Khammouane - Things to See and Do

Lone Rider

Blokes Who Can
Jan 29, 2011
4 Wheels
Khammouane - Things to See and Do - Part 1

Khammouane Province covers 16,135 square kilometers in central Laos, and is bordered by Bolikhamxay Province to the north and Savannakhet Province to the south. The Mekong River Valley and Thailand make up the western boundary, while the Annamite Mountain Range separates Khammouane from Vietnam in the province’s eastern frontier. Thakhaek is the provincial capital, situated across the Mekong from Nakorn Phanom in Thailand. It also has much well preserved French colonial architecture similar to that found in Vientiane. Khammouane has 10 districts: Thakaek, Mahaxay, Nongbok, Hinboun, Nhommalath, Bualapha, Nakai, Xebangfay, Khounkham and Xaybouathong.

Khammouane, meaning “Happy Gold”, is believed to have been named after the gold deposits found in the area hundreds of years ago. The province’s history dates back as early as the 6th-8th centuries when the region was part of the Sikhottabong Kingdom. Remnants of the ancient civilization include the Great Wall (Kampeng Nyak), Meuang Phone Stupa, and the Sikhottabong Stupa which is one of the most sacred in Laos.


Map of Laos showing the location of Khammouane and another map showing the main attractions and points of interest
Khammouane’s 330,000 inhabitants mostly engage in farming, as the fertile land is well-suited to grow rice, cabbage, sugar cane, bananas, and other fruits and vegetables. The lowland river valley’s population mostly consists of Lao, Phouthai and other Tai-speaking people, while the Makong or Bru, a Mon-Khmer-speaking ethnic minority, make up 13 about per cent of the provincial population. Smaller numbers of Phuan, Tahoy, Kri, Katang, Nguan, Atel, Themarou, and Maleng are mainly found in upland areas and the mountainous eastern region of the province.

National Protected Areas

Of Khammouane Province's total land area of 16,135 square kilometers, 6,295 (39 per cent) falls inside three interconnected National Protected Areas (NPAs): Nakai Nam Theun, Phou Hin Poun and Hin Namno . Three of the world's five most recently discovered or re-discovered large mammals –the Saola, Giant Muntjac, and Indochinese Warty Pig – make their homes in Nakai Nam Teun NPA’s 353,200 ha of sandstone formations, complex habitats, and mountainous elevations ranging from 500-2,200 meters.

Phou Hin Poun is the most popular of the province’s three NPAs, as is easy to access from Thakaek Town or from Ban Na Hin (Ban Khoun Kham) on Route 8. The NPA’s 150,000 ha are characterized by limestone karst mountains and several caves, the largest being the 7.5-km Konglor Cave. Least accessible of the three NPAs is the 82,000-ha Hin Namno, which also features dramatic limestone escarpments and caves, due to its location where the Central Indochina Limestone Mountains collide with the Annamite Chain. You can reach Hin Namno by taking Highway 12 to Muang Boualapha.

Khammouane’s dominant forest types include semi-evergreen, with stands of mixed evergreen and deciduous trees. Most of the forests you see growing around the limestone mountains are semi-evergreen, with unusual stunted vegetation on rocky outcrops and cliff faces. The Nakai Plateau features vast stands of mixed evergreen and pine forests.


The southwestern monsoon dominates Khammouane's weather, as it brings heavy rains from May-October, though storms from the South China Sea and Vietnam supplement the monsoon in Nakai Nam Theun NPA’s mountains. The rains keep the area wet for nine months of the year and support the dense forests needed to sustain rare wildlife species.


“Khammouane” translates as “Happy gold”. The name of the province is believed to have come from the gold deposits found in the area hundreds of years ago.
There are 9 tribes living in the province, representing 3 language groups. The Lao-Tai language group has 4 tribes: the Lao, Tai, Phouthai and Xaak tribes. The Mon-Kmer language group also 4 tribes: the Makong, Tree, Gnuan and Kree tribes; while the Hmong-Ewmian language group has the Hmong tribe at Tadthong Village, in Thakhek District.

Major Festivals
During the full moon in February (or the third lunar month of the Lao calendar) the spectacular Sikhottabong festival is celebrated over several days. This is a special time to pay homage to one of the most sacred Buddhist stupas in the region.

Pii Mai Lao, celebrated during the week of 13-15 April features the Nang Sangkhan Parade and many days of festive water splashing and house-warming parties.

Boun Souang Heua (boat racing festival) This colorful event usually occurring in October is one of the first festivals after the end of Buddhist lent (Ork Phansaa) and is the exciting start of the festival season. In Thakhek, the boat racing festival is a major event and very colorful and competitive. Boat races are held on the Mekong River with teams from Thailand and other Lao provinces competing every year.

Boun Bang Fai(rocket festival) Villagers make rockets from bamboo and homemade gunpowder, dress decadently and parade their rockets noisily around the village begore competing with each other to “unleash the monsoon rains” by blasting their rockets into the sky. This festival often occurs in May before preparing the rice fields for the new growing season.

Boun Kong Khao, or Boun Khai Patou Lau (opening of the rice store) This celebration usually happens after harvest in November, although some villages store newly harvested rice until February and then celebrate. In this festival various households host a progressive dinner with eating, drinking and much loud music and dancing.

Useful contacts and Information

The Khammouane Tourism Office is located at Ban Lao Phaxay, Chao Anou Road, Thakeak District, Khammouane while the Tourism Information Center is located in Ban Chomphet, Chao Anou/Vientiane Rd. Thakheak District, Khammouane, Phone +856-51-212512

Things to See and Do

Khammouane Province is rich in tourist attractions like caves, waterfalls, etc. but, as in most provinces in Laos, there is very little "hard information" available for these attractions. The province has many remaining buildings that date to the colonial period, especially in the provincial capital of Thakhaek. There is an abandoned railway track that was originally planned to connect Laos with Vietnam but never finished, today the only evidence of this endeavor is an old railway bridge over the Nam Done River. Khammouane is also a land of rugged karst mountains which were once the refuge of a succession of ethnic groups fleeing the Haw invasions in the north during the 19th century. The famed Mu Gia pass at the end of route 12 was one of the main transit points of the legendary Ho Chi Minh Trail during the Indochina Wars.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail and the Vietnam War

The Ho Chi Minh Trail was used by the North Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s to send supplies and personnel around the de-militarized zone (DMZ) separating North and South Vietnam. Rather than one long road, the Trail was a multitude of crisscrossing trails that passed through forests and rivers. The trail started near Vinh, North Vietnam and passed through Khammouane’s Mu Gia Pass and lesser passes such as Ban Karai and Ban Raving before penetrating into southern Laos through Savannakhet, Salavanh, Sekong and Attapeu provinces. The Trail re-entered Vietnam at various points and even crossed into the Cambodian border. It took approximately 100 days for a North Vietnamese recruit to march from Vinh to South Vietnam.

Due to Khammouane’s mountainous landscape, most of the traffic on the Trail as well as some of the POL (Petroleum, Oil, Lunricants) pipelines in this area was concentrated between the steep escarpment of the Nakai Plateau (Phu Ak Rang) and the rugged Limestone Karst landscape of what is now included in the Hin Namno National Protected Area. This area was known by the French as the Mu Gia Pass and is referred to by Lao people as Kiu Mu Ya. Besides the paved Rd. 12 from Thakhaek via Gnommalath to the Vietnam border at the Mu Gia Pass there was a second road branching off Rd 12 near the new border post. This is the old road and this road was used during and after the war and this road at that time was one of the border crossings between Laos and Cambodia complete with a border crossing post.


The old border road coming down from the Mu Gia Pass


The old border post


One of the many big bomb craters with part of of the POL pipe line

During the Vietnam War (sometimes called the Indochina War) this road was a muddy track low in the valley passing through stream-beds and squeezed between steep sandstone mountains to the north, and a maze of giant limestone monoliths to the south (Hin Nam No National Protected Area). Once the pass was negotiated, a further “choke-point” through limestone karsts near Phanop and Vangkhone proved to be the narrowest constriction along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.


This constriction caused this area to be one of the most heavily armed sites, and in-turn, the site of most concentrated aerial bombardment on the trail. Because the area was so heavily bombed, the local villagers as well as Vietnamese (NVA) soldiers often sought shelters in the caves in the karst mountains such as the Tham Nam and the Tham Bing cave (coordinates approximately N17.54858 E105.74772) south of Ban Nongboua as well as other caves like the Tham Pheow Maa and Tham Peow Khong near Ban Vangkhone (Ban Vangkhone - coordinates N17.50650 E105.72339). In 1969 a Phantom F-4C was shot down near Ban Phanop and one of its wingtips, after having been used in the local school as a black-board, is now on show at the Budhist temple (Wat) in the village (coordinates N17.53802 E105.74418).



The wingtip of the Phatom F-4C at the Ban Phanop Temple

In order to visit the caves, contact the Village Guides in Ban Nongboua - more info on this area can be found in a brochure produced by the Hin Nam No National Protected Area (see Mu-gia-pass and the Ho-chi-minh-trailll).

Other Caves

Due to the mountainous nature of Khammouane province with lots of karts formations, a lot of caves can be found in the province. While most are off-limits for visitors, there are also quite a few which can be visited, notable the Konglor Cave, the Xe Bangfai or Tham Koun Xe cave, the Tham Pha Fa or Buddha cave, Tham Xang cave (also known as Tham Nyai or Tham Phose and Ban Tham cave), Tham Xienglieb, Tham Nang Ean, Tham Pha Nya In, Tham Phachan cave also known as the Sandalwood Buddha Cave. Tham Phi Seua also known as Tiger Spirit Cave and as Butterfly Cave, Tham Heup and many lesser known caves like the Bat cave (sometimes also called Buddha cave), the Tham Phabang cave, the Tham Pha Xang , the Tham Luang cave, the Lom Yan cave, etc.

Xe Bangfai Cave also known as Tham Koun Xe (sometimes also called Tham Namlot/Nam Lode)
Located in the south east of Khammouane in the Bualapha District, the Xe Bangfai Cave is one of the most impressive known cave systems. The cave stretches for approximately 9.5 km. and is home to some beautiful scenery and also interesting features such as fireflies and 10-inch spiders. There are two ways to get there with both options branching of to the south from Rd. 12. At Mahaxai turn south till you reach Ban Panam. From there head east to Bualapha and from there follow the signs to the Xe Bangfai Cave located at N17.37222 E105.83913. Most of the road is unpaved and may be very dusty in the dry season.

The other option is to stay on Rd 12 almost till the border with Vietnam. At Ban Langkang (guesthouses available) head south till you reach Bualapha. From Ban Langkang to Bualapha and onwards to the cave is unpaved and there is one big river crossing but small boats are available to cross with a bicycle or a motorbike.

There is a guesthouse in Bualapha (not very good) as well as home-stay options near the Xe Bangfai cave. The other




Konglor Cave
This amazing 7.5 km-long limestone cave was formed by the Hinboun River which still flows through the cave year-round. You can take a boat ride right through the main cave, which is up to 90 meters wide and 100 meters high. The Konglor Cave can be reached via a 40 km overland trip from Ban Khoun Kham (the Gateway to Konglor) or by taking a slightly longer but more adventurous boat trip up the Hinboun River beginning in Naphouak village. Homestays are available in Natan and Konglor villages.
The easiest way to get to the Konglor cave is from Rd 8 - at Ban Nahin (Khounkham District follow the signs to the Konglor cave at N17.95913 E104.75408. There are guesthouses both in Ban Nahin on Rd 8 as well as near the Konglor Cave






Both the Xe Bangfai Cave as well as the Konglor Cave are on "The Thakhaek Loop" - see the map below"

Buddha Cave (Tham Pha Fa)

The Tham Pa Fa Cave, located near Na Khang Xang Village in Thakhaek District, recently came into the news following the discovery of 229 Buddha statues in a previously unexplored cave. In April 2004, a local villager by the name of Mr. Boun Nong entered the small cave opening located about 15 m. from ground level. He had noticed bats entering the cave and decided to climb a vine to investigate, with the intention of collecting bats (a local delicacy).

Passing through the small cave entrance he looked down into the cavern below and to his amazement saw a large Buddha statue. Proceeding down into the cave he realized that there were over 200 Buddha statues ranging in size from 15 cm. to over 1 m. tall. For one week he did not tell anyone in the village, as he did not believe what he had seen and thought that it might just be his imagination, but finally returned with a group of nine villagers to re-investigate. Word about the new discovery soon spread, and the cave has become one of Khammouane's most visited attractions. The villagers have since organized themselves to guard the cave and its sacred Buddha statues 24 hours a day.

The Buddha images are a collection from the Sikhottabong and the Lane Xang eras, with some thought to be of Khmer and Vietnamese origin. Together with the images, palm leaf manuscripts written in ancient Lao script, Lane Xang-style dharma, Lanna-style dharma, Pali dharma and ancient Khmer scripts are also present. It is unknown how these treasures came to be in the cave. The cave is named after the lake located at the foot of the cliff, Nong Pa Fa (meaning "Lake of Soft-Shelled Turtle"). The limestone formations within the cave are quite spectacular and add to the natural beauty of the cave. There is a small entrance fee for visitors. Please also note that in this cave photography is prohibited. Close to the cave are stalls selling snacks, drinks, seasonal fruits and incense produced in the village.



Wooden ladder


Originally people had to climb a bamboo ladder to get to the caves but later on, when the number of visitors increased, the bamboo ladder was replaced by a wooden ladder and no a concrete stucture has been erected with a concrete stair.




From Thakhaek head east along Rd 12 into the direction of Mahaxay. At N17 26.117 E104 51.328 head northwest and follow the signs to the Buddha Cave which is located at N17.47659 E104.85173. Alternatively head further east and at N17.44989 E104.87942 head east over a new bridge which is under cosntruction (2015)

Tham Xang Cave (also called Ban Tham Cave, Tham Nyai or Tham Phose)

This cave used to be feared by local people due to a limestone formation inside the cave that was shaped like an evil monster's head. It was even taboo to drink from the waters that flowed from the cave. In 1956 when poor health engulfed the village, the villagers decided to destroy the "evil head" forever, and henceforth exploded it with dynamite. Soon after this, an elephant head miraculously formed in a different site in the cave, and the health of the villagers improved. Since then, the elephant head has been revered and the cave has become an important Buddhist shrine.

Pilgrims visit the site every year, typically around the Lao New Year, to sprinkle water on the elephant head and perform prayers for good health. The elephant head can be found along a small passage (flashlight needed) in the top right hand corner of the cave behind the large golden Buddha. Village elders believe that it is also taboo to hit the head of the elephant, hunt for bats, or consume alcohol in this cave.

From the steep stairs to the cave there are fine views of the plain stretching to the Mekong River. There are also interesting Buddhist decorations in the cave, including several Buddhist statues and a small black box containing Buddhist literature. on another, Japanese soldiers used the bat droppings from this cave to make gun powder during World War II, and in the 1960-1970s the cave was used for shelter and protection during the Indochina War.





How to get there: This is the closest cave to Thakhaek, and can be seen from a considerable distance as you approach Ban Tham village (actually meaning cave village). The cave is located 9km northeast of Thakhaek. Follow Route 12 (road to Mahaxay) until it splits at km7, then keep to the right and you should be able to see the cave entrance in the distant cliff directly ahead. Cross a small river by foot and pass vegetable patches as you approach the cave. Visiting the cave during the wet season is difficult due to flooding of the river. Alternatively one can continue along Route 12 to the bridge then turn right following the dirt road that also passes by the cave. There are some tuk-tuk in Ban Tham village to send you home as well.

Tham Xieng Lieb Cave

Xieng means "former novice" and Lieb means "sneaking around". Thus, this cave is named after a former novice who was sneaking around, in love with the daughter of a mountain hermit, looking for an opportunity to catch a glimpse or her in the cave. The entrance to this spectacular cave lies beneath a 300m cliff but has now been partially blocked by a large rock fall. Flowing through the cave is the Houay Xienglieb stream, which can be navigated by boat during the rainy season. During the dry season you can walk through the cave (with care) to explore the scenic valley beyond. Swimming is possible at the far side of the cave.

The cave is approximately 200 m long with impressive limestone formations on the cave ceiling, and it is said that this cave also contains many historical drawings. Because there is enough natural light penetrating the cave you do not need a flashlight to find your way around, but do be prepared to get your feet wet. Residents of this cave include Pa Fa (soft-shelled turtle), as well as many bats. The cliffs around the cave protect the rare Francois Langur and the recently discovered Kha Nyou (Laotian rock rat). Villagers traditionally use the cave to escape the heat but request that people do not sleep inside.



How to get there: This cave is located 14 km northeast of Thakhaek on Route 12, near the village of Ban Songkhone. From the bridge at N17.44404 E104.85978 over the Houay Xienglieb stream you can either walk or ride a boat to the cave. There are several kiosks on the road; a dirt track on the right hand side leads to the cave (approximately 400m).

Tham Nang Aen Cave

The legend of this cave is linked to Tham Xieng Lieb Cave. The story goes, that Xieng, the young former novice who went looking for the beautiful daughter of the hermit at Tham Xieng Lieb Cave, met with her at the entrance of this cave. Here the two lovers sat (meaning nang in Lao) and flirted (aen kan). Hence the name Tham Nang Aen (Cave of Sitting and Flirting). This cave is a favorite weekend destination for Lao and Thai people and is a great place to cool off from the heat because of the constant cool breeze blowing out of cave's natural air conditioning. The cave is up to 30m high in some places and over 1.5km long. It contains a small underground lake and impressive limestone formations. The cave is well lit and cement walkways and steps have been constructed for visitor safety. The large cave entrance is accessed through a wooden ceremonial structure built in 1987 for the visit of the Princess of Thailand. On the grounds just outside the cave is a simple zoo with several animals and a very large Mai Kaphoung tree (Tetrameles nudiflora).



How to get there: The cave is located 18km northeast of Thakhaek on Route 12. Turn right at the sign at N17.44874 E104.95235 and go 700m along the access road, crossing a small river along the way. If the river is flooded you can cross using the small foot-bridge. Restaurant facilities are available in the dry season. There is small entrance fee.

Tham Pha Nya In Cave

This cave is named after Pha Nya In, an archangel featured in many Lao stories as the link between the humans and the gods. This little-known cave is well worth visiting. After climbing up a cement stairway to your left is a small passageway leading to two Buddhist shrines with several Buddha images (take a flashlight). You can also climb down into the cave itself (please take care) to view a small underground lake 75m long (depth unknown). On the far side of the lake is another cave. Swimming or washing in the lake is prohibited as the water is considered holy and is said to have magical powers used to treat the sick.



How to get there: The cave is located 17km northeast of Thakhaek on Route 12. There is no sign, but turn left at N17.46004 E104.91340 through a blue cement gateway and go 400 meters to the cave.

Tham Phachanh Cave (Cave of the Sandalwood Buddha)

Tham Phachan cave is one of the most impressive caves in the area. It is open at two ends, cutting about 600m through a limestone mountain and has a 60 x 100m entrance in the shape of a giant dome. A stream flows through this tunnel, and in some spots, logs and forest debris have washed downstream into the cave. A major fracture in the roof of the cave can be seen and is likely to be the reason for the development of its large cathedral-like structure. As you enter the western entrance, to the left is a ledge 15m above the cave floor where a small monastery with several Buddhist images can be seen. One of the images is made from sandalwood (Mai Chan), hence giving the cave its name. About half-way through the cave, in a side passage on the right hand side (south) are long-eared bats roosting in crevices (please do not disturb them). The cave, which used to be inhabited by monks, is now used for meditation and is visited during the New Year Festival (mid-April) by hundreds of local people who come to sprinkle water on the head of the sandalwood Buddha image and get soaked in the cave's stream. During the wet season the waters in the cave can rise about 3m and it may be inaccessible by foot.




How to get there: Head in the same direction of the Buddha Cave. Instead of heading west at N17.47815 E104.87152 to the Buddha Cave go straight on to Ban Nase at N17.51435 E104.87042. Turn north-west here and at N17.56197 E104.82453 head east to the cave which is located at N17.56632 E104.85161. In the wet season the trail is often flooded and you may not be able to reach the cave. Anyway, it is not recommended that you try to find this cave yourself.

Tham Heup Cave (also known as Tham Katuap)

Tham Heup is a large and impressive cave that you can walk right through. The cave is 1.1 km. long, and has some beautiful rock formations, a pond, and a beach. The entrance is 20m wide and 15m high, with a interior that varies from 10 m. to 30 m. high. You can walk through the whole cave and at the other end of the cave your will find Ban Na with some remains of an ancient town called Alan. The area covers over 20 hectares and you will be able to see some remains of a number of buildings built of brick.





How to get there: The cave can be accessed from Rd 13S. Head north for about 78 km and at Ban Laokha turn to the east along an unpaved road to Ban Nakhok (N18.00050 E104.42453) . Alternatively you can also continue another 10 km north along Rd 13S and at Ban Viengthong head east to Ban Nakhok. At Ban Nakhok cross the Hinboun river (a local guide is required for these visits and can be arranged in Ban Nakhok). The cave is about 1.5 km. walking to the east. In the wet season the cave can be reached by boat along a branch of the Hinboun River near Ban Nakhok. About 3-4 km. south-east of the cave is a beautiful sacred forest with an abandoned temple. Also in the area is a small Buddha cave called Tham Jong.

Tham Phabang

This narrow cave has a wooden image of a thin standing Buddha called the Phabang. Although less then 1 m. tall it is quite elegant and said to be over 300 years old. Although it has been knocked over and partially broken by resident monkeys, this image has been maintained throughout the centuries by villagers that have prevented it from rotting or being eaten by termites. Another larger bronze Buddha, which now resides in the village temple, also used to be inside this cave. According to local legend the image, originally called Pha Thong (bronze Buddha) was renamed Pha Ong Saen (meaning the Buddha 100,000), when a robber attempted to take the valuable piece but could not lift it due to a mysterious change in weight.


How to get there: Tham Phabang Cave can be reached with a local guide from the Ban Nakheu Village Guide Association. Ban Nakheu (Na Kue) is located close to the Bat Cave as well as the "Blue Lake" or Khoun Kongleng Lake (see below for "How to get there"). The guide will take you about 1.5km across paddy fields and up a stream to the mouth of the cave. A small payment to the local guide is appreciated.

Tham Phi Suea (Tiger Sprit Cave also known as the Butterfly Cave)

The cave is approached through a lovely forest with a slope leading up to the mouth of the cave about 15m above the valley floor. The entrance is an impressive arch of about 40m wide and 25m high. At the entrance is a rocky, sloping trail with some pools on the right side. The cave's main trail leads down to a junction-take the path on the left past some large boulders to a chamber about 40m wide and 40m high. Wildlife around this cave includes Francois Langur, macaque, serow and kha nyou. Tham Phi Seua is a sacred cave that is believed to be inhabited by spirits.


How to get there: This cave is accessible by walking through rice paddy fields about 2.5km from Ban Phon Ton Village.

The Bat Cave

The Bat cave (some times also called "Buddha Cave) as the local population found Buddha statues in the cave) is located just past (north of) Ban Thami (turnoff to Ban Thami is at N17.65773 E104.77161 off road 5642) which is close to the Blue Lake also known as Khoun Kongleng (see below for "How to get there"). There are 41 known species of bats in Phou Hin Poun National Biodiversity Conservation Area (not sure how many species can be found in this particular Bat Cave But there is much further in the Phou Hin Poun NBCA area a single cave called Tam Houay Si which is "home" to 22 Bat species.

Tham Lom Yan

Tham Lom Yan has a wind blowing from the cave and this cools the air at its mouth - in Lao words it means Windy cave. The cave is small and is located quite close to Gnommalath. It is popular with the younger generation.


To get there, head east along Rd. 12 from Thakhaek and at the junction where the road 1E turns north to Gnommalath and the Nam Theun 2 hydropower project keep heading east till N17.57336 E105.22439. Turn north here along Rd. 5526 for about 2 km and you will find the cave on your right at N17.58446 E105.21703.

Tham Luang

No further info other that that the population of Ban Bouamlou is using Tham Luang as a shortcut to get supplies as people can walk through the cave. The cave is located at N17.76324 E104.66907 near Ban Nathan and the Nam Pakan stream runs through the cave. The cave can be reached from Rd. 5522 which branches of from Rd. 13S at Ban Sixomxun / Ban Samakkixay

Pha Xang Cave

Another Buddha cave (located at N17.93437 E104.43928) which is virtually unknown. It is located north of Thakheakand can be reached by following Rd. 13 S north till you reach Ban Laokha where you head east to this cave as well as the Tham Heup cave (see above). Follow the road and at N17.94061 E104.44142 head south till you see the cave on the east side.


Note: Most of the text and pictures shown here have been borrowed from information material produced by the Lao National Tourism Association and similar sources of information

To be continued with the section on "Waterfalls, etc. in Khammouane and "Cultural Sites of Khammouane" as the size of the post is limited to 40000 characters
Khammouane - Things to See and Do - Part 2

Continued from Part 1


Tad Nam Sanam Waterfall

This large twin waterfall cascading off the sandstone massif of Phou Phaman Mountain. It flows all year round and is surrounded by a Provincial Protected Area with pristine tropical forest. The path from the road follows the river for about 1.5km through semi-evergreen forest and ends at the falls. This waterfall is easily accessible by walking from Khoun Kham Village (also known as Ban Nahin) on Route 8 and it is 182km from Thakhaek.


Tad Mouang Waterfall

This waterfall has a total of eighteen tiers and flows all year round. The first, or lowest, tier is accessible by walking 1km from Route 8 near Khoun Kham Village (Ban Nahin). The walking trail goes through beautiful old forest and is part of the trail network surrounding Tad Nam Sanam. The other tiers are reached by climbing up a path along the ridge to the right hand side of the falls. There are some large trees along this trail including many wild species of mango tree, thus giving its name, "Mango Waterfall" (mouang means mango in Lao).



Khoun Kongleng Lake (also known as the Blue Lake)

Legend has it that in the evening, on the full moon each month, the sound of a drum can be heard ringing from this lake, which was consequently named "Evening Kong Lake" or Khoun Kongleng in Lao. Located approximately 30 kilometres north of Thakhaek, this small but spectacular emerald coloured water springs from an underground river that is filtered through a mass of limestone in the surrounding mountains and bedrock.

This water is crystal clear and you can see large fish in the depths below. The area around the lake is very clean because of a strict code maintained by the local villagers. A shaded area near the access point provides an ideal picnic area. Swimming is only permitted in the cool, clean waters of the lake's outflow stream, near the wooden footbridge. Fishing is not permitted in the lake itself, but villagers may fish in the river flowing from the lake. Trails lead around the lake and into the surrounding forest, which is well worth exploring (stay to the main trails). Both the lake and the forest fall within the boundaries of the Phou Hin Poun National Protected Area.


How to get there: Getting to Khoun Kongleng Lake was quite challenging in itself but after the road has been upgraded it is much easier to reach although there is still a short stretch of road which is bad as it has not (yet) been upgraded. Go north some 30 km. from the junction of Rd. 13S and Rd. 12 and head east just after the bridge of the Houay Het stream. From here continue for another 21 km. to the the Khoun Kongleng lake. After about 15.5 km. you will pass the turnoff to the north to Ban Thami and the Bat Cave and after another 4 km. you reach Ban Nakheu (Na Kue). Here ask permission from the local village authorities before proceeding to the lake, which lies another 1 kilometer further along the dirt road.

Tha Falang

Tha Falang (located at N17.46856 E104.91297) was during the French time and still is is a swimming spot in the river about 15km east along route 12. It is a somewhat disappointing in the dry season but the ride and friendly children still make this trip good fun. There is no signage in English so you will need to turn off to the north, down a sandy track just after the turnoff to the Xieng Lieb Cave (south) and just before the turnoff to the Pha Nya Inh Cave (north).


Nam Don Resurgence (also known as Khoun Nam Don)

A beautiful lagoon is created as the Nam Don River emerges from a cave (approximate location at N17.56293 E104.87173) below a large cliff which is some 300 m. tall. You can ride a boat into the cave for about 20m then the river disappears into extensive underground tunnels. The cave continues for 3km into the mountain. A French survey team in 1998 discovered a new genus of blind cave fish 150 m. inside the cave at a depth of 23 m. This fish is small, pale and has no exterior eyes, which would be useless in this completely dark environment. Local fishermen sometimes place nets just outside the cave local so be careful when swimming. You can enter the cave by swimming or ask local fisherman to take you in by canoe. During the wet season the river rises considerably and the Nam Don River becomes navigable by boat. This location is a great picnic spot or swimming hole, with a shady forest near the cliffs that provides an ideal resting place for walkers. On the other side of the Nam Don River is a small Buddhist shrine.



Khon Keo Rapids and Swimming

The Khon Keo rapids are located near Ban Khonkeo (coordinates N17.68773 E104.70228) and is a nice sport for swimming as well as a picnic.



The Giant Wall (Kampaengyak)

Legend has it that giant wall, which is 15 kilometers long, was erected in the 9th century by the ancient Sikhottabong Kingdom. Some say, however, that it is a natural sandstone formation which was incorporated into the civilization's defense system. The best place to visit the Giant Wall is 8 km north of Thakhaek on Route 13 where it reaches a height of 16 meters with an unbroken section 75 meters long. There is also a small shrine constructed by the French that contains a statue of the Virgin Mary and which was used as a church during the Franch time.



Sikhottabong Stupa

The Sikhottabong Stupa was built at the same time as the That Inhang Stupa in Savannakhet and That Phanom in Thailand. These were constructed in the Sikhottabong Empire for keeping the Bones of Lord Buddha. At first, it was bulit by King Nanthasene for King Soummitham then it was restored by King Saysetthathirath in the 16th Century. It is located along the bank of the Mekong River 6km from Thakhaek. The festival is performed on the third month of lunar calendar. This 29 meter high golden stupa is one of the most sacred sites in Laos.




Muang Phone Stupa

This is one of the most worshipped shrines in Thakhaek District and because of its secluded location it is used as a retreat for Buddhist Monks. The stupa is said to have been first constructed during 6th-8th Century and was restored in 1963. To one side of the stupa are several Buddhist statues of interest. It can be found just a bit south-west of the Pha Chanh Cave and is located at N17.57343 E104.83528


Ho Chi Minh Memorial / Museum

A few years ago a Ho Chi Minh Memorial / Museum was built in Xiangvang village, Khammouane Province, where President Ho Chi Minh lived and worked during his time of revolutionary activities in Laos. The Memorial is located south of Thakheak and be reached by following Rd. 11 along the Mekong till you reach Ban Xiangvang-Tha - The memorial is located at coordinates: N17.14511 E104.79893.


Bo Phontiu Tin Mines

The Bo Phontiu Tin Mines in Hinboun District have been an important source of metal for local people over centuries and continues to be mined today. Commercial mining began in the 1920’s by the French, and subsequently there remain buildings like the old Church (coordinates N17.89866 E104.59609) and old mining equipment from the colonial period on site. You can get there by heading north from Thakhaek and at Ban Sixomxun head north-east along Rd. 5522 (upgraded unpaved road) till you reach Phontiou / Mouangkhai.




Note: Most of the text and pictures shown here have been borrowed from information material produced by the Lao National Tourism Association and similar sources of information
Is R 12 at the Mu Gia pass in decent condition?

Mu Gia by Triangle Golden 007, on Flickr

The road is not very good as it has quite a few potholes due to the large number of heavy trucks using the road. The potholes are filled in from time to time to ensure that the trucks can use the road. Sometimes, when a truck breaks down, you may have to wait some time as the trucks try to get past the broken down trucks but there is almost always a way around things as you can see in the attached picture.

Great source of information, thanks Auke.

The Blue Lake is just fabulous. I can just see you (and me) on the bridge here...

Khammouane - Things to See and Do - Part 2


The Giant Wall (Kampaengyak)

Legend has it that giant wall, which is 15 kilometers long, was erected in the 9th century by the ancient Sikhottabong Kingdom. Some say, however, that it is a natural sandstone formation which was incorporated into the civilization's defense system. The best place to visit the Giant Wall is 8 km north of Thakhaek on Route 13 where it reaches a height of 16 meters with an unbroken section 75 meters long. There is also a small shrine constructed by the French that contains a statue of the Virgin Mary and which was used as a church during the Franch time.



Khammuan tightens up preservation of Great City Wall

Khammuan provincial authorities are working to preserve a massive ancient rock wall, known as the Great City Wall, which lies alongside a road in Thakhaek district and is being damaged by local people. Thakaek district Governor Mr Chan Boupphalivanh told Vientiane Times “Sections of this wall are located along a 10-kilometre road in the centre of Thakhaek. It is 5-10 metres tall.” It is believed to date back as far as the 6th century. The Great City Wall is a remnant of the ancient civilisation of the Sikhottabong Kingdom.

But local villagers are building houses and makeshift shops in the area and ignoring the fact that the wall is in a conservation area. In addition, commercial buildings are springing up near the wall although they have not yet had any significant impact, according to local authorities. Director of the province’s Information, Culture and Tourism Department, Mr Khanti Phothin, said the site was a conservation area but business operators were in the process of developing sites close by. “We are planning to more closely regulate this conservation area but we need to carry out another survey. Many parts of the City Wall have not yet been registered for management purposes,” Mr Khanti said.

Source: Vientiane Times - (Latest Update May 18, 2018)

Note LR: A short video of the wall - during the French time, there was a catholic church on the west side of the wall shown briefly around 0.34 in this video

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