Experience Phou Khao Khouay

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Visit Waterfalls & Homestay in Ban Hat Khai

“How much longer?” we collectively cry after departing by boat on a shallow river. After the journey, we trek about 2 hours into the forest on a trail spanning many mountains, and the path is jumbled, dark, and steep in some places in order to reach Tad Xay Waterfall in the Phou Khao Khouay National Protected Area. While our feet slowly move us through the humidity, our local guide calls out to tell us it is just another 15 minutes before reaching our destination. Full of determination to have a good soak in the water, we muster our strength for the last walk to Tad Xay.

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In reality, the trip to see Tad Xay Waterfall is not that difficult because cars can reach it. From the parking area to the waterfall, it’s only 200 meters. But as we want to experience the lush nature of the Phou Khao Khouay National Protected Area, we decided to embark on a soft adventure by taking a boat and trekking to the cascades. Even though it requires more exertion, the benefits are more worthwhile. In addition to a dip in the clear refreshing water, if you sit at the base of the falls, the pressure of the falling water massages fatigue away entirely, like a Jacuzzi.

 

On return from the waterfall, the Tourism Office in Ban Hat had arranged a vehicle to collect us, which made the journey much more comfortable. If we had walked back, it would have taken many more hours. That night we stayed in a homestay in Ban Hat Khai, which had 2 bedrooms along with a kitchen and a bathroom. It was built especially to receive tourists. This house is situated on the Nam Mang River. There are many large ancient trees circling the house that helped make the atmosphere of this homestay the most pleasant in Bolikhamxay Province. Our group was welcomed and cared for very well by the representative from the village, along with the team of cooks who prepared dinner and breakfast and left us very satisfied.

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When we returned from the waterfall to the village in the early evening, the aroma of food wafted from the kitchen along with the warm smell of sticky rice. Our mouths began to water and it aroused our stomachs. We quickly showered and changed and sat down to eat together in a circle. Dinner this day was a very special menu that pleased us all very much. It included a free-range chicken soup which was a traditional village specialty handed down through the generations. The cooks revealed to us the secret of the broth; they use Rosella leaves and the young leaves of custard apples. In addition to this, we had bamboo shoots steamed in banana leaves, bamboo shoot soup, and papaya salad, accompanied by warm sticky rice. It was all incredibly tasty. During our meals, we talked with the villagers in this warm and friendly setting; it was almost like visiting the home of a relative!

 

In the early morning, when we were still half-asleep on the bed, we could hear the cooks preparing breakfast for us. For sure it was going to be a special meal, so we roused ourselves out of bed and hurried to try the food. We found that the table was filled with delicious-looking food. Highlights included Xoup Phak made from local vegetables found in the area, steamed, and seasoned to a full flavour; Mok Kung which made from tiny freshwater shrimp found near the waterfall and steamed in a banana leaf and seasoned. In addition to this, there was a fermented fish spicy dip, a sour bamboo shoot spicy dip, and grilled catfish, which made breakfast an impressive meal. The way Ban Hat Khai villagers live is genuinely charming.

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Travel Information

From Vientiane Capital, take Rte. 13 south until KM 90, then turn left and follow the signs for the Phou Khao Khouay National Protected Area. To contact the homestay and get more information Tel: 020 2224 0303, 2243 8138

 

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