Cruising the Mekong south of Champassak in Laos, the River splits into many channels separated by sandbanks and islands of various sizes, some inhabited, some the haunt only of wild animals and birds. This untamed and remote region is known as the wild ‘paradise of 4,000 Islands.’ In high water, many of these islands are fully submerged.
As can be expected, the majority of the inhabitants of the 4,000 islands depend on fishing for a living and catch around 350 kilograms of fish per family per year. Other sources of income are tourism, rice production and agriculture.
The largest of the islands is Khong Island, the birthplace of the President of the Peoples Republic of Laos (Mr Khamtay Siphandone). A rickety car-ferry links the island to the mainland and the best road in Laos, RN 13, originally built by French colonisers to link Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) with Vientiane and Luang Prabang.
The only two other inhabited islands are Don Khone and Don Det. This is where this cruise on the Mekong will also take you. These two islands are linked by a concrete bridge built by the French.
Don Khone also has remnants of an old steam engine which is left over from the when the French built the only railroad in Laos. The railway was built as a way to transport goods from Laos to Cambodia without having to negotiate the Pha Pheng waterfalls.