After getting a good one night sleep in Vientiane, I went ahead and grabbed night bus tickets from Vientiane to Hippyesque 4000 Islands. 4000 Islands is a magnificent archipelago on the Mekong River, just before Cambodian border in Southern Laos. We have had a wonderful time in Vientiane as well as weekend tubing in Vang Vieng. While we still had some days in our visas, we wanted to see few more places in Laos.
During the final day in Vientiane, we packed our backpacks carefully first time since we got here from Udon Thani three weeks ago. In addition, we had an Indian dinner before it was time to say goodbye to our friend again. He was very kind to let us use his apartment when traveling abroad. Furthermore, we got countless of valuable tips regarding 4000 Islands and Southern Laos. We began 12 hours night bus journey towards Si Phan Don (4000 Islands) at 8 pm.
Changing bus in Pakse
First, we had to stop in Pakse, though, in order to switch a sleeper bus to a normal sitting bus. We should have arrived there around 7.30 am but due to some mechanical issues, we got there one hour later. Having said that, we stopped a couple of times during the night after hearing weird noises from the bus. Since we finally arrived at Pakse, the bus driver and his co-driver apparently figured the problem out. These kind of vehicle-related issues are very common in poorer Southeast Asia countries such as Laos and Cambodia.
Changing the bus at Pakse VIP Bus Station was pretty smooth since that journey included in the ticket.
We arrived at Nakasang Bus Station around 11 pm. You have to walk a couple of hundred of meters to the pier from the station. Make sure your bus ticket to 4000 Islands includes the 15-minute boat trip. Otherwise, you have to pay 15 000 kips more for the boat ticket.
Reaching Hippyesque 4000 Island after 16 hours of traveling
There are plenty of choices for accommodation in Don Det if you decide to stay there. You can also go to Don Khon which is connected to Don Det with Old French Railroad Bridge. We chose to stay in Don Det few hundred meters from the pier since we found a basic fan bungalow for 30 000 kips. In addition, we were pretty exhausted for having to travel 16 straight hours from Vientiane without a proper meal.
We chilled the rest of night by eating two much-needed meals and walking around Northern Don Det.
A tiny word of caution to the digital nomads out there: The internet access in Don Det is very limited. Even though almost all of the restaurant and guesthouses have wifi access, usually it works really slowly or doesn’t connect at all. With that being said, if you have plenty of important online projects going on, you should finish them before getting to 4000 Islands.
Getting a riverside bungalow in Don Det
On Wednesday we decided to change our accommodation in order to get some archipelago views instead of being in the middle of Don Det island. After checking in the 40 000 kip bungalow with the Mekong river view, we rented bicycles enabling us to see more of Don Det as well as the southern island Don Khon.
Since the Sun was heating hippyesque 4000 Islands with almost 40 degrees Celcius, it made our cycling day very exhausting. Having said that, we did ride over the Old French Railroad Bridge to Don Khon island but didn’t see it healthy to continue much further.
After taking a short drinking break, we headed back to Don Det side. You can choose another route on the east side of the island with gorgeous river views. That lead us to the number one restaurant in Don Det according to TripAdvisor, Mama Leuah Guesthouse and Restaurant.
The weather was unbearably muggy during the late Saturday afternoon. It was perfect timing for checking one spot away from my bucket list. That would be to take a swim in the Mekong River. The Mekong has a truly powerful current so it’s not advisable to get further from the beach than a couple of meters. It will take your strength away quickly if you have to conversely fight against the flow.
During the evening we paid a second visit to Kea Backpackers Restaurant in order to get a tasty dinner. Afterward, it was really cozy to chill in the balcony of our riverside bungalow.
An exceptional night in Hippyesque 4000 Islands
The night in the authentic hippyesque 4000 Islands was pretty exceptional. Since our bungalow was close to the river, there were plenty of insects and other tiny spineless creatures around. Even the mosquito net was powerless in front of cockroaches and grasshoppers. If you add up the heat of the day (and even the 25 degrees night temperature) together with ineffective fan, the result is a sleepless night. The wife got a quick wake up when grasshopper jumped into her side of bed, too.
Moreover, the rain started to pour down during the early morning. It made the walking paths very muddy.
We had already booked a 50 000 kip bus ticket from 4000 Islands back to Pakse on Wednesday. Keep in mind that whenever it’s about transporting in Laos, things don’t seem to go as planned. First, the boat from Don Det to Nakasang Pier (continental Laos) was fully booked. After getting into another boat, the 15 000 kip boat ticket cost was surprisingly included in the bus ticket fare.
Usual Laotian transporting stuff…
Furthermore, when a big bus arrived at the Nakasang Bus Station, it didn’t take people in for some reason. With that being said, all 50 or so passengers needed to fit in three minivans which suddenly appeared there. We managed to get good seats in front of one minivan. Unfortunately, some weren’t as lucky as us: One traveler got a beer basket as an additional chair for the three-hour fully-packed minivan journey…
Finally, we reached Pakse and as far as we know, everything went good enough all things considered. Now, it was time to begin the search of the last guesthouse in Laos before heading back to Thailand. Before that, we will see what Pi Mai (Lao New Year) brings ahead of us!