Sunday, November 15, 2009


After posting nearly all my experiences with waterfalls in Southeast Asia, one would be inclined to ask what was the best?
Each has it's own peculiarities. By now the reader should have understood my penchant for seclusion and nature, though there's nothing better than enjoying a place with friends.

Ironically, I have never taken pictures of my best place and most frequented place. It's where I went for a refreshing dip was a swimming hole just south of the bridge of Hin Heup, Vientiane province Lao. See above picture taken from the bridge looking downstream. The swimming hole is all upstream of where the river disappears from sight.

Working late nearby I would quit after darkness had drawn, hop on the moto and drive up to the village and down to the pebbly bank. Off with the engine and let the sounds (or the lack of them) envelope me (and see if anyone is around). Then a quick strip and into the dark water. Just above a rapid in the Nam Lik a large lake exists, 8-9 months of the year at least.
Refreshing at most times of the year (even cold in December / January) I would swim across the river to a number of large rocks where you can sit on and gaze up at the moon and stars listening to the sounds around. Sometimes there would be skin divers with their lights and laughter. Always the silence would be broken by the occasional car or truck rumbling over the bridge to the north. The bridge existing of metal plates, it would make a hell of a noise, but only lasted a few seconds after which one can savour the quietness.

Hin Huep bridge (photo taken from upstream),
the site where a armistice was signed as well as the later stampede
in which many Hmong refugees fell off the bridge or were trampled (

Despite the skin divers, the swimming hole would be deserted, though come here during the process of sun down the whole village would here bathing and splashing about. Moto's and cars getting a wash. Come dark every one would head home.

A natural dip? In Lao? But surely that's not done. Actually it is. Development not yet national means that in-house running water is quite often non-existent, meaning everyone is bathing in the rivers or near water points. And not everybody seems to have been cautioned about the negatives of showing one's body ('R there any?). Even where I swam, occasionally locals would come out skinny dipping. I remember on one occasional a boy with his girlfriend, chiding her for revealing herself to me. Quite rightly she replied that the foreigner couldn't see a thing (right, no moon) and was used to it (right). But she didn't know I could understand what she said ....

So would I recommend the hordes to visit Hin Huep? It's a beautiful place despite the road running through. The swimming hole described above is probably now directly under the new bridge. And other than hanging around there's not much to do, though it would be a great place to set eco-adventures. Already the swimming hole is used as basis for rafting and kayaking downstream. One could also go upstream and drift back down. To the east and west are great hiking areas while to the south west and northwest are great places for mountain biking, not too strenuous but with beautiful scenery. Combined with the many quaint and traditional villages, it would make Vang Vieng look boring ...

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