Saturday, 21 January 2012

Mekong Tourism Forum: Pakse, southern Lao May 2011: Research in southern Laos

French era rail bridge linking Don Det and Don Khone
On route to the Mekong Tourism Forum I began to look at some of the differences between tourism development in southern Laos (4,000 Islands) and how this compares to the Mekong Discovery Trail Project's aims to develop the northern Mekong provinces of Cambodia. 

Cycling Heritage Trail Don Khone
After following key trails of the Mekong Discovery Trail in Cambodia for two weeks, (please see posts on the Mekong Discovery Trail for more details on this), I entered Lao by the only border crossing, and was immediately surprised by how developed southern Lao was.  The islands of Don Det and Don Khone, a long established destination for independent travellers of all descriptions seemed worlds apart from communities just across the border (and visible) from Don Khone.  Both have established local heritage trails as well as "community" tourism, but not to the standard NGO specification, any local farmers have build basic bungalow style accommodation on their lands for around the $5 a night mark, some much less.  The area has a reputation for partying and drugs, but in my opinion this is limited to a very small part of Don Det, and is on no where near the scale of Vang Vieng.  A different model without NGO support.

Baray of Wat Pu, Champasak
Further upstream is Don Khong, offerening more upscale accommodation evidently aimed more at tour groups.  Further still upstream is the island of Don Deang, home of the La Folie Lodge, a high end resort (and the location of our New Media Bootcamp/Workshop), popular with expats from Vientiane and close to Champasak, which is developing into a boutique hotel destination, close to Wat Pu World Heritage Site.

Zip Lining
Other high value tourism products in the area include The Tree Top Experience, run by a Pakse local, Inthy.  Based in the mountain forests about an hour drive from Pakse, this new project is based on the zip line & tree house model, which I was very lucky to experience courtesy of Inthy.  Click Zip Lining for the clip!.

Yak Loem Lake in Ratanakiri Province
I visited Ratanakiri Province on my return to Phnom Penh.  At 16 hours drive, very remote from the capital, but well liked to Pleiku over the border in Vietnam.  Local flights may help tourism here should they ever be resumed.

Click the following for pictures: 
Don Det & Don Khone (Don is Laotian for river island)
Don Khong
Don Deang
Mekong Tourism Forum
Tree Top Experience
Ratanakiri (Banlung)

And the following for some clips:
Boating in Stung Treng Ramsar site
The mighty Sompaeak (Khone) Falls

No comments:

Post a Comment