Sunday, December 26, 2010

Day tours in Southern Laos...

Relaxed Siphandone by boat Khong Island
Full day tour, Meals provided: L (picnic), Tour Code: KLP‐PKZ‐001

Starting from Khong Island at 8.30am, you explore the Siphandone area with your guide on a boat cruise to Khone Island.

Along the way observe locals engaged in fishing, bathing, swimming or farming activities.
On Khone Island visit the remains of a French locomotive. Take then a bicycle and ride to the spectacular Somphamit Falls.

Cycle back to Muang Khone, and enjoy lunch at Seng Ahroun restaurant.

After lunch, ride to the southernmost tip of Khone Island, where you observe the old French port, and follow the eastern shore, where concrete embankments used to channel logged trees.

Cross over the bridge and experience Det Island, the small island to the North of Khone Island. Det Island is a back backer’s paradise. Follow the road to the other end of the railway, where another pier awaits you.

Late this afternoon you return to Khong Island at 4.30pm.

Discover the Bolaven Plateau: Waterfalls, Gorges,Coffee fields and minorities
Full day tour, Meals provided: L, Tour Code: KLP‐PKZ‐002

You will be met at your hotel around 8.30am for a full day tour of the Bolaven Plateau.
Start your tour by driving up to Paksong, on the way you’ll visit coffee fields, Tad Fane waterfalls and Tad Yeuang ('Wild Goat') waterfall, one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Laos. You make a stop at the local Paksong Market.

Your Lao lunch is served at Ban Ta Thang nearby the market or at Tad Lo Waterfall.

After a short rest, you'll drive to Ban Kok Phoung to meet the Katou, one of the indigenous Mon‐Khmer ethnic groups in this area. Khmu, Alat, Ngae, Kalung, Lavane, Lavere, Katung ethnic groups you can be observed here, too.

You'll then continue your visit to Ban Houay Houn, a traditional weaving village. From here drive to Tad Phasuam and visit a small nearby ethnic cultural park.
Return to your hotel at 4.30pm.

Explore Wat Phou, Wat Muang Kang and Wat Tomo
Full day tour, Meals provided: L, Tour Code: KLP‐PKZ‐003

Meet at 8am at your hotel; and visit Pakse’ fresh market, where your guide explains you local products. Then drive to Champassak. On the way you visit Wat Phou Ngoy.

Visit Wat Phou. This Khmer temple Wat Phou was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2002. The walk to the upper part of the temple is steep, but the view over the surrounding countryside is rewarding.

You have a simple lunch 'fer' at the local noodle soup shop.

After lunch continue by boat to a nearby temple, Vat Muang Kang. Vat Muang Kang is the oldest temple in Champassak. Its French‐Lao fusion style library (tripitaka) is a unique architectural example of the colonial past.

Continue to visit Um Muang by boat. Um Muang (aka Wat Tomo) is a small Khmer temple ruin in the forest.

Return by car back to Pakse at 4.30pm.

Southern Laos - Coffee, waterfalls and Khmer ruins

Champasak, the southernmost province of Laos, is currently best known for its UNESCO World Heritage site of Wat Phou, a pre-angkorian Khmer ruin complex, situated 10 kilometers outside of Champasak town or around 40 kilometers south of the provincial capital Pakse. Wat Phou is located at the base of mount Phou Kao, some 6 km from the Mekong River.

There was a temple on the site as early as the 5th century, but the surviving structures date from the 11th to 13th centuries. The temple has a unique structure, in which the elements lead to a shrine where a linga was bathed in water from a mountain spring. The site later became a centre of Theravada Buddhist worship, which it remains today.

Another, yet less known temple of Champasak town, is the on the Mekong riverside located temple of Wat Muang Kang. Wat Muang Kang, also known as Wat Phuthawanaram is the oldest temple in Champassak town. Its French colonial and Lao fusion style library (tripitaka) is quite unique architectural example of the colonial past. Wat Muang Kang can be reached by following a small path through lush bamboo, coconut and banana tree vegetation along the riverbanks of the mighty Mekong downstream for about 2 kilometers.

By crossing the Mekong River and cruising downstream, the nearby forest temple Oum Muong also known as Wat Tomo can be reached. Wat Tomo was built in the 13th or 14th century, probably as a rest house for visitors to Wat Phou. Covered by big trees and located on a tributary river to the Mekong, Wat Tomo has a unique charm and atmosphere.

Wat Phou Asa, a ruined Buddhist monastery, is located on the top of a sandstone hill next to Ban Kiet Ngong in the area of Pathoumphone (Phia Fai). Wat Phou Asa was built during the 19th century. The temples unusual shape and layout is probably inspired by Indian models. One hundred eight cylindrical stone piles made of slabs without mortar surround the centrally located sim. Many champa trees have been planted along the walls. The place, isolated in a dry and rocky area, inspires through mystery and wild grandeur. Although its origin is still in the dark, legends say that Wat Phou Asa is the burial place of the jewels, sent by the "Kha" to adorn the palace that Prince Kammatha was building near Wat Phou. When they learned that Prince Kammatha died without finishing the palace, Wat Phou Asa was built as citadel to protect the buried jewels.

The Bolaven plateau, an area well known for its high altitude and therefore all year round cool climate, is best described in two words: coffee and waterfalls.
In the near future coffee will not only contribute to Lao’s economic income as an export product but also as a major tourism attraction. Already today many oversee clients visit the coffee plantations during their stay in Pakse or on the Bolaven Plateau.
Mr. Sinouk Sisombat, the president of the Lao Coffee Association is currently building a resort on a 50 hectare coffee farm near Pakxong, about 80 km outside of Pakse. He plans to offer an agro-coffee tourism package, where clients staying at the resort can pick and process their own coffee beans during their stay…

Champasak is already today one of the top tourist destinations in Laos, with an annual tourism growth of around 10% over the last five years. In absolute figures around 300’000 people visited the province during 2009 and 2010. Most of these people visited Wat Phou, the Sipandone area and the province many waterfalls.
Coffee tourism is a new idea for Champasak province and could and would be a welcomed addition to any tour program in the area. Khiri Travel Laos offers already today some interesting tours and programs in the province and on the Bolaven plateau…

The Bolaven plateau offers also some very nice accommodation: Tad Fane Resort, which is hidden amidst the dense rainforest and overlooking the foaming twin waterfalls. The water of Tad Fane plunges 200 meters down a gorge which is really an amazing sight. Other nearby waterfalls such as Tad Yeuang, Tad Champee and Tad E Tu can be discovered during a day tour or on own along with coffee and tea plantations.

More reading information can be found here:
A tour program can be found here:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tha Sadej - Royal Embarkation to the Mekong River

Market places and boat landings along the Mekong River have a long tradition, as they allow for commerce and easy exchange of goods between the Mekong bordering countries and provinces. So does the one in the middle of Nong Khai town: "Tha Daan". Tha Daan was the name long known by locals for Nong Khai's riverside market and boat pier. Tha Daan was also the old border check point for immigration and customs, where travelers, traders and visitor could cross the Mekong River between Thailand and Laos. There was a regular ferry service.

In 1968, Their Majesties the King and Queen arrived from Bangkok and visited Nong Khai town to preside over a ceremony for the construction of the Nam Ngum dam and the resulting power supply from Lao PDR to Thailand.

Their Majesties the King and the Queen used the boat landing in Nong Khai's Muang district, to embark on a ferry to cruise on the river to reach the raft pavilion moored in the middle of the Mekong. Since then, local people have referred to the Tha Daan jetty as "Tha Sadej" (Thai: “sadej” means "go", but it is the verb form used only for the Their Majesties the King and the Queen).

Nowadays, the international border check point for immigration and customs has been moved from Tha Sadej to the 5 kilometers further upriver located Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge. Tourists wishing to visit Laos are obliged to use the Friendship bridge check point only.
However, Tha Sadej still serves as a convenient area for local merchants and traders to cross between Thailand and Laos. The market known as Tha Sadej is also known as Tha Sadej Indochina market, where duty & tax - free goods from China, Vietnam and Laos can be found. The products on sell include electrical goods, chinaware, ceramics, silk and cotton. Fabrics and food delicacies from Nong Khai province can be found too.

The rich selection and variety of available products at Tha Sadej Indochina market make it a famous and popular shopping area for tourists and locals visiting Nong Khai town.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thai - Lao Friendship Bridge - Lao's lifeline to the World

The First Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge (Thai: สะพานมิตรภาพ ไทย-ลาว แห่งที่ 1, Lao: ຂົວມິດຕະພາບ ລາວ-ໄທ ແຫ່ງທຳອິດ, is connecting Nong Khai in Thailand with Vientiane in Laos. The bridge over the Mekong River has a length of 1'170 meters. The bridge has two road lanes each 3.5 meters wide, two 1.5 meters wide footpaths and a single meter gauge railway line in the middle. The railway line was the latest addition in 2009 and connects Thanaleang station in Laos with the Royal Thai Northeastern Railways network.

In November 2010 plans to extend the service from Thanalaeng to Vientiane were abandoned. A new high-speed rail link from China to Thailand through Laos would make the extension redundant.

The Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge was first opened on April 8, 1994. The bridge was the first of four bridges over the Mekong River and connecting Laos and Thailand.
The Second bridge is connecting Mukdahan with the Lao town of Savannkhet, while the third one will connect the Thai city of Nakhon Phanom with Thakhek in Laos upon completion. The fourth bridge is in planning stage and will connect Ban Hoei Xai with Chiang Khong in Thailand's Chiang Rai province.

The whole construction costs for the first Friendship Bridge was about US$30 million and funded by the Australian government.

The traffic on the bridge drives on the left hand side as in Thailand. However traffic in Laos drives on the right. Therefore a traffic change over is needed on the Lao end.

A regular shuttle bus service operates across the bridge, between the Lao and Thai border posts. A ticket costs 15 Thai Bath or 4'000 Kip.