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Laos : Ban Long Lao and Kuangsi

Trek and Waterfall

Ban Long Lao Conservation Area and Kuang Si Waterfall 13th August

We woke for breakfast and found our hiking clothes (Steve’s were white which caused a few raised eyebrows).
We drove out of the town and very quickly into the fields outside. It is being to be developed with former french residences being renovated into new hotels and resorts. The worst looking building was the former radio station!
We soon turned off the road and onto a dirt track leading up into the hills. We passed various villages/ hamlets, mainly Khmu (like our guide) on a scenic drive up into the mountains for about 50 minutes. Pretty much all of them had electricity and we later passed the new dam being built in the hills. As it was school holidays we saw lots of children, mainly helping with carrying firewood and fruit/ vegetables in baskets on their backs. Many of the villages banded together to provide infant/primary schools locally.
Khmu houses
KHMU & HMONG- see later
Then we drove into the village, Ban Long Lao(s)/ Tad Fan, from which we were going to start our trek, as well as pick up a local guide. A few chickens and several goats walked by. Some people said Sa-bai-dee (hello in Lao) to us. Our guide explained it was a split village- one part was Khmu (Ban Long) and one part was Hmong (Tad Fan). They would take it in turns to act as guide in the forest and this week was the Khmu turn. Between the two parts of the village was a spirit gate and a small ancestor shrine. It started to drizzle and we briefly waited under a tree in middle of the two villages. When our guide arrived he had a sort of local version of crocs on, no hat or umbrella, T-shirt and shorts. We had walking plimsolls, cagoule, long trousers, hat!
Hmong houses
He set off down a red water-running track on the village outskirts and fairly rapidly uphill. Towards the top it became more foresty, rocky with a stream-filled track. Our Khmu guide cut himself a banana leaf umbrella which was surprisingly effective. He was not the most prolix of chappies and may have said 5 words to us in the entire 2 hours! We had to start climbing over the wet slippy rocks until we got to a stopping point. We stood by a large tree (often used for photos) while our guide went to cut us 2 stout bamboo walking sticks. Then we climbed down the rocky path (now stream) the other side. As we walked our guide imitated bird song- I was quite impressed until we discovered he would use it to trap and eat them. We went on over the red soil until, surprisingly, the forest opened out into steep rice fields with people working! We were quite surprised but apparently they walk there and back (with produce) every day.
We carried on up and into the jungle proper. Steve got left behind but I managed to keep up (ish) with the guide who was happy humming and singing songs. He kept on looking about him and our guide said he was searching for bats because they were a delicacy- I asked how they ate them and he said “whole”. “What about the wings?”- Yes. “The feet?”- Yes. Oh...
Several near slips and 3 hours later we arrived at a halfway station. Steve caught up and we said goodbye to our Khmu guide who went trotting off back the way he’d come. We passed through another spirit gate, careful not to touch it. Our guide took us on, down some amazingly claggy paths with goats around, through slime pools to the top of the waterfalls. We set off down this sort-off path down, until we got to the side of the waterfall where the steps were literally IN the waterfall. On down to the first (and largest) pool. We went onto the bridge for the obvious photo opp, then came back and set off over the rocks at the base of the waterfall which were surprisingly not slippy, but had a good grip. Carrying on 2 pools down it was obviously time for a swim. I had my bikini under my clothes so I stripped off at the edge and carefully went in- rather sharp rocks to start and COLD. I chose to go in quickly! I had a nice swim across the pool until the little fish started to nibble me. The sandy-gravel base meant I could stand but by the time Steve had changed I was ready to come out. He put a toe in, decided it was cold and bottled out.
We grabbed our towels and one more pool down were shown to a picnic table where we were served an amazing fresh lunch with fish straight from the river. A humongous wasp kept bothering us but we ignored it (though later the waitress squished it). Apparently the lady cooking all the barbeque stuff was also the owner of the restaurant at the bottom of the falls.
One nice picnic later we packed up and walked past some further pools down to the Bear Rescue Centre. Most of the bears in the rescue centre were Moon bears who had been saved from bile farming. The centre is funded by donation and local government. http://www.freethebears.org.au/web/Projects/Laos/
We walked past the bears and ended back at the main entrance where there was a small market with HUGE brown bananas. We were messy but happy. Time to go back to the hotel- this time on decent roads! As we crossed the bridge in we saw a long, long, long boat being carried across by a multitude of men; presumably who were taking it for a dragon boat race practise (on the Nam Khan apparently as the Mekong is too strong). Our guide said maybe a 20-30 oar, but they could go as many as 45-oar.
We got back and relaxed by the pool until 6ish when we set off back to the main town for the Night Market. We were dropped off at Joma/ Post Office again, but headed down to the Mekong. We walked along the riverside, but couldn’t find a restaurant we liked, so we looped around back to the main street. As it began to rain we headed down a side street to Rosella Fusion Restaurant. It was a tine cafe with outdoor seating, but cheap and fulfilling. Clean and well-cooked food. A small place (blink, and you'll miss it) that looks like a fruit shake place. Locally owned by a Lao who trained at Amantaka Restaurant. best steaks in town, certainly great cocktails. Slow service, but worth it. The WHOLE time some sleazy older western man was “persuading” some eastern young lady he “wanted” to do something. Luckily the cafe owners were as aware as us.
Then (obviously) a second walk through the market, but no time to stop before (missing) our lift. Luckily it came round again.
The Kingdom of Luang Phrabang was formed in 1707 from the split of the Kingdom of Lan Xang.

  • Kitsarat 1707–13
  • Ong Kham 1713–23 cousin of Kingkitsarat, co-ruled with Inthasom, deposed 1723, later King of Lanna 1727–59
  • Thao Ang/ Inthasom 1723–49 brother of Kingkitsarat and grandson of Souligna Vongsa
  • Intharavongsa 1749. Repelled Vietnamese invasion
  • Inthaphom 1749 son Inthasom, abdicated after 8 months forbrother
  • Sotika-Kuomane 1749–68 (Burmese vassal 1765–68, son Inthasom, abdicated 1771
  • Surinyavong II 1768–88) Burmese vassl, brother Sotika
  • Siamese occupation 1791/2
  • Anurutha (3 February 1792 - 179?) (1st reign)
  • Siamese occupation (179?-1794)
  • Anurutha 1794 -1819 (2nd reign) son Inthasom
  • Manthaturath/ManthaTourath 1819-37 (Regent for Anurutha 1817-19; monk 1825/6, leaving Luang Phra Bang to be administered by Thai officials; vassal under Vietnam against Siam)
  • Unkeo 1837–38 (Regent)
  • Sukha-Söm 1838-50, Soukhaseum, son of Mantha Tourath
  • Chantha-Kuman/ T(Ch)iantharath 1850-68, son of ManthaTourath. PraBang returned by Thai King Chulalongkorn

Oun Kham, King of Luang Prabang 1872-87 and 1889-95. In 1887 Luang Prabang was sacked by Siam and he was imprisoned in Bangkok before returning. After attacks by the Black Flag wing of the Chinese Haw in 1887, he chose to accept French protection, and a French commissariat was established as a French protectorate over Laos. In 1893 a French warship sailed up the Menam River to Bangkok and trained its guns on the palace. Siam agreed to transfer all territory east of the Mekong to France, so Laos became a French colony, with the kingdom of Luang Prabang as a protectorate and the rest of the country directly administered.
Zakarine (Sakkarin(e), Sack(h)arine, Zac(k)harine) (originally Kham Souk) 1895-1904. In 1888, the King of Siam appointed him as regent for his imprisoned father, Oun Kham. Zakarine officially succeeded his father in 1895. He was succeeded by his son, King Sisavang Vong. In 1900 Viang Chan (French for Vientiane) was made the capital of Laos, though real power was exercised from Hanoi, the capital of French Indochina. The French introduced a three-tier system of administration into Laos. Ethnic minorities retained local Lao leaders, supervised by Vietnamese civil servants, answerable to French officials. Taxes traditionally paid in products, were now paid in cash. This caused resentment. The French tried to make Laos economically productive. One plan was to connect the Lao Mekong towns to coastal Vietnam by railway to encourage the migration of industrious Vietnamese peasants into Laos to replace what the French saw as the indolent and easy-going Lao. The railway construction began, but was never finished.
hike-to-kuangsi-waterfall-laos_48885678422_o.jpgForest Spirit gate
Sisavang Vong (1904-46) succeeded his father as King of Luang Prabang. During the early years of his reign, the French built a modern palace for him, the Royal Palace of Luang Prabang. By his rule he united the provinces of Houaphan, Houakhong, Xiengkhouang and Vientiane 1942; Champassak and Sayboury 1946. By WW1 80% of Lao people lived in Siam, while in Laos, ethnic Lao comprised less than 50% of the population and the rest were tribal minorities. In Luang Prabang villas were constructed for senior French officials. Nevertheless Laos remained a drain on the budget of Indochina. Corvée labour was introduced to build roads, and taxes were heavy. Coffee and opium were the most common cash crops. Sisavangvong supported French rule in Laos, refusing to cooperate with Lao nationalists and so was deposed when the Lao Issara declared the country independent. In 1946, the French reinstated him as king, but the Japanese invasion during WWII weakened France’s grip on Luang Prabang, and Laos declared its independence. France insisted Laos remain part of the French Union until 1954 (French defeat at Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam).
The French population in Laos was only c600 by 1940, mostly in Vientiane. The French justified colonial rule as protecting the Lao from aggressive neighbours, particularly Siam. The Indochinese Communist Party (ICP), founded by Ho Chi Minh in 1930, managed to recruit its first two Lao members in 1935. Most ICP members in Laos were Vietnamese civil servants or miners. In 1954 Vong celebrated his Golden Jubilee- the longest-reigning king in Asia. When he became ill, he made his son Crown Prince Savang Vatthana regent. He was buried in That Luang in 1961.

Posted by PetersF 15:36 Archived in Laos Tagged trek laos waterfall luang_prabang bear hmong lao kuangsi khmu

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