dolphins – an extremely rare breed resembling a whale more than a dolphin. There are said to be only ten left, and we were lucky to see about five of them. From our perch, we could also see Cambodia. The Mekong separates the two countries at this point, and we were sitting in the middle of both, enjoying chicken fried rice.
After lunch and more swimming, we were back in the kayak, headed for another waterfall that was just as impressive as the first. We were now on the mainland, so while we stared in awe at the natural wonder before us, the guides loaded our kayaks onto a large bus and prepared to drive us back to our starting point.
I was exhausted after such a full day of paddling and so I walked back to my hammock where I fell asleep early enough to catch the next mornings sunrise before going out for a run.
The day was another relaxing one, spent reading and chatting with new friends. I was going to need it before the long, chaotic adventure of traveling back to Suwannaphum, but it seems I enjoy the journey just as much as the destination.
The 4,000 Islands of Laos