Saturday, January 1, 2011

Delving Gems

With close to 100 entries on Southeast Asian waterfalls it's increasingly more difficult to be awed by yet another waterfall.
In general the bigger / higher waterfalls hold little value to me. Directly opposite are those that are relatively untouched, gentle and hold high natural and recreational value, often combined with some difficulties in reaching.

The Lao province of Xieng Khouang, one of this landlocked nations' major tourist destinations, is still a 10 hour plus drive from the capital of Lao, Vientiane. Mostly winding over mountain ridges with the odd descent and ascent of small vales, the bus brings one to the provincial capital of Phonsavan, not so far from a number of sites where we can admire ancient rites which resulted in constructing man-size jars.

Besides these Jars there is much army surplus to be awed by: the Vietnam war leaving behind landscape scars, ruined towns, destroyed lives and the potential to victimize still unborn locals for years to come.
The spectacular natural surroundings command little interest for tourism operators. The waterfalls (named Tad Ka (Tad Kha)) near Tajok village are an exception. But if these would stand for the province's natural beauty, more, much more should be available.

Located a little more than thirty kms to the northeast of Phonsavan, Tajok is easily reachable and typical of the many roadside villages which hug this road. Taking a right in the village, followed by another right 200m down the road one comes to a poor track which heads down the mountain side. Probably poorly accessible during the rainy season (witness Twoelders on travelpod), during the dry season one can continue downwards to a turn off with a large building.

Our guide states that this building accommodates holiday crowds which at the time (December 2010) seems a long shot. We're told to follow a trail uphill along a ridge which seems to contradict the fact that a waterfall is audible from the valley depths. The trail eventually drops steeply (200m?) to the river below. No waterfall, but a beautiful stream which is finding it's way through the picturesque forest. For the next 15 minutes we cross the rivulet often as we head upstream.

Eventually we come to a triple set of larger falls. Beyond the first fall is a nice deep swimming hole. From here we can walk steeply up the slope to the ridge track which ends at the building but from the other side.

A very beautiful waterfall, undisturbed and mostly unvisited. A gem. Unfortunately our memory card is playing up, so no photo's can be made. The following photo is from

'Waterfall in the forest near Phonsavan.
The waterfall is popular visiting the Phonsavan region in Laos'.

Wikitravel's description is as follows:
'The waterfall is located near Tajok village, 32 km north of Phonsavanh. The water flows over several tiers. A spectacular jungle trail winds its way up the waterfall crossing it several times. Tad Kha is a popular picnic spot for locals, especially during the Lao New Year holidays. To get there turn right at the end of Tajok village; follow the road until you see a building to the right. Walk along the ridge and take the right trail down. Local tour companies offer day tours including a picnic lunch and a hike up the waterfall'.

Outing to Kham district
A final departing pic from James Zwier:
'Outing to Kham district. One of the many waterfalls in a long series at Tad Kha'.

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