Guided Tours around Attapeu
Lots to do
What we say:
The following activities can be undertaken, in whole or in part, on your own, but in most cases and for most travellers, guided tours will be the way to go. Unexploded ordnance is still a problem in the area, though if you stick to the beaten path, this shouldn't be a problem. The real obstacle is finding some of these remote sights, which are largely unmarked -- also medical emergencies and motorcycle breakdowns can quickly turn your trek into a logistical nightmare. If you try the more challenging bits on your own, make sure you know how to ask for help in Laos.
Scaled down versions of all these treks can be undertaken as independent day-trips by motorbike. Guided tours can be arranged at Attapeu Travel at the Attapeu Palace. Presently the entire operation is being run by Mr. Ngai, a scrappy young man who's a hell of a nice guy and speaks excellent English. Plan ahead, as guides are in short supply and trips don't leave every day. Prices vary widely depending on how much or how little you want to attempt, but expect to pay about US$50 per person per day for small groups, and as a little as US$15 per person per day for larger groups.
Xepian River, Tad Samongphak, Tad Saepha
One of the tours on offer at Attapeu Travel at the Attapeu Palace starts off by travelling 48km to Samamxai district. There's a stop at Nonglom Lake to view 'bird life,' but when we visited the place we saw no birds and weren't all that impressed with the small lake. The strip does offer some stunning views of the edge of the Boulevan Plateau looming above this low-lying area, but the road is strewn with golf-ball sized gravel, making a motorbike trip a slow, bumpy experience -- the 48km trip takes two hours. The road terminates in the quiet, rural village of Ban Mai along the Xepian River.
You can get to Tad Samongphak on foot or by motorbike, though it's necessary to cross the river by boat -- 2,000 kip per person, 3,000 more for a motorbike. From there it's ten kilometres -- a long hike and a technically challenging motorbike ride. You'll have to stop and ask for directions along the way, but you'll eventually wind up on a logging road with an irrigation canal down the center, which finally terminates in a cow path through the forest and lets out at the top of the lower set of falls -- the water there is excellent for swimming. There's a path on either side that leads downstream to an extremely treacherous, rotting, bamboo bridge across the base of the falls -- we crossed it, but felt lucky to be alive when we were done.
In order to visit Saepha Falls overland, it's necessary to cross the river. It's very tricky to get a motorbike across this stretch of the river, but the locals know how to do it, so if you're keen to press on, you'll probably want to round some of them up and pay them to do it for you. From there it's another 6km to Saepha.
To get to the upper set of the Samongphak falls, you'll need to charter a boat up the river -- takes one hour, costs US$5 per person. From there it's a six-kilometre walk along a path to the Saepha Falls, which takes three hours. Apparently there's a short cut that, while not as scenic, will get you there more quickly -- ask around.
Guided tours covering the area usually offer a home stay in Ban Mai. Unless you start very early in the morning indeed, it will likely be dark by the time you've properly explored the area, so a night in the village makes sense -- you can show up and arrange a home stay on your own just by asking around -- expect to contribute at least 20,000 kip per person for accommodation, and chip in for meals as well.
Attapeu Travel offer a 2 to 3 day trek to the Saephonglai Waterfall. It starts early in the morning with a trip to Tamayot village, 60km away. After crossing the Xepian River by boat, it's a 12km hike to Ban Tamayot, an ethnic Su village. The falls are another 18km further on. By the time you get there it'll be getting dark, so its necessary to spend a night camping at the falls, so you'll have to bring your own gear or scare some up in Attapeu. Return the next day with an optional overnight home-stay in Tamayot Village. This requires nearly 40km of hiking, so you should be fairly fit for this trek. A motorbike version which requires less walking is also available.
About 45 km from Attapeu town is a spot called Pa Am where an old Russian surface-to-air missile launcher is on display, along a stretch of the Ho Chi Minh trail. You can get here by motorbike or on a guided tour. The trip can be extended to include the Saephonglai Waterfall. A two day trek may include an overnight in an Alak tribal village, and a third day can be added for a night of camping.
Nong Fa Lake
This huge, serene, crystal-clear lake (sometimes called Nong Kai Ok, or Cock Lake) is believed to have been formed by a volcanic eruption millions of years ago, and the local inhabitants regard it as sacred. It used to be accessible by motorbike or 4WD vehicle via a dirt road used by a Vietnamese company that was logging in the area. In 2003, however, their license expired and they pulled out, leaving the road to deteriorate so badly it's now impassable except on foot. The only way to get there now is via a 5 to 6 day trek that costs about 350 USD per person. If you've got the time, the money, and the physical fitness to handle it, it comes highly recommended by those who have undertaken it. Plan way in advance by contacting Mr. Ngai at Attapue travel or another guided tour outfit operating in the area.
T: (036) 211 204;(020) 552 2219;(020) 240 9186
F: (036) 211 834
E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
More detailsVia Attapeu Travel, Attapeu Palace Hotel
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