The lure of the sacred manikhot tree at Khonphapheng waterfall
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.

When visitors go to see the stunning Khonphaphheng waterfall on the Mekong River in Champassak province in southern Laos, they often begin their visit by paying respects at a sacred manikhot tree, which has been preserved in a special pavilion after it fell.
But the loud sound of the waterfall is usually drowned by the shouts of a large group of children selling pictures of the revered tree. People buying one of the images are usually unable to move as more children gather around and ask them to buy more pictures.
These children sound like a flock of sparrows, eating grains of rice in the fields, as they shout and try to attract the attention of visitors.
Deputy Director General of Lao National Radio, Mr Vorasack Pravongviengkham, recently visited the waterfall with six participants of the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation Media Summit.

Children urge visitors to buy photos of the manikhot tree.

He bought a photo from a girl who then disappeared but she was back in seconds with many of her friends, all asking Mr Vorasack to buy more. Again and again the children said “Uncle, please help me by buying a photo.”
“I’ve already bought a manikhot photo,” he told them.
Mr Vorasack was kind when the children blocked his path and did not become angry. They took no notice when he said he had already had a photo but he finally gave in and bought a few more.
The revered tree was removed from a rocky outcrop in the middle of the waterfall and placed in a specially built pavilion after it fell down during a storm in 2013.
Aside from the splendour of the waterfall, Khonphapheng has long-standing links with the legendary tree, which was once accessible only by birds.
According to legend, the manikhot is a holy tree mentioned in the ancient Sanskrit epic Pra Lak-Pra Lam, or Ramayana.
The legend states that eating the fruits from the first limb of this tree will bring eternal youth and long life, while fruits from the second limb will bring great power and status. But fruits from the third limb, pointing to the west, bring bad luck and the eater will turn into a monkey.
People still believe the tree is holy and has the powers stated in the legend.
The history of the manikhot tree at Khonphapheng is unknown but local residents say it has been there since they were born. Some people insist it has been standing for at least 500 years, since the era of the Lane Xang Kingdom.
Khonphapheng is one of the largest and most spectacular waterfalls in Southeast Asia. It disgorges the entire body of the Mekong on its way to the sea, reaching a height of 21 metres in places.
The falls span the Mekong River amid countless waterways and thousands of islands known as Siphandone, meaning 4,000 islands.
How to get there: From central Champassak province, take Route 13 South for 150km, then turn right off the highway at the sign pointing to Khonphapheng. Not far down this road, you will see another sign pointing to Khonphapheng, where you must turn left and follow the road to the falls. The distance from Vientiane to Khonphapheng is 900 kilometres.


ByTimes Reporters
(Latest Update August 11, 2018)

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