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HIGHLIGHTS IN KHAMMOUANE
A 7,5 km boat ride through Konglor Cave with an overnight village stay flashes bright on the province’s marquee, as does a tour to the recently discovered Nong Pa Fa Cave and its 600 year old Buddha images. Another new entry is the easy to spot bald bulbul bird, which was just declared a species in 2009. A one-day tour around the provincial capital, Thakhaek, reveals several historical gems including the 1,500 year old Sikhottabong Stupa and ancient “Great Wall”, while the hearty can trek in a national protected area with an overnight stay in a village lodge.
Beauty in the Dark Beauty in the Dark
Cruise in a long-tail boat through a natural tunnel of total darkness as the Nam Hinboun River drills 7,5 km through a mountain at Konglor Cave. The river runs about 30 metres wide with a limestone ceiling up to 100 metres high, and it flows by sandy beaches and rock formations named for their shapes: “Buddha”, “frog”, “owl”, “soft-shell turtle”, and “fish trap”. According to local lore, five Konglor villagers first navigated the tunnel to Ban Natan in the 17th century. Today, the villages offer boat excursions through the cave, overnight lodge stays, and trekking options inside protected areas, including a hike to the 70 metre high Nam Sanam Waterfall.
   
Buddha Cave Buddha Cave
Climb a 20 metre ladder to the upper Nong Pa Fa Cave, where 229 bronze and gold-plated Buddha images have been sitting on naturally formed, terraced rock rims for up to 600 years. The cave and its treasure had been hidden for centuries until a local made the surprising discovery in 2004. Easy to access by road from Thakhaek or on a one-day community-based trek, “Buddha Cave” also houses palm-leaf pages written in ancient scripts, and petrified eggs laid on the cave’s ceiling many years ago by an unknown type of lizard. Nong Pa Fa (soft-shell turtle lake) sits at the entrance to the lower cave, which can be explored by boat.
   
Historic “Guest Landing” Historic “Guest Landing”
Take a tour around Thakhaek (Guest Landing), Khammouane’s provincial capital on the Mekong, and see the historical sites dotting the environs of this old trading post. Observe French provincial architecture in the centre of the old town, before heading north to examine the 16 metre high “Kamphang Nyak” (Great Wall), built in the 8th century. The 29 metre high, golden-tipped Sikhottabong Stupa, one of Laos’ most sacred sites, stands just south of town, originally built in the 6th century to keep relics of Lord Buddha, the Khmer Empire renovated the stupa in Hindu style soon after. During the 1500s, the Lane Xang Kingdom refurbished the icon to its present form.
   
Spot the Bald Bulbul Spot the Bald Bulbul
Be among the first to check the bald bulbul on their bird-watching list, as the species was just recognized in 2009, after being spotted in khammouane. According to Mr. Singphet, owner of the Phamaan View Guesthouse in Ban Nahin Town, “the bulbul can be found on the roadside (Route 8), and tourists can see this bird almost every time they visit.” He said the best months for viewing are from October to May, and added “in the Nahin area there are approximately 180 species of birds, and the bulbul is the most popular one.” Phamaan View provides a free map that show where to spot he various species including the bald bulbul.
   
Pristine Phou Hin Poun Pristine Phou Hin Poun
Explore the pristine natural beauty of the Phou Hin Poun National Protected Area (NPA) with local guides and get a real taste of village life on a two-day, community-based trek. The NPA’s limestone karst landscape hides crystal clear lakes, caves and cliffs, and the forest home of rare wildlife. Phontong Village offers a simple lodge and hospitality delivered by a local family, as well as a welcome Baci ceremony and traditional Lao dinner on the evening of the first day. The next day’s challenging trek leads to Nakeu Village and on to the bright turquoise Khun Kong Leng Lake for a swim before a motorized oxcart ride to Khone Keo rapids.
   
Link: www.khammouanetourism.com
 
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