An unexpected journey to the great unseen waterfall in the land of 4,000 islands
Welcoming Visit Laos Year 2018, Vientiane Times is publishing a series of feature articles
and images inviting you to experience the authentic nature, culture,
history and hospitality of Laos, Jewel of the Mekong.

The Si Phan Don or 4,000 Islands area in the south of Laos is home to two great and beautiful waterfalls – Khonphapheng and Somphamit – both of which are popular with tourists.
A few weeks ago, my photographer friends and I travelled to the 4,000 Islands area in Khong district, Champassak province, to capture the waterfalls, the lifestyle of the local people and their fishing culture, and to observe the three remaining freshwater dolphins.
We made our way through most of the tourist destinations there over two days. We also spent many hours on a boat, waiting silently to catch a glimpse of the elusive dolphins.

Bird’s eye view of Khon Fang waterfall.  --Photos Phoonsab Thevongsa

As the sun was setting, a young boatman told us about an amazing secret waterfall hidden somewhere along the Mekong River, but the problem was he didn’t know its name or its location.
We thought it would be nice to get to this waterfall. Of course, we had also heard about the mysterious Khon Fang waterfall, which was known only to local fishermen.
When we went to the island of Don Khon to spend the night, we did some research online about the waterfall, using different names and keywords. But we found very little information until our search turned up a post by a foreign photographer that featured some remarkable photos and videos. More importantly, this post gave the location of the waterfall and explained how to get there.
A day later, we followed the details in the post and went to Had Khon Yai near Somphamit waterfall. We showed the boatmen the photos and asked them whether they could take us. Unfortunately, most of them didn’t even know the name of the waterfall. Some of them knew the name, but said the only way to get there was by travelling close to the Cambodian border and taking a long road trip.
We were a bit disappointed as we went back to our guesthouse. But we decided to ask another boatman named Mr Phan, 68, about the mysterious waterfall.
Mr Phan, who had just come back from his daily fishing trip, knew about the waterfall and how to get there! He said he often went there to fish so we immediately asked him to take us along.
We cruised in his old wooden boat, passing trees and rocks on small and big riverine islands. In some places, the level of the river was very low and the water flowed rapidly.
Mr Phan said very few people, including local fishermen, knew about Khon Fang waterfall, as it was difficult to access, especially in the rainy season when the level of the river is very high. He said this was the first time he was taking other people there.
After about 20 minutes, we reached Khonkham Island near the border with Cambodia. Due to the rapid flow of the river, we got out of the boat and climbed up a cliff. We walked for another 20 minutes on a hot sunny day before we could hear the sound of the waterfall getting closer and closer.
We couldn’t believe our eyes when the panoramic view of the waterfall finally appeared before us, with the waters of the mighty Mekong flowing into several small and big channels.
The well-known Khonphapheng and Somphamit are easier to access, but this elusive waterfall was extraordinary and more beautiful than many of the other waterfalls that I have visited.

By Phoonsab Thevongsa
(Latest Update March 24, 2018)

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