Last time I was in Laos I said I never go there again – yet here I am in Don Det again! Don Det is a big tourist island and most of the travellers over there are young and out for fun. Party, smoking and tubing on the Mekong are the main interests – no surprise as there is not much else to do. You could rent a bike and go round the island. I did walk round the island and it was boring. All the same same guest houses with all the same same menu. And the food was not good nowhere! Compared to Thailand that is!
The best food is the “street” sellers – and there are not many! The soup the woman was selling was only 0.30 € and it was the best food on the island!!
This grows on a tree – they use it to fill pillows – it is a bit like cotton
The same spider from the other site
So you watch the sun set and there is one light on your table. And a minute later: everything that can fly – buzzing round your face and the light…
How to get from Thailand to Don Det or Don Khong in Laos if you do not want to take a tourist bus all the way from Khao San Road or you are somewhere else in Thailand and do not want to go to Bangkok before heading to Laos. I did meet so many travelers that did it very complicated or paid way too much. Taking one or two Minibuses to the border and another one to Pakse, got ripped off by taxi drivers and so on. So I decided to write down the easy way! There is for sure a cheaper one but this is the right mix of comfort and price.
Since I wrote that post things changed! Now you can get a joint ticket Bus/Bus or Van/Bus from Bangkok to Pakse as well. Makes it more easy for you. Unfortunate I could not find a way to book it online. So you have to book with a travel agent or go to the Chatuchak bus terminal and get a ticket there. The last information was that you should get it 3 days in advance to ensure a seat on the bus!
Get the ticket at the windows 22 – 25. This is, of course, a night bus that leaves at around 19:00. Be sure to have your passport, cash and the pictures for the visa on you. Usually, the hold stays closed till after the border. Be aware that this bus stops 8 km outside of Pakse and you have to fork more cash to get a Tuk Tuk into town.
Or you do the trip like me: I have the times from 12go down in the box. You can also book your ticket there! (Affiliate link – you might contribute towards a beer for me if you book here!)
How to get fast and cheap from Thailand to Don Det or Don Khong in Laos
From Bangkok or Chiang Mai take a Night Bus to Ubon Ratchathani that get you to the bus station before 08.50 in the morning! From Bangkok you can also take the night train if you like. At the bus station in Ubon Ratchathani you buy a ticket for the International Bus to Pakse for 200 bath. There are minibuses that go to the border as well but then you have to find another one on the other site and you never know how much they charge you and how long it takes for them to leave. Usually, they wait till they are full! The first bus leaves at 9 in the morning. So it does not really make sense to be there very early. The counter opens at 8.30 – before they do not sell you a ticket anyway!
The bus stops at the border and you go to the Thai immigration. After your stamping is done leave the building and you see an underpass – on the other site keep walking straight till you see the Laos immigration. If you have your visa you fill out the form that is given to you in the bus and give it with the passport to a hand that reaches for it from inside the immigration office.
Visa on Arrival
If you want to do a Visa on Arrival bring a passport picture and check the internet how much you have to pay!!! It is not the same for all countries! You want to bring US $ to do that (there is a 1 US $ stamp fee on top of the visa fee!!). If you pay in Thai Bath be ready to pay 100-200 bath more than the guy in front of you that paid in US $. Now you turn right and go 4 meters to the end of the building. Turn left and wait till your passport gets handed out of another window by another hand. It might be the same that took it but that is hard to tell. Do not be stupid! If you have a new passport it looks just the same as the other one. Especially the European ones. I saw a post in a Facebook forum once where one girl got her passport only to find out it was the passport of a French guy that was long gone. They do not really look who is outside of the window all the time. So you better put a sticker at the front and back of your passport. This way you see if somebody gets your passport or you know which on is yours if the wrong one comes out of that window. (If they still do the window thing nowadays)
On the other side of the Immigration Office are a few shops, Duty-Free and a bank with a working ATM!! They charge you 20.000 Kip fee so you should get a large sum at a time. Hey – when was the last time you were a millionaire? Here you are right after you get your cash from the ATM!! And it is a better rate than all the money changer on Don Det will give you. I saw an ATM on Don Khong – there is none (at the time of writing) on Don Det. There is also a Bank with ATM and a Money Changer at the market in Pakse if you go there. But why not get cash right here as you have to wait for the other passengers that get the visa anyhow??
Once in Pakse the bus will usually not stop at the Bus Terminal – it stops at the office of the company somewhere in Pakse. You should ask the bus driver if they continue to the Bus Terminal to save yourself another trip in a shared taxi. If not then you take one from the street. It was 10.000 Kip in 2013 and of course, they tell you it is 20.000 or even more. Do not pay more or get another one that drives down the street. There are motorcycle taxis for up to 2 people Pick-Ups and small busses converted into taxis. The Pick-Ups and busses are called Songthaew in Thailand and Laos.
If you are hungry and want the best food – take a shared transportation to the market in the city center – it should be 10.000 Kip. Inside the market, there is an area of food. All the long-term farangs I talked to told me that this is the best place to get food in Pakse if you are on a budget or want “real” food! Then take another shared transportation to the bus station. Should be 10.000 Kip again.
Ask at the Bus Station for transportation to Don Det or Don Khong – 30.000 to 40.000 Kip to the ferry that brings you over to the island. You should get the bus from Thailand at 9 in the morning as you need almost a full day to get to Don Det from there! Make sure that the bus driver confirms the right island. I ended up on the “wrong” one which was also nice as I could take a boat to the other on the next morning and the view from the restaurant on the river bank was great!
Ubon bus station
I was way to early so I had to wait and wait and wait and the coffee shop did not open….
Songthaew to the bus station
The first Beerlao after the border at the market: 10.000 Kip
A bus at the station
I went to Don Khong for one night – guess the bus driver did not really understand or he simply lied to me. We did reach the ferry quite late and the only transport that night would have been a motorcycle that would have been 50.000 to the Don Det ferry. If there would be ferry service at that time in the night? I do not think so!!
The “engine” of the ferry
The next morning I did meet Hélène. She read on Facebook that I was on the “wrong” island and came to visit me before I had the boat down to Don Det
Finally on Don Det. After a few days I wanted to be back on Don Khong again. Well well
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Last day in Bangkok before Singapore tomorrow. Mitsos, his sister and Elena where in Bangkok – nice to see them before I head home in a few days. Back home it is still very cold – hope that this will be a bit better in 6 days!
A few more Pictures from the Island of Don Det where everything that is going on happens on the water. Or so it is for the lazy visitor that hangs out on the Restaurants that overlook the Mekong River.