Far larger than Don Dhet, Don Khon is skipped by many budget travellers because most of the accommodation is mid-range. However although there aren't 40-odd places to choose from, 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 (aside from the generally higher cost of accommodation) is that in early-to-mid afternoon the island is swarmed by day trippers from Pakse and Thailand who descend on the island in droves -- fortunately they are only there for an hour or so.
The island hosts quite a few reminders left behind by the French -- several old colonial buildings, including the school, the French port and the hospital (now part of a resort) and the 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 Irrawady dolphins (if you're lucky) off the southern coast, and scenes of pleasant village life that you can cycle or wander through at your leisure.
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 -- there's no where to stay further east of Salaphae, and nothing on the western side of the French Bridge.
There are no services on the island such as post, police, or hospital -- the nearest facilities are on Don Khong. Internet is available at Pan's Restaurant and at Auberge Sala Done Khone for 1,000 kip per minute.
If you cross the French Bridge from Don Dhet you'll have to pay 9,000 kip for a ticket that's good for the whole day. The ticket will also get you into the Liphee Waterfalls without having to pay again. If you arrive by boat, you shouldn't have to buy a ticket.
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Text and/or map last updated on 10th August, 2009.
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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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