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.
Source and Photos: Travellingmark