Laos… A country bordered with both the ultra-visited and developed Thailand, and the poor and struggling Cambodia. If you want the perfect balance between them both, Laos is the country you should discover. Spread from South to North along the mythic Mekong River, life in Laos goes at a slow pace according to the feeling of the moment. It’s a relief to not get hassled all the time by tuk tuks and to just wake them up from a nap to get a drive to some place and take advantage of the lush sceneries stretching right from the very South at the Cambodian border, up to the North close to China.
To visit Laos, two itineraries are commonly used due to its elongated shape. The first – and easiest one – starts at Vientiane, the Lao capital, close to the Thai border. From there, the visitor spends a few days sightseeing the city, then heads north towards Vang Vieng to party and do tubing, and then to Luang Phrabang to visit some beautiful caves and Buddhist temples carved in the rocks. Sometimes, this route includes a hook in the South all the way down to Si Phan Don, or 4000 Islands, a kind of tourist mecca close to the Cambodian border.
The second itinerary starts precisely there, at the Cambodian border. A few days spent to relax on the Mekong at Si Phan Don, then heading North stopping in some very nice, quiet and laidback small towns, having a little taste of old France by the way. But on the road to the North, on this very route, there is a place most people just don’t really know, but which is absolutely worth a stop for at least two or three days.
This hidden jewel of Laos called “Don Kho” is an island village in Champasak Province, a few kilometers on the Mekong upstream from the city of Pakse. Inhabited with roughly 450 people, this autonomous village is settled in the middle of the Mekong River, on a gorgeous island, and lives probably at the slowest pace of the whole country. Do not expect to find a resort or a restaurant, the only option you have is to stay overnight in one of the family houses offering a small bedroom to welcome you for less than $5. For the meal, just grab some fish freshly caught in the Mekong, and taste the very local way of cooking. Probably the best meals you can get in the whole country for a couple of bucks. To shower, there is no other option than bathing in the waters of the famous Mekong, in company of the whole community laughing at you for some obscure reason!
The best place in Laos to spend three completely relaxing days. Don Kho is by definition the perfect place to put yourself after a few weeks or months travelling in hectic South East Asia, or the best place to experience a deep dive into the local culture and way of life. If you travel in South Laos, do not miss it. If you travel in North Laos, Don Kho is definitely worth travelling the distance for!
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