In every review of Don Khon Island the potential visitor is warned that there is not much to do but lie in a hammock and relax. We thought that certainly there must be more to do than that, and we set out to find out for ourselves.
Don Khon Island (spelled both as Don Khon and Done Khone) is part of the 4,000 Island chain in the Mekong River of southern Laos. The island is about 3 miles long.
As the Mekong River flows around the island there are a number of waterfalls. The waterfall to the southeast, Khone Falls (also known as Khone Phapheng), is the largest in Southeast Asia and reputed to be the widest waterfall in the world.
The waterfalls seemed to attract little attention from the few visitors who make it down to this area.
The island’s history became caught up in the French plan to dominate Indochina. The plan included shipping goods down the Mekong River. With waterfalls on both sides of the island, the French planned a railroad to carry goods down the length of the island to a port. From there the French boats could continue to transport the goods down the Mekong. The railroad operated from 1893 until the 1940’s.
On our first day to explore Don Khon Island, we walked a long footpath to observe any birds we might see along the way. Our best sighting was a green-billed malkhoa.
Birds stayed high in the trees, but butterflies flew so close by that they became a obvious subject for many photos.
We love to walk, but it was just too hot and too time consuming. The rough gravel roads gave us pause, but ultimately we rented solid Chinese cruiser bikes for 10,000 kip a day ($1.20 US).
Another day, we headed for a distant waterfall that required a long bike ride clockwise around the island to the east. The waterfall was not as interesting as the goats using a nearby bridge to get themselves to greener pastures.
Passing time on this island wasn’t really a problem. We spotted a few of the functionally extinct Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong River; we hiked trails to see old French bridges that long ago caved in; and took note of trees and flowers we’d never seen before.
We had read repeatedly there was nothing to do on this island. Clearly we proved this to be not at all the case. Given that we were there for nine days either means they were wrong or that we are masters of finding any number of ways to amuse ourselves.