Khone Pha Pheng Falls
The Khone Pha Pheng falls are the largest in the world. Not with its 21 meters highest point fall but in volume and length. The rapids stretch over a distance of nearly 10 km Mekong with thousands of islands and many waterways. From here comes the name 4000 islands. Its release of water is roughly 11000 m3/s up to over 45000 m3/s in heavy rain seasons.
You can get to this falls with a kayaking trip from Don Det for around 200k kip ($23). This is a full day trip and includes more than only the Khone Pha Pheng falls. The kayaking over the Mekong, a lunch and the Somphamit falls are also included. The other option to choose from is to arrange a trip from one of the agencies located on Don Det island. Look around because they have often slightly different prices.
For around 150k kip ($17) you can get a trip to Khone Pha Pheng. You can pick any time you want during the day. Keep in mind the heat in the midst of the day. The boat to Nakasan (main land pier) is included and the transportation to Khone Pha Pheng by tuktuk and return. A group of more than three people can’t fit in one tuktuk and therefore might be charged differently. You do need to pay the 55k kip ($7 + $0.50 parking fee) ticket for the falls extra.
On the Khone Pha Pheng compound you can find something that looks like a temple and has a big cut sacred tree inside a box made of glass. It has the name Manikhoth and is Lying horizontally. The story behind this tree is that its roots were for over 2000 years staying in the middle of the Mekong. Resisting all the water force and rock hits. This made the Laotians have a strong belief in Manikoth. The tree has three fruit types and when you eat those in three different wind directions you become a monkey, a bird, or forever young. The tree has more myths and stories attached to it than just this.
Somphamit fall is smaller than Khone Pha Pheng and has also the name Liphi falls. The viewpoint is located on the island of Don Khon. The water is from the Mekong and is around 40 meters wide before it plunges down into a gorge. The rock formations and structures that it’s passing are absolutely wonderful.
Nowadays (March 2020) there is a restaurant that’s open at the viewpoint. The restaurant is on a first floor and gives a good view. With low tables and mats plus cushions. A large Beerlao with a chicken noodle (padt thai) cost around $7. The restaurant is also the sales point for the ziplines. An entry ticket for Somphamit fall cost 35000 kip ($4.5 jan 2020). In case you’re a weed smoker, don’t be surprised to get it offered at the restaurant. Just as you smell it on the islands as well. There is a small beach area with swim possibility too on the compound. After paying the ticket.
Don Khon – Don Det
How to get to Somphamit fall? You can either go there from the main land by boat to Dhon Khon (not to be confused with the northern located island Don Khong). Don Khon is also spoken as Don Khone. The other option is by boat to Don Det. That one cost 15k kip one way.
From the boat arrival point of Don Det to Somphamit fall is around 30 minutes cycling without stops. Southeast direction. Just follow the sand path of a meter wide along the river till the bridge. You cross the river over this historical bridge between Don Det and Don Khon. Turn the first right where there are signs and at the end left. Keep going straight and soon you reach the fall area. There is a big parking area for the local tuktuks and for bicycles.
Most hotels rent cycles for 10k kip, just over a dollar per day. They don’t have locks but it seems nobody steals one of the 40 cycles parked at the falls and often looking identical. Take a pic of yours to recognize it afterwards. The east side river of Don Det has the sunrise and the west side river the sunset. Boat trips do not circle the island as down south is too close to the falls for that.
Weed & Mushrooms
Don Det has a laid back sphere. Something the whole of Laos is know for. Especially compared with its eastern and western neighbors. Vang Vieng is more known for its opium while Don Det more for the everywhere available weed and magic mushrooms. The first one by smoking and ‘happy’ shake and the mushroom by ‘happy’ shake. Almost all restaurants serve the weed shakes.
For the mushroom shake you best go to The Green Buffalo restaurant. There you can find a mushroom shake for $8. Tell them how strong you want it. You won’t find easily the often in Laos produced ‘ice or jabba pills’ (crystal meth) on Don Det.
A new adventure created at Somphamit fall are the ziplines. They can’t be compared with the one at Pokhara, Nepal. Not in length and not in spectacularity but they definitely do add to the whole of Somphamit fall. The ziplines are hanging at seven different places of which one at the restaurant. That one is short, not in a steep angle and goes slow therefore. You can pay for one of the ziplines individual or you can pay 250k kip ($28) for the package of all lines.
At some you fly alone and at some you are in a sort of box with two. Some are incredibly boring while some give some more thrill. Overall the ziplines are an improvement as it gives extra possibilities to the falls that without the lines doesn’t take much time to see.
Overall a trip to The falls and islands is worth a visit. Travelers from all ages and types hang out there and many decide to extend their stay because of the beauty and sphere.