With tourism as a primary focus for the government this year, the rapid decline of tourists visiting the twin islands of Don Det and Don Khon in the Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands) of Khong district, Champassak province has local authorities worried.
The Head of the Boat Tour Association in Nakasang village, Khong district, Mr Bounseum Chanthalangsy, explains that the port of Nakasang usually hosts over 50,000 visitors travelling to Don Det and Don Khon annually, however this year locals have seen drastically smaller numbers though no data has been reported.
Mr Bounseum stated that the association has a total of 120 service boats, 27 of which are big boats with a capacity to carry anywhere from 20 to 60 people. Typically, the association would serve at least 25 boats per day, however boat operators are now observing less than 10 boats per day.
An expert from the Information, Culture and Tourism Office in Khong district, Mr Khampan Vilayphone, explained, “We don’t understand why the number of tourists have dropped so much, we’ve interviewed tour guides to find possible reasons why, and they’ve said that it might be the increase of fees for boats and tourist site entrances, plus road access to Nakasang village from Road No 13 has also been in poor shape.”
Boat tickets have increased from 15,000 to 20,000 kip per person to travel to Don Det Island and from 20,000 kip to 25,000 kip per person to travel to Don Khon Island.
“This might have caused the drop in tourists in our area, where we normally see at least five vans on the weekend, and at least two big bus tours per month, we now see very few vans and it’s lucky to see one big bus in a month,” Mr Khampan added.
The main activities while visiting the twin islands include a boat ride to watch river dolphins, visiting waterfalls including the Li Phi Falls or Somphamit, and renting bicycles to explore the island’s many trails.
Other tours introduce visitors to the remnants of a historic colonial French railway, that sought to bypass the mighty rapids the area is renowned for.
To get to the islands from Pakxe, head south on Road No 13 for about 80 km before turning right at Nakasang village. Boats and the friendly locals who navigate the Mekong’s waters will be your guid from there. Boats operate daily from 7am to 5pm.