PHOU ASA MOUNTAIN & KIET NGONG WETLANDS
Atop Phou Asa Mountain, above Kiet Ngong Village, stands an ancient and magnificent stone structure called Wat Phou Asa. It is believed to be a temple and is surrounded by distinctive, unique columns made of plate-like rocks which stand proudly as if guarding the temple. The summit of Phu Asa opens out to provide a stunning view over large areas of southern Lao. The forests of Xe Pian and Dong Houa Sao NPAs appear to stretch out endlessly from the Kiet Ngong wetland. To the north is the Bolaven Plateau, and on a clear day waterfalls can be seen cascading from it. Ahead to the east is the Xe Khong floodplain in Attapeu, and lining the horizon is the Annamite Mountains on the Vietnamese border. At the top of the outcrop is a ring of stone pillars. Legends abound about these remains, but it is unknown if the structure was built for religious or military reasons.
Phou Asa is reached by a short walk with a local guide or elephant ride along a forest trail from the village. Elephant-back trips can also be arranged to other places such as nearby forests and wetlands. Village guides are available to take visitors on half or full-day walks to Phou Asa and its surrounding, interpreting its many medicinal plants and non-timber forest products. The 7 km long eco-trail begins at the foot of Phou Asa and offers 3-4 hours of steady walking through tall semi-evergreen forest.
Also from Kiet Ngong Village is an extensive wetland, which is good for bird watching and day hikes. During the dry season (November-April) there is a trail around the wetland to Don Lai Island, which takes about 2 hours if walked slowly. Many water birds can be seen, so bring binoculars if you have them. On the way you will pass the Giant Rock (Hin Houa Yak in Lao), a sacred place with a superb view.
The trail continues to Phapho Vilalge, but you will probably want to return the way you came. Don Lai Island can also be reached by canoe. Your boatman will take you slowly around the edge of the wetland, where a passage through the thick mats of floating vegetation is kept open by boats and water buffaloes. A canoe trip offers a closer look at the birds and local fishing techniques than a walk around the wetland.
How to get there: From Pakse, take Route 13 south to Km 48. Turn left at Km 48 (look for the sign pointing the way to Attapeu and Xe Pian National Protected Area). Follow the dirt road 8 km down, until you see the sign to Ban Kiet Ngong where you turn right. The village is just a one kilometer from the turnoff.