Xe Bang Fai Cave is the main attraction of Hin Nam No National Park. Villagers used to believe it was the source of the Xe Bang Fai river and the house of a benevolent spirit that would protect the villagers collecting swallow nests and bats inside the cave. The cave is almost 12 kilometers in length, some 76 meters high and 56 meters wide, and is considered to be one of the largest sustained river passages in the world, with enormous caverns decorated with highly impressive mineral formations and spectacular natural decorations.
The boat service group of Nong Ping village provides tours with paddle boats inside the cave for about 1h30, during which you can climb up one of the side chambers until you reach a balcony overlooking the entrance rocks.
For those looking for a more adventurous experience, Green Discovery travel agency provides tours through the full cave with inflatable kayaks, with the possibility of camping and trekking from/to the upper entrance.
When visiting the cave, you can stay in the brand new Nong Ping village campsite, in cozy bungalows or fully furnished tents next to the pristine river beach surrounded by limestone karsts.
Period: End of November to June
Location: Xe Bang Fai Cave – Nong Ping Village
GPS: 17.375057, 105.883819
Mr. Lop – Head of Boat Service Group
030 97 27 284
Ms. Taem Campsite women group
020 96 993 669
The best way to access Nong Ping village and visit the Xe Bang Fai cave is to take a long-tailed wooden boat from Ban Pakphanang. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy a scenic one and a half hour journey through the Nam Phanang and Xe Bang Fai rivers surrounded by mountains, forests, fields, and water buffalos.
When traveling by motorbike, you can either park your bike safely in Ban Pakphanang (ask the boat driver first) and come back the same day or the day after to continue your adventure, or put your bike on the boat (one bike per boat) so you can enjoy the surroundings of Nong Ping village.
You can also reach Nong Ping by road, using the ferry service to cross the river and drive the remaining 30 km.
Period: November to June
Location: Ban Pakphanang Village
GPS: 17.400105, 105.732056
Boat Service Group
030 94 57 695 020 96 862 777
Between Nong Ping village and Bualapha, about 7km from Nong Ping, you can find Xieng Lue waterfall (The Famous Sound waterfall)
Drive 4 km from the main road until a restaurant by the river where you can park, and enjoy a peaceful trek in the jungle for about 30 minutes until you will hear and see this beautiful 80 meters fall.
Period: November to June
Location: 13 km from Bualapha – 7 km from Nong Ping
GPS: 17.2918, 105.83619
020 99 189 349
Mu Gia Pass is famous for being the principal entry point into Laos for the 16,000 km series of paths known as the Ho Chi Minh trail. It is estimated that 75% of all truck traffic carrying supplies from North Vietnam, destined for the Viet Cong revolutionary forces in South Vietnam, came through this narrow valley.
Nowadays, this pass is known as the Naphao/Chalo border checkpoint between Khammouane Province, Laos and Quang Bin Province, Vietnam.
The view from the Naphao border checkpoint road enables a spectacular panorama of the Ho Chi Minh trail. Imagine the noise of trucks struggling through the muddy valley below, the intense bombing, and the frenetic repairs to the road enabling traffic to continue along the trail virtually uninterrupted.
In this area, the landscape still bears witness to the unprecedented aerial bombardment, with bomb craters still visible after four decades.
Each villager who lived through the war here has a story of an epic struggle for survival that has remained largely unacknowledged.
Even if the testimonies of the past are becoming rare, you can still learn about the “Secret War” in these villages, on your way between Ban Langkhang (main road) and Ban Pakphanang (boat to Xe Bang Fai Cave).
Start from the border road where you can enjoy amazing views of the Mu Gia Pass and head to Ban Nongboua to visit nearby caves used for hiding during the war and enjoy a short trail to Tad Songsou waterfall.
Then visit Ban Phanop located at a ford on the Nam Ngo River. The legendary trail crossed through this village. The cobblestone-paved riverbanks and sections of road in the village attest to this. You can observe the remains of a crashed US warplane at the temple. This wing of the plane has been used as a billboard for the school for years during and after the war.
Head south to Ban Vangkhone to witness one of the most bombed areas of the Ho Chi Minh trail. During the war, the villagers moved 2 km away, next to caves. They came back to their village after the war, which is now overlapped with bomb craters that they use as fish ponds in the rainy season and to grow vegetables in the dry season.
Continue with Ban Senphan, where people are famous for their scrap metal collection skills. Even if they start selling this metal to Vietnamese to increase their small income, you can take a short walk in the village with a local guide and observe many relics of the war recycled: boats, planters, ladders, planks for houses… made of bomb and plane parts.
The presence of these objects is an ominous reminder that this area is likely to be littered with anti-personnel cluster bombs that are yet to explode. The work of organizations like UXO Lao, and humanitarian organizations like MAG, to disarm the countless dangers still lurking on the ground, goes on to this day.
Period: October to June
Ban Nongbua 17.5598, 105.7517
Ban Phanop 17.53657, 105.74038
Ban Vangkhon 17.5062, 105.7234
Ban Senphan 17.48704, 105.69799
B. Nongboua : 030 48 88 465
B. Phanop : 020 56 896 245
B Vangkhon : 030 48 00 796
B. Senphan : 030 94 06 238
From Ban Nongboua on the Ho Chi Minh trail, hire a local guide to take you to Tad Songsou at the base of Phou Cheuang Mountain, about half an hour from the village through the fields. This 20-meters high waterfall has water flowing all year round for a refreshing swim on your trip.
According to the local legend, its name comes from the fact that illegitimate couples would meet there, and one of them who had been discovered jumped from the falls to die together.
Period: End of November to May
Location: Ban Nongboua
GPS: 17.5598, 105.7517
030 48 88 465
In the early morning or late afternoon (be in the village at 7:30am or 4:30pm), walk a short trail to Pha Koud (Monkey Rock) from Ban Nongseng traditional village with local guides. You will have the chance to spot the Assamese Macaques eating leaves and fruits in the trees next to the mountain or just jumping and playing on the rocks.
Period: All year long, but more chances to see the Macaques during the rainy season.
Location: Ban Nongseng
GPS: 17.52959, 105.7987
020 78 95 02 28
The Houay Ork stream flows through three caves upstream of Ban Thongxam, and there are different trail options from the village through the jungle and the limestone karsts.
These moderately difficult treks can take you to Pak Tham cave, a small cave filled with water, perfect for swimming, where locals say a giant shrimp lives in the deep pool at its entrance. At the former site of the relocated Salang Village, you can then observe many fruit trees, including jackfruit, mango, and tamarind. There is also a good view of Tham Pha Vao Cave, a very big cavity in the cliff-face. Heading north is Nok Aen cave: This cave is named after the swallows (nok aen) that you can see flying around the cave. You will also see bats in the cave. The large branch of the cave with the skylight used to house about 3,000 North Vietnamese soldiers and local villagers during the war. Finally, reach the Nam Ork cave, the resurgence of the stream, where you can observe the impressive boulder ceiling and wildlife tracks in the sand. On the cliffs next to the cave, you might be lucky to spot the black langurs drinking some fresh water at Koun Talee (a small spring on the cliff) or eating in the trees (early morning or late afternoon).
Half-day – 6.5 km: Ban Thongxam – Tham Pak Tham – Salang Village – Tham Nok Aen and back.
Full day – 12 km: Ban Thongxam – Tham Pak Tham – Salang Village – Tham Nok Aen – Tham Nam Ork and back (departure early morning).
Two days, one night – 12 km: Ban Thongxam – Tham Pak Tham – Salang Village – Tham Nok Aen – Tham Nam Ork – Night at Tham Nam Ork (Hammock or Tents not furnished) – Wildlife spotting in the morning at Koun Talee and back to the village.
Bring a raincoat, good shoes, snacks, and water. For meals, the guides can provide food when informed in advance. River water can be boiled to refill your bottles when sleeping/eating there.
Period: November – June
Location: Ban Thongxam Tai
GPS: 17.55089, 105.8385
020 97 171 442 / 020 98 439 026
DO & DON’TS
- Always hire a local guide for your walk through the villages and the caves.
- There are still many unexploded bombs in the area, keep to used paths.
- Take back all rubbish including cigarette butts. Keep the area clean.
- Do not take anything from the Park including plants from the forest.
- Do not purchase wildlife or wood products from the area.
- Please do not disturb wildlife with loud noises