I was happy with my squishy, but cozy room in a Sunset View Bungalow on Don Det Island. The sun was intense and I was sweaty and tired after a long bus ride so as soon as I dropped my backpack off in the bungalow, I headed for the restaurant spot in the middle of the grounds to join a group of backpackers who were chilling with a bottle of BeerLao in their hands. I really couldn’t wait to have a cold one myself and the atmosphere could not have been more inviting.
Someone’s netbook was connected to an amplifier playing back trance music from large speakers while several joints were being passed around. I fit right in. The moment of truth revealed that large bottle of cold BeerLao was mere 11,000 Kip (about $1.35 US Dollars). This has instantly made Don Det a heaven on Earth in my mind. BeerLao is in my humble opinion the best beer in Asia so even when I was in other countries where it usually costs more than local brews, I used to buy it every once in a while. Hence, I always viewed BeerLao as a treat. As something you pay a premium price for, because it delivers unrivalled enjoyment and satisfaction.
And here I was in the homeland of this famed beer and find it’s available for the price that’s mere 40% of what I used to pay for it elsewhere. You didn’t have to ask me twice to make each day a “drink BeerLao day”.
Sunset View Bungalow had a self service fridge filled with lots of BeerLao as well as other beverages available for any of their guests to help themselves to at will, but guests were requested to mark what they took in a notepad dedicated to their bungalow. The desk nearby had several notepads on it, each with a number corresponding with the number of one bungalow so depending on which bungalow you were in, you would mark what you took from the fridge in your notepad and pay for it at checkout.
This is a very convenient way to keep oneself cheered up, but one must not lose control of how much they drink as it’s easy to go overboard and it does add up over a period of days. Bottled drinking water was also provided so you could keep yourself hydrated and cooled down without the need to go to a convenience store at the opposite end of bay.
It felt good being in Laos. People were really nice, which felt so liberating after Cambodia. You could tell by looking at other travelers that they felt far less stressed out and pressured in Laos which left them with more energy to truly enjoy themselves. I spent whole night hanging out with other backpackers, drinking lots of BeerLao, playing guitar, smoking pot and just generally having a good time. Life was good and it only further assured me about the fact that spending any more time in Cambodia, where you’re constantly under pressure made no sense whatsoever.
Don Khon is one of the Four Thousand Islands in southern Laos that’s connected to Don Det by a bridge. It is larger in size, offers more authentic Lao experience than Don Det and houses virtually all attractions that can be found on Si Phan Det (Four Thousand Islands). Given the above, then how is it that more people come to stay on Don Det than on Don Khon, you ask? The answer is simple – most of the people who stay at 4,000 Islands are backpackers. While Si Phan Det does get a fair share of day trippers, they are only brought in, taken to the most prominent attractions and taken away. Backpackers, on the other hand come and stay for a few days as daytrips are not only overpriced (as all pre-packaged tours tend to be), they also don’t offer the opportunity to really get to know the locals, their way of life, their culture, society, religion, or whatever else is of interest to them. And since most backpackers find good times and frugal accommodation more attractive than higher comfort and quiet nights, Don Det is where they to flock.
Don Khon Accommodation
Don Khon offers more upscale accommodation options than Don Det. While latter caters predominantly to backpackers who seek the best price, even if quality is lessened, the former delivers better built, cleaner rooms with en-suite bathrooms and air-conditioning (aka mid-range accommodation). This higher level of comfort comes at a higher price, but that’s the beauty of it. If you are willing to pay more for the privilege of having a more tranquil environment and a room that’s more than a few wooden planks and a bunk bed, then Don Khon could be the answer. If not, Don Det is just across the bridge.
The reason why Don Khon is perceived as the island offering more authentic Lao experience than Don Det is that Don Det is overrun by backpackers so everything about the island has been modified to take full (mostly financial) advantage of it. You are more likely to stumble across a foreigner on Don Det than a local even if you ride a bike off away from “the happening”. Restaurants and bars come to full bustle in the evening and through the night allowing the visitors to have a good time drinking cheap beer and smoking cheap pot. Don Khon is not like that.
The only time when Don Khon gets overrun with tourists is in the early afternoon when day trippers from Thailand and a nearby town of Pakse come to the island in hoards to see the waterfall and have a brief look at French colonial architecture. Outside of this madness, Don Khon is a very quiet, unrushed place that also spares the visitor of nightly party noise.
All accommodation on Don Khon is concentrated along the north coast of the island (the side facing Don Det).
Activities on Don Khon
Outside of partying and hanging out with other backpackers, there really isn’t that much to see and do on Don Det. However having Don Khon attached to it by a bridge expends the options vastly. Once you have taken a bike ride around Don Det, you have basically seen everything this island has to offer but then you go across the bridge (for which you have to pay 20,000 Kip on the Don Khon side) and a whole range of activities opens up.
You can find several French colonial buildings on Don Khon. Old French built school still serves as a school today, even though former hospital has been turned into a resort. The French port and the embankment can be oddly stumbled upon as you cycle around exploring what the island has to offer. Former light-gauge train track that used to traverse both islands is now just an endless path of big, sharp gravel that’s hard to walk and ride a bike on. If you come across a rocky road, turn around and take an alternate road. You’ll be glad you did. The road seems to go forever and is covered in bones shattering rocks all across.
The biggest attractions of Don Khon are the waterfalls. Li Phi Falls on the western side is easy to find and get to. Less visited, but noteworthy for being the largest cascade by volume of water in South East Asia, Somphamit Falls requires slightly tricky turn off the dirt road and across a suspended bridge to reach, and even though these cascades are vastly unspectacular, they are worth a visit never the less.
Rare and endangered fresh water Irrawady Dolphins can be found off the southern coast of Don Khon but may require luck to get to see some. It’s much easier to see them in Kratie, Cambodia (but also more expensive) but remember than these dolphins only surface for fraction of a second to breathe before they submerge for a few minutes again so capturing a decent picture is tricky and requires a great deal of patience (and hence money).
Even though Don Khon is larger than Don Det, no such services as post, police or hospital are available. These allegedly exist on Don Khong, the largest of the Four Thousand Islands but since I’ve never been there, I could not tell for sure. A few places offer internet on Don Khon but it is as expensive (400 Kip a minute) and as slow as on Don Det, hence not worth it (update you page before coming to Si Phan Det or leave it until after).
Further up from the “big waterfalls” is what is labelled by travel guide books (including Lonely Planet) to Laos as “a beach”. Signs bearing the same name were posted along the dirt road leading there but man… this is supposed to be a beach? It was a pile of hard to scale, huge shoulders scattered across the river bank. Who in the hell named it “a beach”?
Don Khon Development
Don Khon is experiencing same out of control development as Don Det. While I was cycling around, it seemed as though everybody was rebuilding their house to turn it into a guesthouse. The smell of tourism money is like a drug to locals now.
I enjoyed hanging out and partying with fellow backpackers on Don Det. However, if partying not your cup of tea, try Don Khon instead. Quality of accommodation is better and an overall “Lao” experience is definitely more authentic. You’ll get to see some real village life on Don Khon, something that virtually doesn’t exist on Don Det, an island which is nothing more than a backpacker milking cash cow these days.
During my three day visit to Don Det, I stayed at Sunset View Bungalow. I always check a few available accommodation options to compare what I’d be getting for my money and when it came to Don Det, Sunset View Bungalow seemed like the best of both world.
When you are on an island that’s not all that big, there is a limited number of things that you can do. But when it comes to night time activities, this number is further reduced significantly. The main reason why I opted for Sunset View Bungalow over everything else on Don Det was the atmosphere at the outdoor restaurant that’s within the ground.
Several cool looking people were chilling with a Beer Lao at the table, a guitar in their hands and trance music on the stereo. On top of that, an unmissable sign of good mood was in the air as skilfully rolled joints were being passed around.
Sunset View Bungalow Price
As I was told by the French fellow who was in charge of showing new comers the premises, a bungalow at the Sunset View cost 30,000 Lao Kip (about $3,60 US) per night. There were bungalows and guesthouse rooms for as little as 25,000 Kip per night on Don Det, but none of these appeared to have had the atmosphere of Sunset View Bungalow. Even though slightly above average priced, Sunset View Bungalow was the hangout spot so that’s where I decided to stay.
Cheap Accommodation in Laos?
In a rundown of my experiences in Laos, I mentioned that Laos is a surprisingly expensive country to travel through. Yet the very first accommodation I scored cost less than $5 per night so how is that expensive, right? While I do admit 30,000 Kip per night for a private place is not expensive by any stretch of imagination, one needs to put things into a perspective and compare it to the type of accommodation this amount of money would land you in similar countries.
The bungalow I got was about a foot on each side larger than the bed inside. There was not enough space to even turn around, never mind safely storing a backpack. Aside from a wooden bunk bed with a simulated mattress and a pillow, there was only a stained mosquito net with holes in it hanging over it.
Truly partisan style bathroom and a shower were outside to be shared by dozens of others. Bungalows also had a porch with hammock but given the size of that porch, one had to tiptoe around to not fall off on the way inside. Small opening on one of the walls served as a window which when opened, offered the room slightly larger appearance.
Sunset View Bungalow was a backpacker’s paradise. Nothing much to complain about because it was truly cheap, however when compared to what I was getting in Cambodia for $3, this was still slightly pricey and a clear introduction to how expensive Laos is going to be.
More Luxurious Accommodation at Sunset View Bungalow
Aside from the 30,000 Kip bungalows described above, Sunset View also offered slightly more comfortable huts for 50,000 Kip per night (about $6 US). These were a bit more spacious, had more spacious verandas with hammocks for two people and an en suite bathroom. I’ve never tried one of those, I was just shown and opted for a less expensive, true backpacker accommodation.
Sunsets at Sunset View Bungalow
If you catch a cloudless day while on Don Det and are into all that romantic stuff, then you’re gonna like the view of sunsets from Sunset View Bungalow. Located on the north-west corner of Don Det, Sunset View Bungalow offers spectacular sunset views though most of the bungalows don’t face that way. You can enjoy the view from the restaurant, though.
The downside is that because of tin roofs, it gets pretty hot inside a bungalow in the afternoon. East side of the island peak where all the guesthouses are faces the same issue in the early morning hours when rising sun turns the rooms into a steaming sauna.
What I Liked Sunset View Bungalow
After personally checking out most other places offering accommodation on Don Det I maintain that Sunset View Bungalow is the best option. There are not many places in Laos where you can stay a night for less than $5 so if you make it on Don Det, enjoy the one place where it’s possible. You’ll get what you pay for, but at least what you pay is not much. Laos is otherwise surprisingly expensive (compared to most other countries in South East Asia) and even though Sunset View Bungalow seem to be the opposite, when compared what you’d get for this type of money in comparable countries, it’s definitely not cheap.
Hanging out and chilling with other backpackers is the best part of Sunset View Bungalow and as such, is unrivalled anywhere on Don Det, or entire 4,000 Islands for that matter. I would wholeheartedly recommend every backpacker coming to Don Det to check this place out.
Don Det is a small island and everything is concentrated in the same area. While staying at Sunset View Bungalow, you’re never too far away from anything, however that could be said about any other accommodation on the island. Other places just seem a bit too formal so if leisurely talk with other travelers, former strangers but now friends is not alien to you, then Sunset View Bungalow is the place to be. Grab a bottle of cold BeerLao and have yourself good time while on Don Det.
What I Didn’t Like About Sunset View Bungalow
I can’t say there was anything I really didn’t like about Sunset View Bungalow. It’s a cheap (for Laos) place with great atmosphere, fun management, cold beer and that stuff I shouldn’t talk openly about. Shared bathroom and shower are a bit grotty and lower priced bungalows are a bit squishy, but Sunset View Bungalow is not about fancy accommodation. It’s about having a good time and enjoying yourself with all your worries left behind. If it’s upscale accommodation you seek, check out Don Khong or Don Khon islands instead.
There are a few other things that could be brought up in the “didn’t like” section, but they are not specific to Sunset View Bungalow, but rather apply to whole island (or whole area). While there is little motorized traffic on any of the 4,000 islands, making them reasonably quiet, fisherman boats make way more noise than any motorcycle and start running around like there’s no tomorrow before sun dawn. Most accommodations on Don Det consist of wooden rooms that are as far from being sound proof as they get. Those few non air tight wooden planks that serve as walls will let all of the noise from the outside right in so if you stayed out drinking beer with other backpackers till 2am and get awakened at 5am by loud fishing boats the noise of which never seems to fade into distance, you won’t be too amazed. That would take place no matter where on Don Det you decide to stay.
Also, being an isolated island (not so isolated anymore, but still), many things on Don Det are expensive because they have to be brought in from the mainland, but the most expensive thing of all is internet. At the time of my visit, there were three internet cafes on Don Det, each charging an unholy 400 Kip per minute. Translated into English, this is a $3 for an hour on line. I have been on far more isolated islands since, I have been in the middle of the jungle, but have yet to come to a place where internet would be this expensive. You best update that page before coming over and leave next update until you have gotten elsewhere or prepare to shell out some heavy bucks for the privilege of surfing the net. As if Laos as a country was not expensive enough, Don Det takes it to a whole new level. Compared to much of mainland, beer is also expensive here (11,000 Kip for a bottle of BeerLao compared to 8,000 for the same in Pakse), however budget restaurants offer food for prices comparable to the rest of Laos.
One more time – expensive internet and loud boats buzzing around since early morning are the reality of an entire 4,000 Island area. That’s something you would be exposed to whether you decide to stay at Sunset View Bungalow or somewhere else. Don Det is a wonderful place full of friendly people and should not be missed out by any traveller passing through the area. Kick back a few BeerLao and enjoy the real laid back lifestyle, whether at Sunset View Bungalow or somewhere else on Don Det.
When I was buying my bus ticket from Kratie, Cambodia to Don Det, Laos I had no idea the boat transport from the mainland to the island would be included in price. I thought the bus will simply deliver us to the jetty from where we can conveniently hire a boat to get us across, but to everyone’s surprise, none of this was necessary.
The turn off to Don Det wasn’t far from the border. We only went for a few minutes before the bus got off the highway and steered through narrow dirt road to drop us off at the spot that was very close to the jetty. About half a dozen backpackers and one local got off the bus. That local guy asked each of us to hand him over the bus ticket we’d purchased and asked us to wait until he’s made arrangements to get us across the Mekong river.
This was a positive surprise as I was already getting ready to start negotiating with the boatmen but there was no need. Instead, I got a chance to chat with the other guys and savor the feeling of being free.
Laos vs Cambodia
The difference between Cambodia and Laos became instantly obvious. For one, none of the locals jumped any of us as we were getting off the bus. We were all able to peacefully collect our backpacks and figure out the next step without hosts of touts pressuring us and breathing down our necks from all sides.
Secondly, even though there were many villagers scattered around, none of them stared us down. They were simply minding their own business, allowing us to mind ours. We had a few minutes to spare, so I popped into a nearby convenience store (small hut with a few items for sale) and asked them if they would accept US dollars for a bottle of water I wanted to buy. I had no Lao currency on me but this was a no issue for the woman running the shop.
All it took was a ride across the border and fake smiles full of shady purposes were gone. They were replaced with genuine, warm and welcoming ones. It was a breath of fresh air to be approached by a local man who would simply want to ask us how the ride was and welcome us to his country, without attempting to scam any of us. It was the third time leaving Cambodia for me and it was the third time I felt like I got out of the gas chamber to breathe the free air again.
The deal was sealed – there are so many nice people who would make your travels enjoyable all over the world, and each day in Cambodia strips you of a chance to meet with them. From now on I only wanted to travel through the countries where there are nice people so deep in my mind I already knew – there will be no going back to Cambodia for me.
Boat Ride to Don Det
All of us who got off the bus at 4,000 Islands were backpackers so all of us were headed for Don Det. Don Det is where most backpacker friendly, budget guesthouses are located and it’s also where 4,000 Island’s nightlife (for what it’s worth) is at its highest concentration. Don Khon and Don Khong are the islands offering more peaceful stay with more upscale accommodation options.
The boat they packed us on was small and barely had us all fit along with our backpacks. It was one of those tiny fishing boats for one or two persons, only the owner added a few planks to bridge the sides so passengers could sit but it was a squishy experience. Of all the boats that were docked at the jetty, we were told to board the smallest and the furthest one. To get on it, we had to prance across several boats with roofs which gently tested our balancing skills. Keep in mind we all carried our backpacks and had to crouch down to squeeze through tiny space under the roof of a boat which was loosely on the water, hence moving with each person who stepped on it.
The boat ride itself was scenic enough to make us all forget that we had to sit with our knees under our chins only capable of making limited turns as each of us tried to record some video of the mangroves and islands we passed by. It only took a few minutes to get us across and soon we got to feel firm ground below our feet as bikini clad girls walked by headed for their chalets. There are no beaches on Don Det, but what’s there to hold you back when you’re on an island in a tropical country and it’s a nice, sunny day?
Don Det is very touristy these days. Many former fishermen now specialize in offering transport service between mainland and various islands because that’s where easy the money is. Tour operators and transportation companies have agreements with boatmen so if you end up buying a ticket to Don Det and then away from there, it will include the cost of the boat transfer so if you asked me how much a boat ride alone was, I wouldn’t be able to tell.
Below is the brief video from the boat that took us across from the mainland Laos to Don Det of Si Phan Det (4,000 Islands):
Don Det Island has gained its popularity through laid back way of life it offers. Even though this has hardly changed and one can still appreciate a full day of idling in a hammock with nothing else to do, the face of Don Det is not what it was a few years ago. With virtually every house along the northern peak of the island transformed into a guesthouse, a restaurant or some other establishment catering to the needs of tourists, and with the smell of weed rising from many a tucked back spots along the coast, Don Det has become a major magnet for backpackers who flock in large numbers to indulge in the finest a nomadic lifestyle has to offer.
I believe Don Det island should not be missed out on. Once you hop on a bicycle you have rented and take a ride around, away from the busy quarter where all other foreigners hang out and enjoy themselves with a bottle of BeerLao in one hand and a lit up joint in another, you will get the glimpse of the timelessness Four Thousand Islands are really about. Being constantly nourished by the waters of the Mekong, the greenery throughout the island is lush which is clearly appreciated by bountiful Water Buffalos who look far beyond well fed.
The Only Railway in Laos
The French built bridge connects Don Det with nearby Don Khon offering an easy possibility for a bicycle rider to explore two islands in one go (you’ll be asked to pay 20,000 Kip – about $2,50 US at the Don Khon side of the bridge). The bridge was originally built to be a part of the railway across the two islands the purpose of which was to bypass the rapids and waterfalls in the Mekong. The rapids were the main reason why the ambitions of the French colonists to use the Mekong as a highway to China was failing.
The railway was built, but the ambition to connect with China by the means of the Mekong River eventually failed and the use of the railway was discontinued after WWII. The road which once housed the railways track is very rocky and seems to have no end. You can find it on both Don Det and Don Khon and you’ll know you’re on it if your bicycle (if you’re riding) or your feet (if you’re hiking) start getting a beating from the sharp rocks that cover the surface of it. There is nothing to see along either of the roads so if you get down to exploring the islands and your path leads you to a rocky road, I suggest you turn around and take an alternative route. You’ll be glad you did.
Don Det, The Backpacker’s Paradise
Don Det is a backpacker’s heaven and it’s a sound riddance to enjoy it to the fullest. Lodging prices on Don Det are the most affordable in Laos (even though you will be getting what you are paying for, making for an overall not that great a deal) and food, despite the need to bring many ingredients from the mainland by boat is reasonably priced (in Lao terms). Internet is slow and super, super expensive so if you need to update that page, do it before coming on Don Det or put it off until you have come back on mainland.
Money Exchange Rates on Don Det
While official US Dollar to Lao Kip exchange rate was at 8,200 Kip for a dollar in Lao mainland, you could get 8,000 Kip for a dollar on Don Det which is not all that bad. There are no banks, ATM machines or money exchangers on Don Det, but many guesthouses or shops will buy your foreign currency for Lao Kip. The rate will be slightly disadvantaged, but not by much. I actually expected much worse exchange rates given that it’s a desolate island which requires a boat transport to get on, but losing 200 Kip to a dollar is not that bad (it’s good for 30 seconds of internet on Don Det, though). If you exchange $20 US, you will only be short of 4,000 Kip, which is about $.50 – definitely nothing to be concerned about.
Tubing on Don Det
If you are into drunken fun during the day, you should not miss out on tubing on Don Det (tube rental costs 5,000 Kip – about 60 US cents). Vang Vieng may be the tubing capital of Laos, but it’s also more overcrowded than Si Phan Det and that can take some of the adrenaline away. Although it’s quite fun to always bump into somebody else’s tube.
Don Det was my first stop in Laos and while it is not a showcase of local culture, religion or society, it is a great place to kick back and enjoy yourself. The rice paddies, lush jungle, fat water buffaloes and friendly, smiling locals make for a fantastic environment while endless options to hang out and chill with other backpackers allow for much needed boost to one’s spirit and energy.
Laos is notorious for its laid back lifestyle, but there is no place where a traveler can savor this renowned laid-backness better than Si Phan Don. In the language of Lao people, Si Phan Don means 4,000 Islands (Four Thousand Islands) and there is a very good reason for the name. This 50 kilometre long stretch of the Mekong River in southern Laos, just north of the Cambodian border spreads to create the river’s widest point where in rainy season it reaches the width of 14 kilometres. During the dry season, however, when the 4350 kilometres long Mekong recedes, thousands of islets get revealed giving the area its name of Four Thousand Islands.
While smaller islets of Si Phan Don disappear with each monsoon season, several of the larger islands are permanently above the Mekong’s surface with a few of them inhabited year round. The inhabitants of Si Phan Don are the river people – the families of boatmen and fishermen who learned how to be vastly self sustainable by utilizing the small landmass provided by the island and the abundant wildlife of the river.
When talking about islands, most people visualize turquoise waters of a sea with waves crushing against the rocky coast while bikini clad hotties straddle down the sandy beach and kids snorkel in the clear water. Four Thousand Islands is nothing like that, yet the area keeps attracting thousands upon thousands of visitors every year. So if it’s not sandy beaches and the thrill of throwing oneself against rolling waves that makes people want to come to Si Phan Don, then what is it? It’s the tranquil, laid back lifestyle I had mentioned before everything else. And this is also what attracted me to Si Phan Don.
As a permanent traveler, it’s always nice to come somewhere where I can kick back and recharge before I hit the road again. And… Si Phan Don delivered. The life on Four Thousand Islands is as slow paced as they say and people as friendly as they get. You rent a bicycle and they don’t even give you a lock or ask for a passport as collateral because nothing of larger size can be moved out of the island without someone noticing.
Tourism on Four Thousand Islands
Si Phan Don is changing. It is still one of the most laid back places a traveler can visit, but mass tourism is taking its inevitable toll. Boats now peddle (figuratively, not literally) between the islands and the mainland more often than they used to because islands can no longer provide enough food to feed all those tourists who head that way every day. Electricity is becoming more common and so is the internet (albeit… the latter is still extremely pricey).
Tourism has also inadvertedly changed the lives of the villagers on Si Phan Don who have transformed their lifestyles to focus on reaping the benefits of this lucrative industry. Former fishermen now run guesthouses and restaurants the per capita density of which is staggering. Number of boats standing by to transport foreigners between the islands and the mainland keeps growing while number of boats still fishing – actually, I have no stats for that so I can’t say for sure. Oops 🙂
Which Island to Stay On?
Since Si Phan Don literally translates into Four Thousand Islands, it is expected that Don means Island in Lao. Three of the larger islands with tourist facilities are Don Khong, Don Det and Don Khon. All three are equally tranquil, offering an escape from hustle and bustle but each caters to different crowd.
I ended up staying on Don Det, which is a party island catering to younger crowd with backpacker style accommodation. Since Don Khon is connected to Don Det by a bridge, it is possible to easily explore it while still staying in a lower grade, but cheaper guesthouse on Don Det. There are two waterfalls on Don Khon and they are the primary reason why you want to explore that island. One of the waterfalls is said to be the largest waterfall in SE Asia as far as the volume of water is involved (in rainy season, I guess).
Don Khon would be a good option if you desire better quality accommodation (and are fine paying adequate price for it) but want to be able to socialize with other travelers. Since you don’t need to jump on a boat to get on or back from Don Det, socializing is just a short bike ride away, yet you get to sleep in a decent room, far away from the crowds of Don Det.
Don Khong is the largest of the Si Phan Don islands but since it has nothing other than the same tranquility you can find on Don Khon to offer, I have never paid it a visit. With its higher quality lodging, Don Khong primarily attracts families and travelers who are not on a budget. It’s a good place if you want to chill and do a big load of nothing on top of it. It wouldn’t be a good place if you get easily bored.
Don Det of the Four Thousand Islands was the first and the last place in Laos where it was possible to be on the cheap (except from the internet, which is some of the most expsnive in the world). After I had left Si Phan Don, things got pretty pricey (by South East Asian standards). I never would have thought that traveling through Laos was gonna be more expensive than traveling through Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia or China. For a backpacker, any way you spin it, Four Thousand Islands is a good place to hang out on for a while.