$10 Worth Happiness - Don Det, Laos

Nostalgia from Laos may linger longer than one expects. Don Det is not just about a cheap $8 vacation, but about having some time for oneself.

$10 Worth Happiness - Don Det, Laos.


There is little hint of human existence. Not a single vehicle passes by on the so-called most organized road of a peaceful countryside in northern Si Phan Don, Laos. Children welcome a stranger’s visit, escorting him to the bus to the village.

The bus drives along the unpaved road like a horse-drawn carriage. People keep bumping their heads on the roof of the bus, but no one seems annoyed, but gleeful. After a short bus ride the bus stops at a dock. Leaving the mesmerizing sunset that stains the Mekong River, people shifts themselves on a boat to an archipelago of 4,000 islands, Don Det..

Don Det is a small island among 4,000 others of Si Phan Don that every veteran Southeast traveler recommends. The island is one of few islands with a minimum accommodation and perhaps one elementary school among 4,000 islets.

Across the Mekong is Don Det.


The island painted in sunset reminded of relaxing fairy village seen in fairy tales. Along the narrow street where three people can barely walk abreast are a few guesthouses in traditional style, and some locals drinking Lao-lao, a Laotian rice whisky, peacefully loving life. The tranquility of Laos is an alien sketch to busy contemporary people.

The stranger selects a small guesthouse before complete sunset. There are hammocks hanging in front of the Mekong for idlers. But it is the Mekong view that made the stranger chose the place. A private bungalow with bed and private space costs only three bucks a night.

Eyes shut the sound of nature swarms in. Along with the whisper of the Mekong, my first trip to Don Dhet begun.

Happiness virus.


Cock a doodle doo- The morning that appeared as I pushed open the door rubbing my eyes was a wonder itself. Another gust of happiness virus rolled in like a swing of hammock. My life was healed in the arms of the great Mother Nature.

I arrived at a small restaurant dragging my flip flops. They had five to six menus at max, but they couldn’t be more fulfilling. For first brunch at Laos, I chose traditional tea and a toast with onions, tomatoes, and a fried egg. A one dollar brunch I had while looking out the Mekong was incomparable to brunch I tried in any fancy European restaurants.

Unlike other places, there are no popular tourist destinations in Laos. But what you see is what makes you happy in Don Det. Taking walks and reading books in a hammock; I spent the most peaceful time of my life. At dinner I joined other travelers I met during a walk. After a few cups of spicy, yet sweetish Lao-lao, the night was filled with endless stories on life and travels. All I spend on this special day: $8. It would be impossible to convert a worth of 24 hours to currency, but a day at Don Det definitely had a value of more than $80,000.

Nostalgia from Laos may linger longer than one expects. Don Det is not just about a cheap $8 vacation, but about having some time for oneself.

PINCAKE TIPS : How to Get to Don Det : The fastest way to Don Det is by 10 minute ferry ride from the nearest town Si Phan Don. Take a shuttle from Cambodia or Thailand airport to a city called Pakse. From Pakse get on a bus or truck that passes Si Phan Don to ride the ferry to Don Det. If you book a hotel in advance, they might pick you up at the duck. Some places such as Vientiane of Laos, Vang Vieng, and Luang Prabang offer shuttles with bunk beds to Don Det.

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