Bolikhamxay’s Top Attractions
Bolikhamxay presents a natural paradise mixed with sacred Buddhist temples and sites. The province’s landscape of porous limestone karsts hides plenty of caves for discovering a world in the dark. Outside, rivers tumble over cliffs into clear pools fit for a swim. Bolikhamxay is also home to some of the country’s most mystical religious findings, both past and present.
Unlike tourist-ready caves, spelunkers have to hunt around a bit in nature for Bolikhamxay’s mountain holes. Near the Nam Xan River, Tham Pha Singh (Lion Cave) is secreted behind a stone stump with clearly visible “claw marks”. Also along the Nam Xan stands the majestic Pha Muang limestone outcrop. Investigate around its boulder-filled base to uncover a small cave with a sandy, watery floor.
Look for Tham Pha Taen near the Mekong River, where you’ll find a pair of jagged rocks jutting up from Ban Nongboua’s rice fields. A bit of a climb up the smaller rock mass reveals a passage down into the hollow mountain.
Buddha Cave, in Pha Muang Houng Mountain, houses more than 20 small flower-and-gelatine Buddha images in Khamkeuth District. Others are believed to be hidden deeper in the cave. Spelunkers have explored the cave at nearby Pha Pha Kong Mountain, and climbed in 580 metres, but have yet to reach the end.
Along Route 8, “The Karst Corridor”, stop at Ban Poung Village and dome-shaped Dragon Cave’s wet limestone walls and rock formations. You can reach the cave’s natural skylight after a careful climb. A short distance away, explore Hospital Cave, an expansive cavern used by the Pathet Lao to treat the injured during the Indochina Wars.
When it comes to waterfalls, Bolikhamxay is king, and Phou Khao Kwai (PKK) National Protected Area (NPA) has its fair share. Start at the Tad Luek Waterfall Visitor Centre and easy trail to the falls, for relaxing, swimming, camping, and trekking. Nearby in Ban Na, you can hike to the Nam Hi River to see Tad Lung Waterfall and Tad Fa, which drops 40 metres.
From Ban Hadkai in PKK you can trek or boat to 7-step Tad Xai, which thunders down the cascade during Green Season. Next comes Yang Kheua Village and a hike or Green Season boat ride on the Yong River to the Tad Yong rapids.
While in Pakxan, the provincial capital, head 15 km south on Route 13 to Xaisavang Village with plenty of rapids crowned by Tad Heua Hak, which translates to “wrecked boat” from a local folktale. A ride north to Bolikhan District from Pakxan leads to Ban Nam Pa and a boat ride from the sandy beach up the Pa River to the Tad Nam Pa waterfalls and rapids. You can view the powerful rock-lined flume along a nature trail.
In the Nam Kading NPA, a boat ride up the Kading River starts at the Route 13 Bridge. The once-calm water gets rough as the boat pushes upriver through a rocky canyon, until the Tad Vang Fong Falls completely blocks the way. Also in this NPA, rugged trekkers can clamber up steep Naphong Elephant Rock to the hidden gem of Thone Tad Waterfall.
At Ban Thabak, on Route 8 about 40 km west of Lak Xao, you can board a boat and cruise up the wide Nam Mang River to the Tad Kai Waterfall, which tumbles over a 3-meter-high rock shelf you can walk on when the river is low.
Bolikhamxay holds some of the most remarkable Buddhist sites in Laos. Vat Phabath, 83 km from Vientiane Capital, houses a huge footprint of Lord Buddha. Travellers passing by believe they must stop to pay respect to the spirits for a good journey.
Across Route 13 on the Mekong Bank sits Vat Phonsane, believed to be a sacred place where Buddha once took his meals. The temple is also known for the annual Bang Fai Phayanak Festival during October’s full moon, when mysterious coloured gaseous balls fly from the Mekong into the sky.
About 5 km from Pakxan Town, Vat Don Soung presents a series of colourful religious buildings on rocky outcrops, with large Buddha images, a holy pool, and flower gardens. Also near Pakxan Town, you’ll find Vat Dan Soung, where you can explore its compound spread over a massive rock floor that includes the remains of an ancient stupa and a holy pool.
Bolikhamxay boasts the latest discoveries of Buddha images of unknown age. In Sop Kham Village, a local man named Mr Sai found 39 Buddha statuettes under a Nam Yeung River rock in January 2012. They are being kept in a villager’s home until locals finish building a shrine in their honour.
In March 2012, Mr Mai from Ban Thoua off Route 13 was looking for a fishing hole along the Huap Pa Fa River. He claims a crow landed near a riverside cave, and at that spot, he noticed a small Buddha image protruding from under a stone slab. Along with six friends, he removed the rocky lid and found more than 30 old Buddha images, including three made of gold. You can see them at the village’s Vat Thoua Beng.