Category Archives: Done Daeng

Champasak Province

Champasak Lao: ຈຳປາສັກ [càmpàːsák]) is a province in southwestern Laos, near the borders with Thailand and Cambodia. It covers an area of 15,415 square kilometres (5,952 sq mi). It is bordered by Salavan Province to the north, Sekong Province to the northeast, Attapeu Province to the east, Cambodia to the south, and Thailand to the west.

Champasak Province from Done Daeng Island

Champasak Province from Done Daeng Island

Champasak has played a central role in the history of Siam and Laos, with frequent battles taking place in and around Champasak. Its rich cultural heritage includes ancient temple ruins and French colonial architecture. Champasak has some 20 Wats (temples), such as Wat Phou, Wat Luang, Wat Phu Salao, and Wat Tham Fai. Freshwater dolphins, the coffee plantations on Bolaven Plateau and the province’s many waterfalls are tourist attractions.[1]

Champasak Province from Wat Phou

Champasak Province from Wat Phou

Reaching your destination from the capital city of Pakse is relatively easy whether you choose to drive yourselves (as we did) or to take a guided tour. We didn’t spend much time in Pakse itself, preferring to use it as a base for our other adventures. One town worth visiting is Pakxong. No, there is nothing much there and that is because the Americans carpet bombed the city twice during the Vietnam war and practically obliterated the entire town. What you see now has been largely rebuilt from the rubble and demonstrates the hardy character of the Laos people.

Wat Thomo Ruins

Wat Thomo Ruins

The ruins of Uo Moung (Thomo Temple), the 9th century Khmer style temple that resides in the forest on the mainland to the southwest of Done Daeng Island, is worth the entry fee of 10,000kip. Not much is kn0wn about the temple except that it is is considered to be the female counterpart to the Temple of Shiva at Wat Phou, as an inscription indicates that it was dedicated to Rudrani, the shakti of Shiva. Unfortunately these ruins are busy being consumed by the foliage so you may want to see it before it is too late 😉

At the southern end of the province are the 4,000 islands that cater for all manner of tourism from those that are always on the get go, to those that want to experience traditional Laos culture. We visited the islands of Don Khone, Don Det and Done Daeng during our stay and had remarkably different experiences at each one.

Champasak Province is a beautiful part of Laos and definitely worth a visit.

Champasak Province from Wat Sa Lao

Champasak Province from Wat Sa Lao

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Wikipdeia – Champasak Province – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Champasak_Province Accessed 29th Oct 2015

Done Daeng Island

TransportDone Daeng Island, known as the “Red Island”, offers a tranquil environment and sandy beaches. There are approximately ten villages located on the island, bordered by the Mekong river on both sides. On the opposite shore is Mount Lingaparvata (now called Phu Kao) where lies the ancient temple of Wat Phou.

Transport to the island is via a Lao ‘catamaran’ and dok dok to transfer the several hundred feet of sand that appears as the dry season approaches. You can hire bikes to ride around the island, which is exactly what we did.

The largest village on the island is Ban Hua Done Daeng, where you can sample some of Mrs Khamtha’s whiskey directly from her distillery if it is open. Apparently the whiskey is made by mixing 8kgs of sticky rice with around 10 litres of water and a couple of egg-sized yeast balls.

Rice Husking

Rice Husking

The fermentation process take around ten days from which the mixture is heated metal drums. The alcohol fueled steam condenses on the cooler lids of the drums and drains off into large ladles. This produces around 5 litres of Lao Lao whiskey that usually has a mild taste.

There is a community guesthouse on the northern tip of the island where you can rent a room from the head of the village. Turning right from the guesthouse will take you along the eastern side of the island and through the villages of Ban Noy, Ban Si Chanto and into Ban Peuay Lao.

Unfortunately you cannot ride completely around the island and at Ban Peuay Lao you will be forced to turn right and head back through the middle.

Wat PhaThis part of your trip will take you through the many rice paddies that fill the island’s interior and on to Wat Pha, an incredibly old temple of which only a single chedi remains. This is a very sacred site for the locals on Done Daeng and we were lucky to be present during a Baci Ceremony whereby the local Shaman blessed a woman from the village who had returned from study in Canada.

As the family sat down to begin the ceremony we got up and moved away to allow some privacy, but the shaman instructed the girl to ask us to stay. At the conclusion of the ceremony we both had our palms read and were offered a blessing.

Wat Pha is practically in the centre of the island and from there you can continue your journey west to the village of Ban Si Moungkhoun.

BuffaloTurning south you can visit the villages of Ban Xieng Vang, Ban Boung Kham, Ban Si Souk and Ban Dan Thip. Turning north will take you Ban Bang Sai and the La Folie Resort, which happens to be the only other accommodation on the island.

Long sandy beaches surround the Done Daeng on many sides and provide a great walking experience. Life on Done Daeng is very traditional. Most of the villagers live in wooden Laotian houses on stilts, gathering hay and planting rice, with children and chickens running everywhere.

Occasionally the tracks will be blocked by a docile water buffalo, but other than that life on Done Daeng doesn’t get much more exciting. Which is just how we liked it 🙂

Beach at Sunset