Far larger than Don Dhet, Don Khon is skipped by many budget travellers because most of the accommodation is midrange. However although there aren't 40-odd places to choose from as on Don Dhet, there are budget options here and staying on Don Khon is far more of a Lao experience than Don Dhet.
There is a better range of eateries than on Don Dhet and the options for cycling and walking are considerably more extensive. The main disadvantage or advantage depending on your point of view is that it's quieter and less backpacker friendly, with fewer bars and slightly more expensive food.
The island hosts quite a few reminders left behind by the French -- several old colonial buildings, including the school, the French port and French embankment -- a series of concrete barriers built on the eastern side of the island.
You'll also find what's left of the light-gauge train track that used to traverse the island, now a long clear path of heavy gravel. There's a small engine and a length of the old train track on display to the west of the French bridge.
But Don Khon had a good deal to offer before the French ever showed up, which is still on display -- the powerful Li Phi waterfalls on the western side of the island, the Irrawaddy dolphins off the southern coast and scenes of pleasant village life that you can cycle or wander through at your leisure. It's an idyllic place that balances the excesses of Don Dhet with the idleness of Don Khong.
The accommodation on Don Khon is restricted to a comparatively small portion of the island and the rest is essentially unadulterated Laos.
All the guesthouses are clustered at the northern coast of Don Khon, facing Don Dhet. The only other options further afield from here are simple homestays that you'll have to ask around for -- one is signposted down near the old port where tours for the Irrawaddy dolphins depart.
There are no services on the island such as post, police or hospital -- the nearest facilities are on Don Khong and an ATM at Nakasang. Internet is available at Pan's Restaurant and at Auberge Sala Done Khone for free and as time goes by, more and more guesthouses will wisen up to the fact that free WiFi is a strong selling point.
If you cross the French bridge from Don Dhet you'll have to pay 25,000 kip for a ticket that's good for the whole day. The ticket will also get you into the Liphi Waterfalls without having to pay again. The fee represents a tourism tax and perhaps turns away some of the more frugal travellers.
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Text and/or map last updated on 24th June, 2013.
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Change is coming Fast
Staying on the mainland or on the much larger Don Khong is now more of a Lao experience than staying on either Don Det or Don Khon. Internet is widely available and free for customers in guesthouses and restaurants. At the far Northern end of what was once a village and now a mini tourist ghetto they are building a huge block of more upscale accommodation with air conditioning and anything else you could imagine. I saw them cutting down the enormous 3 feet wide cedar trees they are using to build them with. The whole experience was a little sad and reminded me of places I saw in India. People made rich and fat very quickly from the tourist gold rush living beside people barely making it at surviving. They are now forcing all tourists who arrive on the island by any means, boat or the bridge to purchase a ridiculous 25,000 kip ticket for the pleasure of just being on the darn island. I could understand if some of this ticket price went to improving the infrastructure but its obvious that it isn't; the roads remain just as terrible as ever. It still makes for a decent day trip to see the waterfalls and cycle around but at the rate they are chopping down all the beautiful old trees to build their tourism empire it won't remain so for too long.
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By stefaniehalford (dabbler)
Written on 7th March, 2013 after a visit to Don Khon in March, 2013
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