A scenic ride through the countryside
Published/Last edited or updated: 2nd June, 2018
Once “just a waterfall” in Phou Hiphi national conservation forest, Nam Kat waterfall is now the centre of an eco-tourism attraction/resort that is trying to put Udomxai on the tourist map.
A single cascade pours from the jungle, tumbling past boulders to create a series of small falls downstream. Nam Kat waterfall is still picture perfect and a refreshingly cool place for a swim, but the way there is no longer au naturel as the park now has a “choose your own adventure” approach to reaching the trailhead.
The entrance to Namkat Yorlapa is 17 km from the city centre, a relatively easy drive through the countryside on freshly made road—they are pulling out all the stops to make this a top draw and clearly the owners have some sort of concession deal with the government for the land.
Once you enter the grounds, the resort and outdoor adventure park are separate. For the latter, follow the road, which has several sections where streams run over it. From the welcome centre, it is 5 km to the trailhead along a paved road through the forest. The basic option means taking a shuttle, then a guide accompanies the group (everyone on the shuttle) on the one kilometre journey to the falls which involves hiking on a natural trail with some steep climbs and the “sky walk” of 13 rope and wood suspension bridges in the canopy. These are rather fun. They are wobbly and there’s no handrail (just netting on the side) so it requires sure-footedness and some balance.
At the falls, there’s the main viewing platform, then take the bridge on the lefthand side to get up close and swim. To finish, you return via a different trail. This option costs US$15 and takes about two hours roundtrip. The 5 km road to the trailhead goes through the shady forest. There are gorgeous clusters of towering bamboo and several river crossings, and some people would love to walk it. Unfortunately it is not allowed. The other options are a guided trek through the forest (US$20 per person for two people, takes 6 hours, must depart before 12:00), guided cycling (US$15, must depart before 13:00) or noisy ATV (must depart before 15:00).
Namkat Yorlapa’s target market is Lao and Asian tourists, mainly Chinese and Thai and there are things that some will find frustrating, like the fact that nature can’t be experienced alone and you must walk together, even if someone in your group is in high heels or chain smoking. Also, this is “eco-tourism” yet everyone is given a plastic water bottle in a plastic bag!
These distractions aside, the nature is beautiful and it is a rare treat in Laos to hear birds singing and be in such dense greenery so easily. If this were Vietnam, there would be a cable car, concretes stairs and tons of kitsch so all things considered, it isn’t as overdone or over the top as it could be.
NKYLP can be combined with Muang La for a scenic motorbike loop through the countryside. A road is being worked on that would connect it to Highway 2E north of Udomxai, a direct way for tourists from China to reach the resort without having to go via the city. See our daytrip to Muang La writeup for full details.
Namkat Yorlapa is located 17 km northeast of Udomxai. Take the road to the airport and follow it straight, there should be signs for the resort every kilometre or so. As of 2018, the road was being paved. You’ll go through Ban Donkeo village, Ban Nabo-Noy then Ban Faen, turning right and following the new road until it dead ends at the resort and waterfall entrance.
Because streams flow over so many parts of the road in the park, in the event of a lot of rain, shuttle, bike and ATV are not available, usually for a couple days until the river levels drop down again. In this case, the falls can only be reached by the jungle trek.
Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you’ll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.