The most relaxing place on earth may be an island in landlocked Laos. Laos shares borders with Vietnam, China, Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia. Nowhere does it touch an ocean. However, the other thing it shares with all those countries is the mighty Mekong River. In far southern Laos on the Mekong lies the area called 4,000 islands. While there may well be 4,000 islands in the archipelago most of them are simply a very small piece of land with one or two trees. Actually there are only perhaps a half dozen large enough to be inhabited.
My wife and I spent two leisurely weeks decompressing on Don Khon after a hectic two-month tour of Vietnam. The main activities on Don Khon are walking, bicycle riding, lazing in a hammock watching the Mekong River flow by, and eating. Life is simple on Don Khon. The children play house with cardboard boxes the way you probably did as a child before computer games and cell phones. They make mud pies and play restaurant with them. Hopscotch and blowing soap bubbles are favorite activities. You return to the kind of stress free life you see all around you. Nothing is hurried. Nothing is pressing. The adults nap a lot or sit around in easy conversation. People bathe, play, wash their clothes, and fish in the river. A large herd of water buffalo bathe in the river or sun themselves on the opposite bank. You can laze in a hammock on the porch of your room overlooking the river and watch the longboats cut through the water on the way to some downstream destination. In the evening, sit on that porch with a glass of French wine and watch as the sun paints the sky over the Mekong.
Don Khon is the third largest of the four or five inhabited islands. Don Khong is the largest of the 4,000 islands and we were advised to skip it as being too hectic. I have a hard time imagining that. Maybe they have cars and traffic or something like that. Don Khon connects to Don Det by a bridge built by the French when this was all part of French Indochina. Crossing the bridge by bicycle you can tour both islands in a day. There are no museums, art galleries or fancy boutiques, so, if that’s what you’re looking for, don’t go. Luckily, there are a few French and Indian expats that have opened some very tasty restaurants. A fine meal in one of these puts a cap on a perfect lazy day.
To arrive at this oasis of times past you fly into the international airport at Pakse. Pakse, Laos is mostly a jumping off place for other more interesting sites in southern Laos. I couldn’t recommend spending more than one night in Pakse. From Pakse take a bus to the riverside town of Nakasang where you will board one of the longboats that runs to the 4,000 islands and Don Khon. Only one road runs through town so when you disembark you either turn right or left. The better hotels are on the right. Most all of them overlook the Mekong River. We stayed at the Dok Champa Guest House which was brand new in January 2019. The room boasted air conditioning, a king size bed, private bath, and a large porch with two hammocks riverside for $17 US/ night.
In all my travels I’ve never encountered a more laid-back and relaxing place than the 4,000 islands of Laos.