Introducing Don Det & Don Khon
The vast majority of travellers to Si Phan Don end up on these twin islands. Don Det in particular has become more popular among younger travellers in recent years, leading some to speculate that it will replace Vang Vieng as the go-to spot in Laos for vice-fuelled excess. That would seem unlikely. There's nothing stronger than grass in the 'happy' snacks sold openly at some bars, and the locals seem to have a genuine desire to keep it that way. Our best guess is that a hippyesque party scene will continue to thrive in Ban Hua Det at the north end of Don Det, but it will never become as depraved as the old Vang Vieng.
Of course there's much more to these two islands than Scooby snacks. Heading south from Ban Hua Det, the guesthouses thin out and the icons of rural island life – fishermen, rice farmers, weavers, buffalo, sugar palms – are on full display. Chill in a hammock, cycle around the islands or languidly drift downstream in an inner tube in the turquoise arms of the Mekong. Cross the French bridge to Don Khon and pick up trails that lead through forests and rice fields to hidden rapids, beaches and, off the island's extreme southern tip, frolicking Irrawaddy dolphins.