Sights and Activities in Don Det & Don Khon
Posted Date: 11/15/20137:44 AM
The best bikes (including some bigger versions) are rented by a charismatic old couple on Don Khon; as he puffs on a reefer-sized rollies he’ll adjust the seat to fit, check the tires and send you on your way. A booth at the south end of the bridge will charge you US$0,90 per day to cross the bridge. The ticket is also good for Tat Som- phamit. This might seem steep for crossing a bridge, but it is the one way the community can ensure tourist dollars reach the village services that most need it.
Tat Somphamit (Li Phi Falls)
About 1.5km downriver from Ban Khon is a raging set of rapids known locally as Tat Somphamit but referred to by just about everyone else as Li Phi Falls. Li Phi means ‘”spirit” and locals believe the falls act as just that – a trap for bad spirits (of deceased people and animals) as they wash down the river. You’ll never see locals swimming here – mixing with the dead is clearly tempting fate a little too much – and it’s both culturally insensitive and dangerous to do so. Water churns through the falls at a frenetic pace, especially during the wet season, and we are aware of two travelers who have drowned here in recent years.
Much less risky but thoroughly captivating is watching local fishermen edging out to clear the enormous bamboo traps. During the early rains, a well-positioned trap can catch half a tonne offish a day. Some traps here and elsewhere in the area have an intake almost 10m long, funneling fish into a huge basket.
The falls can be reached via the main path heading southwest out of Ban Khon, or on a smaller, shaded and more attractive path that passes through the wat and avoids the truck full of Thai tourists and their consequent dust There are plenty of small eat-drink shops at the falls.
On Don Khon you can make an interesting 5km trek across the island by following the old rail bed. Rusting locomotives sit near ether end of the line; the one about 75m from the south end of the bridge sits by what was ona the rail service yard. As you head south you pass stretches of primary forest, rice fields, small villages and singing birds, eventualy coming to the French loading pier. Across the river to the right is Cambodia. The rail bed is quite a rocky road and tough on a bite An alternative path runs nearer the island; western edge. The return trip, with breaks should take about three hours by foot.
Eastern Loop Hike
A less onerous walk or cycle takes you to the y waterways at the eastern edge of Don Khon where the French built a series of concrete channels used to direct logs. The logs usually from forests in Sainyabuli Province west of Vientiane, were usually lashed together into rafts of three. To prevent them going offcourse, a Lao ‘pilot’ would board the raft and steer ,it through the maze of islands. When they reached the critical area at the north end of Don Khon, the pilots were required to guide the raft onto a reinforced concrete wedge, thus splitting the binds and sending the logs into e the channels beyond. The poor ‘pilot’ would jump for his life moments before impact.
You can still see the walls if you go to the shaded village at the east end of Don Khon. To get there, head northwest from the bridge and turn south about 1km along, passing through a wat and following the path through rice fields to the riverbank. As you continue south you’ll see the walls opposite a small village. The path continues along the river and becomes more a of a road, eventually petering out at a stream near the southern end of the island. When we did this on a bike recently, we had to turn around here because the ‘bridge’ consisted it of nothing more than a single bamboo pole. By foot it’s no problem. If you turn around here you can take another, more exposed pall across the middle of the island to get back to Ban Hua Khon.
As you come downhill towards the bamboo pole bridge you’ll see a sign to Don Pak Soi.Thjs island is just across the channel from Don Khon and is being developed for tourism, though when we visited it didn’t have much to offer beyond some mighty big fish traps.
Rare Irrawaddy dolphins can sometimes be seen off the southern tip of Don Khon, mainly from December until May. Boats chartered (US$5 per boat, maximum three people) from the old French pier at the south end of Don Khon run out to a small island that looks over a deep-water conservation zone. Viewing dolphins is best in the early morning or late afternoon.
Don’t expect Flipper-style tricks from these dolphins. If they are there at all you’ll see a brief flash as they surface to breathe, then they’re gone.