Don Khon has several good, well priced eateries, a couple of which are standouts. It’s far better eating here than in Don Dhet, which excels at mediocre Lao food and even worse western food. If staying on Don Dhet, make the effort to venture over for at least one meal.
The Garden Restaurant is an absolute must. Located at the same named spa (and ironically the only place in town NOT boasting a huge sign), the pretty terrace is a restful spot to wait as the meal is prepared in the outdoor kitchen. Every dish is made fresh from scratch (don’t arrive starving) and your patience will be rewarded with a sensational tom yum soup for 35,000 kip.
If it’s your first foray into Lao cuisine, try the laap, also 35,000 kip, or mok pa fish steamed in banana leaf for 45,000 kip. Our favourite was the crazy good Massaman curry. Find it on the non-Mekong side of the road, across from Somphamit Guesthouse.
Chez Fred et Lea is slice of western comfort, acting as a restaurant and cafe with proper tables, chairs and in the evening, a cozy welcoming vibe. This friendly spot has sandwiches, salads, homemade yoghurt, smoothies, coffee and tea made from natural ingredients like lemongrass, ginger and hibiscus. Those in need of a heartier meal can go for laap, curry or mok pa (35,000-45,000 kip), those in need of something stronger can enjoy a cocktail.
Like all eateries on the islands, WiFi is intermittent and dishes are made one by one and take some time. The owners can arrange things like boat trips, transport and are good for helpful advice. Usually open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The restaurant at Sala Don Khone is one of the best spots for a sundowner—that wide open view of the Mekong will have you sighing. The food covers the classic Lao, Asian and western fare, dishes starting at 30,000 kip. The hotel caters to higher end small group tours, so it’s a safe bet if you’re not on a stringent budget. Another great riverside spot for a drink is Sengahloune Resort’s wide restaurant terrace looking onto the bridge.
For a loungey spot, sprawl on a cushion at Mr Happy’s Bar & Restaurant. Movies are shown every night.
All these places are found on the main tourist strip and have erratic opening hours, definitely more reliably open for each meal during high season. For a getaway from “town”, both Li Phi and Khone Pa Soi have nifty spots for relaxing with a beer and perhaps some chow. From Li Phi follow signs to “The Beach” for a hangout spot with bar, loungers, pool table and volleyball. Less popular Khone Pa Soi waterfall has a great little restaurant perched on the edge of the river and the remote feeling of the place makes for memorable downtime. It’s worth the bicycle or motorbike ride out here for lunch, or if food not available, a drink but it’s not an option at night.
Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you’ll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.