Champasak is not such a familiar name on the traveller’s list, but just because it’s not in a guidebook doesn’t mean it’s not worth exploring. This province in southwestern Laos owns some hidden charms and utmost tranquillity. Nearly the entire town is laid out along a single road paralleling the Mekong River, therefore getting there is possible both over land and by boat.
Champasak boasts some uniqueness of southern Laos: Vat Phou – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A well-preserved planned landscape was shaped to express the Hindu vision of the relationship between nature and humanity. A geometric pattern of temples, shrines and waterworks extends from mountain top to river bank while clear aspects of Khmer, Hindu, and Buddhist dogma are represented in its architectural, ritualistic and artistic designs.
From the entrance, a long stone-paved path introduces the site’s first level before the stone staircase, shaded with frangipani blossoms, leads upstairs to other higher levels. At the top level, it’s possible to look back over the entire complex as well as the Mekong River shimmering in the distance.
Deep in the most southern Laos is Si Phan Don – an archipelago of islands in the middle of Mekhong River. Literally meaning ‘Four Thousand Islands’, Si Phan Don is characterised by numerous islands. Some are small and submerged in wet season while others are large and even own forests and mountains.
The largest island is Don Khon where Khon Phapheng Falls, or the so-called Niagara of Asia, exists. Said to be the widest falls in the world, the waterfalls are the habitat of rare species like the largest freshwater catfish in the world and the endangered freshwater Irrawaddy Dolphin.
Bolaven Plateau is another fame of Champasak, thanks to its great scenery. The plateau is green all year round and surrounded by a number of protected national parks, dense jungle, spectacular waterfalls, hilltribe villages, and fertile plains where the country’s best tea and coffee are planted.
The impressive Tad Fane, located on the edge of the Dong Houa Sao National Protected Area, is best observed from the welcoming Tad Fane Resort. The double stream falls over 100 metres down the steep cliffs giving breathtaking views. Nearby Tad Yuang is gorgeous and also inviting with picnic and swimming areas. The path leads first to the pools at the top of the falls and then the stone steps bring downwards to the stunning spot where the whole cascade is revealed.
Swing by Pha Suam Waterfall on the way to see another pretty set of falls. This waterfall gets its name from its rectangular room-like shape, as Suam literally means room in Lao. There’s a great spot to stay overnight in unique tree-top bungalows or a family homestay in an on-site ethnic village.
Dusk could be more enchanting here with the riverboat journey. Embark from the private dock to cruise along the Mekong River and enjoy a private sunset with a light supper and cocktail. During the High Season, the sandy beach at Turtle Island, in the middle of the Mekong, would be a miraculous place for the end of the day.
Text by Thanisara Ruangdej / Photos by Pimlada Thanachoknitiwat
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