Chilling out in legendary Meuangfeuang 

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.

If you’re in need of a short break and considering Vangvieng, this popular spot is always a pretty good idea but there’s another option - one night and two days in Meuangfeuang district.
Meuangfeuang is also in Vientiane province and just 50km from Vangvieng, the provincial caital.
If you preferred the quieter Vangvieng of 10 years ago, Meuangfeuang may be just the place for you.

 

This small town won’t break any records in terms of visitor numbers compared to more well-known tourist destinations.
Its leisure activities are not widely advertised, the road leading to it is being resurfaced, and modern facilities and access to information are limited.
But this does not mean that Meuangfeuang distract has little to offer the visitor. This tiny town has hidden charms. It boasts some stunning landscapes and amazing scenery. The scenes of natural beauty will make a strong and lasting impression and you may want to visit again and explore the area further.
I’ve been to this charming mountainous town three times but my recent stopover made me want to return yet again.
I sense that before too long this rural idyll’s natural glories will be diminished when the promised developers come to town.
I like Meuangfeuang for many reasons. It has affordable food, reasonable room rates at guesthouses, and there’s a freshness to the local lifestyle and the beauty of the hills with their lush vegetation and clean air.
Most importantly, there are not nearly as many entertainment venues as in some other sleepless tourist towns in Laos.
This may not be the right place for high-end tourists who enjoy luxury hotels and modern facilities but it is a heaven for nature lovers and those in search of calm.
While Vangvieng district has the Xong River, Meuangfeuang has the Nam Lik which is crystal clear and blue. It is much deeper than the Xong River, which is suitable for rafting, kayaking and rides on long-tail boats.
I took a boat trip on the Nam Lik myself and loved every minute of it. The scenery was gorgeous and the natural beauty of the riverbanks was truly refreshing.
The riverside is so far unblemished by large hotels and other buildings that have sprung up in other parts of Laos, but no one can say how long this will last and the area may soon become a target for developers.
During my visits to this friendly town, I got to know a few people who were born and raised there and asked them to tell me something about the origins of Meuangfeuang district.
The place used to be called Sam Meun Meuangfeuang, a reference to the 30,000 huts made from rice straw, built by strangers who came from different parts of the country.
These people gathered there for the purpose of gathering the golden rocks from Pha Thor Nor Kham (Pha Thor Hill).
They stayed there for years attempting to reach the hill of the golden rocks but none of them could succeed because it was an inaccessible and sacred place.
Finally, they returned to their hometowns with empty hands and left the 30,000 huts behind.
Sam Meun originally referred to the 30,000 huts and Meuangfeuang refers to the rice stems used to make the thatch roofs.
This story has been handed down from generation to generation. Nowadays, people say they can sometimes see the glint of gold on the rocks that rise in the distance.
But no one can say whether or not it is real gold because the locals still believe the site is sacred and unreachable.
Meuangfeuang is full of interesting stories. At the same time, there are caves, waterfalls and old temples that await exploration.
Tourism does not contribute much revenue to the district’s budget but the genial atmosphere and pleasant environment add to the inner wealth of the people who live there.
They are basically dependent upon nature, but their sincerity, hospitality and friendliness shines through in the warmth of their smiles when welcoming strangers.
Meuangfeuang district is easily accessible by car or minibus from the Northern Bus Terminal in Vientiane. It is about 30km from the junction at Hinheup Bridge, where you need to turn left and branch off from the road heading to Vangvieng.
There are eight to 10 guesthouses, which don’t provide food but the nearby market and several restaurants offer plenty of sustenance.
A room in a guesthouse typically costs 50,000 to 100,000 kip a night. You will not be asked to deposit cash, your ID card or passport but your smile and your word are taken as a form of credit.

 

By Bounfaeng Phaymanivong
(Latest UpdateJanuary 26, 2018)

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