The island’s main attraction
Published/Last edited or updated: 12th February, 2017
Li Phi Waterfall, also called Somphamit Waterfall, is one of the highlights of the 4,000 Islands and it’s a good reason to peel yourself out of the hammock.
The impressive falls are accessed via the western coast of Don Khon. The roaring rapids are formed by a branch of the Mekong squeezing between the small isles of Don La and Don Siniat, a torrent of water pouring over massive boulders. You’ll also spot bamboo fishing traps amongst the smaller rapids. Speaking of traps, keep behind the barriers—Li Phi means “ghost/spirit trap” and a slip from the boulders will easily explain why.
They are sometimes referred to as the “small falls”, this in comparison to Si Phan Don’s other attraction, the monstrous Khone Pha Pheng waterfall, but one glance at these so called small falls and you’ll understand the big problem the French had in creating a passage between Cambodia and Laos.
For those staying on Don Khon, Li Phi is an easy walk. From Don Dhet, you’ll want to get on a bicycle and head over, crossing the French bridge. The bridge toll is 35,000: it’s good for the day and it includes admission to Li Phi. If there was no one to collect at the bridge, admission of 35,000 kip is paid at the falls. After crossing, take the first right and follow the road/signs, it’s about 1.5 km to the parking lot/entrance. We advise you to factor in time to return to Don Dhet before nightfall as riding those dirt paths in the dark can be hairy.
The falls stretch quite a way and moving along the bamboo rails south will give different views. Follow the path and signs to “the Beach” for a fantastic dry-season only hangout spot with everything a backpacker could want for: a bar, restaurant, pool table, WiFi, sala huts, loungers, volleyball, all very tidy and not trashy like Don Dhet. There’s even a rinse off shower after you’ve taken a dip—yes there is in fact a beach, not exactly up to par with a Thai island but it will be a treat on a hot day. It depends on water levels and you really must stick to this protected cove area or get swept away.
Something that may interest beach bums: we spoke to the friendly Thai owner in November 2016 as he was setting up for the season and he had ordered tents with a plan to offer camping on the beach during the dry season. He also mentioned that the position on the southern tip of the isle meant you could catch both a great sunrise and sunset.
Beware that some tours from Don Dhet may tell you it includes Li Phi or the “small waterfalls” when in fact they are taking you to another set of falls, thereby avoiding the admission and keeping tour prices attractively low.
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.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.