(Find my trip to Northern Laos in here) Assuming you arrive in Laos by either plane or train, you’ll find yourself in the Capital, Vientiane. From there, you can take an overnight bus to Pakse. Book in advance, select the best company you can and check where your bed is. I did it in a hurry and got the rear place, where 5 persons were supposed to lay side by side. There was no room for legs or, pretty much anything else and it was a complete nightmare. Otherwise, there are two flight options, which, being way more expensive, only take one and a half hour.
From the bus station I took a tuk-tuk to a scooter rental and drove straight to the 4000 island area.
Be aware that there are two islands with a similar name: Don Khon (which is the backpacker island accessible through the Historic Bridge, from Don Det), and Don which is bigger, accessible from the mainland through a new concrete bridge and where nothing really happens.
I accidentally popped into the latest one and booked in Kongmany Hotel, which was empty (it was rainy season, then) but nostalgic, with the wood feeling and fragrance, comfortable bed, huge swimming pool and tasty breakfast. It ended up being a nice base for exploring the other nearby islands and points of interest.
I found the “ferry” to Don Khon and Don Det, for a daily trip, which wasn’t so easy – it was nothing more than two small wooden boats nailed together under a wooden platform that could hold a few motorbikes. The journey was funny, crossing the strong current. There was some fish trading going on the harbour. I was surprised to see people could actually fish in such muddy waters and strong current.
Don Det seemed tailored for a backpacker, “getting high” retreat, with many restaurants / bars advertising weird named concoctions and nearby home stays with river faced balconies for enjoying the effects. Nothing against, but impossible, for a daily trip. Heading to Don Khon, the islands were clean, the vibe, enjoyable, and there was even a beach, sheltered away from the strongest currents. Hopefully, I will return with more time.
Below: Don Det rice field and view from one of the restaurants.
Other points of interest in the area were Khone Phapheng Waterfall park, for obvious reasons, during the rainy season. I wish I had a drone to be able to see what was really going on as, even from the highest viewpoint, only a fraction of the waterfalls could be seen. The river strength makes you aware of your true dimension. Wondered how the french considered building a railway bridge over that, 100 years ago.
In between Si Phan Don and Pakse, near Champasak, there is Wat Phu Hindu temple. It shares the same style as Angkor and it was also part of Khmer Empire. There is a big lake at the lower level, and then a path, with lingas on both sides, going along terraces through the major ruins, until steep layers of stairs which culminate on a water spring. The view from there goes until the Mekong river (6 km away). Architecturally, is not as magnificent as most Angkor temples, but it is definitely worth a visit.