Mekong cycling

The most efficient way to get around the island of Don Khone (and the neighbouring island of Don Det) is by bicycle. Cycling is more of an imperative when you choose to stay in the remotest part of Don Khone, in the village of Ban Hang Khone. To get to relative civilisation requires a trek (it is a trek in the 30c+ heat) of 6km to Ban Kon Tai at the top of the island. While this village is the ‘big smoke’ on the island, it is still only a collection of eateries and guesthouses straddling a dusty lane that runs parallel to one of the river channels around the island.

We quickly decided that cycling was the best transport option and hired four bikes for the princely sum of $1.70 each per day. Rather than walk the dusty trails on the islands we were able to cycle them. This did not mean that you were any less dusty when finishing the ride than if you had walked them. Tip: when you finish each ride simply walk into the shower fully clothed with footwear on. By the time you peel everything off you and your clothes are (sort of) clean.

There was no paper work involved with the hire. Simply roll up and select the bike with the most appropriate seat height (if you are lucky). The bikes are all the same and all the same price. No record is taken of who you are, no passport numbers are taken or even the name of your guest house or the length of hire. I guess they worked on the basis that we were not going to try to ride them off the island and if we left them somewhere they will eventually find their way to the owner.

The blue beast that I rode – here it is posing in front of a bougainvillaea covered shack on Don Det Island 
The roads are narrow and require a little care when negotiating your way past oncoming traffic such as this ARV. Joe, Beth and Ruth show good road manners by dropping down into single file.
Forget about getting anywhere in a hurry. Apart from being far too hot to rush, the roads are not built for rushing. Joe, Beth and Ruth have decided to walk over this rocky section of terrain on the track to Tad Khone Pa Soi Waterfall.
The ‘jungle tracks’ were negotiable on the bikes but there was less room for swerving to avoid the buffalo poo.
Ruth making her way along the waterfront track on Don Det Island.
Joe, Beth & Ruth negotiating the pot holes (some are like valleys) and rocks on the main drag along Don Khone.
Ruth did not realise that she was in Shangri-La.  
Beth decided that too much biking on the rocky surfaces was not going to have a happy ending for her. So Cliff did a tandem-ride for 6km back to the ‘hire depot’ and yes this ride did result in him rolling around in the dust when the two bikes decided to try and mate. He looked like some creation out of Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock after the frolic. Fortunately no bark was lost. Photo Credit Joe & Beth Volk.
The kids also like to mess around on bikes. Photo credit Joe & Beth Volk
Ruth snaps a picture from the old rail bridge between Don Khone and Don Det Islands. The string of waterfalls that exist across the 14km width of the Mekong were an obstacle to the navigation of the river so the French build a railroad. The boat cargos were offloaded at the lower end of Don Khone and then hauled by rail to points above the waterfalls where they would be loaded onto new boats. Roads eventually killed this trans-river trade.
Unfortunately the ’round the island’ route on Don Khone was not possible due to some of the bridges being very much Indiana Jones(ish).
We did not undertake all our touring on bikes. To get to Khonphapheng waterfall we had to catch a boat to nearby Saddam Island (no he is not hiding out there) then catch this ‘tour wagon’ off the island and up a stretch of road back on the mainland. Cliff and Joe sat in the front while Ruth reclined in the space behind the row of seats. Our boat skipper sat on the flat deck.
Heading back to the boat after viewing the falls.
Khonphaphen Waterfall. There are six channels that tumble over waterfalls as the river exits Laos. This channel carried the largest volume of water.
Sophamit Falls were one of two that could be accessed on Don Khone.
Fishing platforms clutter the base of Khone Pa Soy Falls on Don Khone – we cycled out to these falls
The waterfalls spread across the Mekong as it flows out of Laos – for more info see




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