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Donsao Island

Dates: Dec 22, 2016

Route: Boat from Chiang Rai.

The Laotian side of the Golden Triangle is a blatant tourist trap known as Donsao Island that only exists for tourists from the Chiang Rai side to say they have been to Laos. But it is unique enough to warrant a visit that lasts about 2 hours including 30 minute trips back and forth across the Mekong River. This is the only part of Laos that can be visited with no visa or passport nor can visitors enter mainland Laos from here. For around $20, we hired a longtail boat from near the giant golden Buddha on the Thai side of the Golden Triangle. The journey begins with a quick entry into the Myanmar part of the Mekong where you sail by the Paradise Casino and see many working boats from China. As we approached Donsao, we say many children run down to the docks, ready for the incessant begging.

After making sure we knew which boat was ours, we entered the island. The entire place is setup as a massive, open-air market that is common across all of SE Asia. You can find the usual collection of fake clothing, shoes, luggage and handbags in addition to local handicrafts like Laotian scarves and old governmental paraphernalia. But, the main draw of the market is the staggering amount of whiskey that is sold which are infused with snakes (including cobras), lizards, scorpions, geckos and (allegedly) tiger penis extract. It is stunning to see how many creatures have been killed in order to make somebody feel more manly. Depending to the size of the bottle, they ranged from $1-$20. We were told that the whiskey is used as an aphrodisiac and also for medical uses, such as the treatment of back and muscle pain. Needless to say, we did not purchase any. There is not much else to do so we left about 45 minutes after wandering the market.

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