By Andrew Kolasinski
There was a rumbling in the air and a slight tremor in the ground a kilometer from the falls. As I got closer the rumbling became a thunderous crashing, the ground shook and the air was full of swirling mist. Khane Phapheng Falls in Laos is Southeast Asia’s largest waterfall and the third largest waterfall on earth (by volume of water).
With a discharge of 11,043,569 liters per second, Khane Phapheng has four times the water flow of Niagara Falls). I saw the falls in the dry season but it was still an overwhelming experience, despite falling only 21 meters (69 feet).
Laos is renowned for its many beautiful waterfalls. This mountainous country is criss-crossed with rivers and receives plenty of rain, so waterfalls are inevitable. They are one of Laos’ main attractions for tourists and for Laotians alike. Because there is no coastline, no beaches, Laotians commune with nature around waterfalls, swimming in the pools, picnicking and vacationing.
Laos makes up for its landlocked boundaries with the mighty Mekong River. For most of its course the Mekong can be navigated by cargo ships. The Khane Phapheng Falls is the first impediment to river navigation from the river’s mouth 1,500 kilometers downstream in Vietnam. Khane Phapheng is also an awe inspiring spectacle, and a big tourist attraction. It is one of Laos’ many beautiful waterfalls.
The Khane Phapheng National Park is in the southern part of the country near the border with Cambodia. It is near Don Det and the 4,000 Islands. The park includes viewing platforms, an interpretive center, nature trails and wooden platforms that take you around the base of the falls. Another smaller waterfall also in the 4,000 Islands is Li Phi on the island of Don Khon. This cascade is famous for the beautiful emerald colored water.
In Salavan Province, Tad Lo waterfall is at the center of a concentration of nature resorts and guesthouses. The provincial capital, Pakse is the starting point for most trips to the falls. Jungle treks, river rafting and visits to Wat Phu, the ruins of an ancient Khmer center are other attractions near Pakse.
Near the capital of Laos, Vientiane the Phou Khau Khouay National Protected Area has a couple of famous waterfalls, Tad Leuk and Pha Xay. Tad Luek on the Nam Leuk River drops a mere six meters, but the attraction is the round pools created by the water. Pha Xay descends a series of steps then over a cliff into a heavily forested gorge. The Protected Area is habitat for Asian Black Bears, Gibbons, Macaques, and Rhesus monkeys as well as a herd of wild elephants.
In northern Laos, Luang Prabang is the capital of the eponymous province. Hundreds of years ago, Luang Prabang was the center of the Chaing Thong culture. Three hundred kilometers north of Vientiane, Luang Pragang, a city of 50,000, is noted for its many temples and monasteries at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers. Two waterfalls, Kuang Si and Tat Sae are nearby. Kuang Si drops 60 meters through a series of pools, Tat Sae waterfall is a limestone formation, reached from the village of Ban Amen and then a short boat ride.
If your thirst for waterfalls is really insatiable consider going on the “100 Waterfalls Trek.” This picturesque hike in northern Laos begins with a boat ride from the town of Nong Khiau along the Nam Ou River. An hour’s hike through rice paddies and jungle takes you to the 100 Waterfalls. The exact number of falls varies with the season, so an accurate count is impossible.
Bio: Born in The Hague, Andrew Kolasinski arrived in Canada as a small child riding in the luggage rack of a DC-7. Since then he has felt at home anywhere. As the publisher and editor of Island Angler, Andrew spends half the year fishing for salmon and trout, and in the off-season he travels the world looking for a story. This article was written on behalf of Tucan Travel, providers of adventure tours to Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and all over Southeast Asia.
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