A Great Addition To The Xe Bangfai Cave
Visiting the Xe Bangfai Cave is already kind of a privilege and an incredible experience. But when you travel on the worst “roads” you have ever seen to get to such a remote region, it’s even better if you can stay one more day to explore a little more!
With the mysterious forested mountains of the national park around, I was craving for some jungle. At the heart of the extensive karstic landscapes of Khammouane Province, Hin Namno National Biodiversity Conservation Area is a 82,000 Ha expanse of wilderness.
Karstic landscapes are landscapes based on limestone, creating numerous jungle-covered peaks and caves, such as the Xe Bangfai Cave I had just visited, which is only about 9 km north-east of where this virtual tour was shot.
The area shown in the virtual tour is actually an untouched small mountain range just south of Hin Namno, accessible from the village of Nonping on the Xe Bangfai River. The border with Vietnam is only 25 km away.
GPS: 17°17’26.22″N, 105°50’22.53″E
How to go: Included in the 3-day tour to the Xe Bangfai Cave. Follow the link for more information.
Duration of the hike: About 6 hours including the waterfall & lunch break.
Best season: October to May (dry season).
A Glimpse of Village Life
This trip starts in the village of Nongping, built close to the bank of the river. It is always fascinating to visit such villages, as you can tell the immense gap that exists between this lifestyle and the lifestyle we have in top developed countries. It hits you in the face.
From the village, a 6.5 km very pretty but very bumpy dirty road takes you to the start of a trail in the forest. The transport is assured by a pretty convenient machine that looks quite funny at first for people like me coming from the West.
It can be described as strange a mix between a tractor and a motorbike, to which was attached a small wooden trailer to transport people. This machine makes work a little easier for the farmers and is slowly replacing the traditional buffalo – Hence the nickname of this machine: Chinese buffalo! You guessed it, it’s made in China.
Once you reach the start of the trail, the effect is immediate – the shade of the trees, the smell of humid dead woods, a few butterflies here and there. Being in nature feels good!
A Walk In The Laotian Karst in Hin Namno
Once in the forest, the more you walk, the thicker it gets. And it seems that at the time of my visit, no one had walked there for months, because most of the time the path had been swallowed by the vegetation and the machete was needed to clear the way.
I have no idea of how the guide could find his way through the forest. We have walked up and down in a hilly terrain with nothing but trees, crossed a few jungle streams, sidled through tangled lianas, and did not get lost. I find it amazing.
After a long walk in the jungle, you suddenly see the sunlight again when you reach the wild rocky river banks. It is called the Xiang Lue River, I have been told.
From there, it’s a 500 meter walk along the river to reach the goal of this hike: a set of small waterfalls, lost in the wilderness.
The distances really don’t seem like much but it is quite unbelievable the time it takes to walk through a dense jungle. In a whole day, you can cover no more than a few kilometres.
Last Thoughts About This Hike in Hin Namno
Okay, my review might be a little biased because I just love the jungle. So it will not surprise you that I enjoyed my day! I never miss an opportunity to get deep into the rainforest, and I found it pretty cool that it was so wild and not often visited that we needed the machete to almost build the path as we were walking!
This walk in the forest was a very nice complement to the visit of the Xe Bangfai Cave and it is a great way to experience the rainforest environment that is all around the cave; I highly recommend it to anyone traveling to the Xe Bangfai area.