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Hidden gems of Vientiane province

Photo: Lush vegetation and cascading waterfalls await visitors to Naxam village, Hinheup district, Vientiane province. -- Photo Sisouphan

An enterprising local resident has opened up a waterfall to the public in Vientiane province, hoping to provide city dwellers with a natural oasis as they travel north of the capital.

Mr Chanthavong Chanthala was granted a concession to open Vangsanon Waterfall as an official tourist attraction to bring more local and foreign visitors to the area.

The waterfall is located in Naxam village, Hinheup district, and can be reached from Phonhong district in the north after passing through the villages of Phonkeo, Phonkham, Phonthong, Phonngam, and Khonkaen along a 25km dirt road.

The road may be long and winding but the intrepid explorer will be rewarded with a virtual Garden of Eden upon arrival.

Along the way you will catch glimpses of the local lifestyle, crops, and animals as well as jungle views on both sides of the road.

The people who live in this area are mostly Khmu. One of their traditions is to make rice wine in pottery jars, which they drink on special occasions, festivals, and just to be sociable with their friends and relatives.

The waterfall is surrounded by dense bamboo. Mr Chanthavong has added to the natural attractions by planting flowering shrubs, building huts and arranging boulders for visitors to picnic on. This pleasant scene makes for some great photo opportunities.

Mr Chanthavong encou-rages visitors to bring along a picnic and relax in one of the rustic huts.

On each of the monthly Buddhist days, local people stop work for the day and like to spend their time here. The period of Buddhist Lent in particular is a time that brings visitors to the area.

Managing Director of the local Saoban Handicraft Group, Mr Tarliboun Rattanavong, sees the increasing number of visitors as an opportunity for his group of producers to boost their sales.

They have developed new ideas to promote the group's products, such as making rice wine in portable jars that people can take home with them.

This year, he chose a house in Khonkeo village to display and sell the rice wine, along with buffalo skin snacks. He also plans to set up a strawberry farm and grow organic vegetables.

Mr Tarliboun said it would be a good opportunity for people to see the artisans at work as they made various bamboo handicrafts, and suggested it might even encourage others to join the group. Visitors could also sample fresh strawberries.

The Deputy Heads of Khonkeo and Naway villages, Mr Phonxay Panmavong and Mr Bounkong Manokoun respectively, said they appreciated the efforts of the Saoban group in encouraging people to adopt new livelihoods.

The two villages have a total of 394 households of 2,518 people, who are mostly subsistence farmers, with some raising livestock on a temporary basis.

By Sisouphan Amphonephong

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