Dondet: paradise on Laos’ four thousand islands

 The little island of dondet just off the coast of Pakse is a little slice of paradise!   

After being dropped at the bus station a few hundred metres from shore we carried our bags to the dock and boarded one of the waiting boats. 
There are three main islands that people visit along this river: don khong, don kon and don det. Don khong is the larger of the three and after looking at the price of accommodation on the island we decided that it would be best visited as part of a day trip from one of the smaller two islands. 
We chose to make don det our base on a bit of a fluke and it worked out perfectly! 
The whole perimeter of don det is around 7km, that means that it’s possible to walk around the whole island in a few hours. It is largely made up of farm land and animals with a few little beaches dotted along the shore – the main one being on the sunrise side of the island where the boats drop you off. 
The boat ride to don det from the mainland only took around 10 minutes and the views from the boat made the time go even quicker. Imagine still water, surrounded by tiny little islands with the odd fishing boat passing every now and again…. 

 The boats themselves are pretty basic but the feeling of instability once it’s fully loaded with people and their belongings adds to the whole experience! 
Don det 
We arrived at Don det without any accommodation prebooked so spent the first hour or so looking for somewhere to stay. We’d heard that the sunset side of the island has the best accommodation and it’s near the main bars so narrowed our search with that in mind. 
A few hundred metres or so from the main beach is a little set of accommodations named Mr B’s sunrise bungalows. After checking out one of the rooms we agreed on a price (60,000k per room per night) and dumped our bags on the bed. 
Mr B’s bungalows 
The bungalows were pretty basic but fit perfectly with the vibe of the island. Made from wood, our little bungalow on stilts came with a decking area with two hammocks tied to the front, a pretty big bed with a mosquito net, a fan and a private bathroom (the showers absolutely sucked in our room!) which came complete with a tin roof and holes in the walls… 
Island life 
Although a lot of things in Laos seem to be done at a very slow pace, the people on don det take this to a whole new level. 
Everyone on the island, locals and travellers alike seem to slow down even more once they arrive here. Most bars and cafes are full of people lounging around on the floor cushions, chilling at the beach in the shade, floating down the river in tubes of cycling between don det and don khon when they’re feeling more energetic. 
Food in don det 
The slowness of the island is amazing until you start to get hungry…. We learnt early on to never go to a restaurant on the island if you’re already a little hungry because the service is super slow! 
Unlike in most parts of the western world, ingredients in restaurants on don det are not prepped before a dish has been ordered. This means that by the time the waiter/ waitress has eventually taken your order (which takes a while), each dish and its ingredients are prepared separately and then cooked in the kitchens one wok, one after the other. 
Once the food had actually arrived though it was usually pretty good! We had a right mixture of western and Asian food whilst we were there; leah tried lok lak for the first time whilst I had a pumpkin burger, coconut curried rice and then salad with fresh spring rolls the following day. 

Although the islands small the variety of food there is actually pretty impressive. There was even an Indian stall selling fresh samosas from lunch until the late evening (vegetable, chicken and banana flavoured) alongside 3 or 4 Indian restaurants- these were always really busy. We did have Indian one night but it wasn’t the greatest one I’ve ever tasted…. 
Island activities 

There’s not much to do on the actual island except chill on the beach or in your hammock, or go for a walk or ride around. There is the option for those who need to stretch their legs a little to cycle across the bridge to the island of don khon. 

   On don khon there are a few more shops and restaurants, as well as a beautiful beach and pretty impressive waterfalls. It took us about 30 minutes to cycle across from our hostel to the waterfalls one day and only cost 45,000k for the whole day – 10,000k bike hire plus 35,000 to cross the bridge and entry to the waterfalls. 

Kayak tour 
After a day chilling on the island we wanted something a bit more physical where we’d have the chance to explore a little more so signed up to one of the kayak tours around the island. 
The tour group met for breakfast at 8.30am in the restaurant on the main beach – included in the tour price – and then had a quick brief on the days intinery before getting into our kayaks just after 9.30am. 
The day consisted of lots of kayaking and exploring on foot once we reached the different islands. 
Unfortunately it was pretty windy on a lot of the route so although it added an extra fitness element into our day, we were exhausted after the first hour. 
Once back on land we trekked across koh Rong through little villages until we reached the river again and had to swim to reclaim our kayaks. 
We then carried on kayaking until we reached a small huddle of rocks in the middle of the river where we were able to sit on a spot some river dolphins in the distance. 
Although this was advertised on the tour itinerary we didn’t think we’d actually spot any because the animals are so endangered that there’s only 5 currently left. But we were lucky and actually spotted two! 
Lunch was a pretty standard affair consisting of vegetable skewers, potatoes and a little bit of salad but it kept us fuelled to kayak back to the main island where we were driven to the docks. 
From here we got back into our kayaks and paddled back to don det as the sun began to set. It was an absolutely beautiful view and it even managed to distract us from our physically achey bodies… For a little while atleast! 

 Running on don det 
Although the island of don det is pretty small there is actually the option to get some decent runs in. It’s possible to run a complete loop of the island (around 7km) although I personally ran half way and then back along the same route (I couldn’t afford to get a little lost because we were boarding the boat soon). There appears to be one main pathway around the edge of the island with lots of different pathways venturing further inland. 

Running on don det is actually a pretty nice experience. Due to the slow pace of island life the pathways are almost empty early morning besides from a few dogs which are too relaxed to even raise their heads in your direction. 
The only place that’s actually busy in the morning is the main beach where a boat to the mainland leaves just after 8am. 
Beach workout 
Although it seems to be the busiest morning spot, the main beach of don det is a great place to do a little beach workout. The stretch of sand is about 50m long and 20m wide so there’s plenty of room to move around. 

I woke up one morning to do the following workout. 

It took around an hour…. With me pausing for a few minutes to try to reclaim my workout mat/ sarong from one of the resident dogs…. 


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