At times my visit to Laos had a time-travel flavour. I’d been there way back in the 1970s, just as the Pathet Lao were about to take over and the Royalists were about to lose out (the king, permanently – he was ‘disappeared’ and his fate has never been revealed). So it was appropriate that my trip to the 100 Waterfalls started in ‘70s-traveller fashion, with banana pancakes for breakfast.
A previously undiscovered (well undiscovered by anybody except the local villagers) series of waterfalls has to be worth investigating. I cross the river from my Nong Khiaw guesthouse and meet up with Marcus Neuer of Tiger Trails/Fair Trek and their expert local guide, Hom.
"Let’s make the trip more interesting," suggests Markus, "we’ll kayak to the village."
There’s a lunch stop on the riverbank for some very good food we’ve brought along: sticky rice, chicken, a delicious fish, eggplant, vegetables, all wrapped in banana leaves. It’s nine kilometres as the GPS straight-lines it to the village, probably 12-15km by the winding river. At the village we’re introduced to the naibom (the headman), dump our gear and set off for the falls, a 45-minute walk from the river.
The falls are not individually impressive – it’s the sheer number of them cascading down the hillside which makes them so interesting. Were there 100 of them? Who knows, you lose count after clambering up fall after fall. There were quite enough for me.
Tony Wheeler travelled to Laos on assignment for Lonely Planet. You can follow his adventures on Lonely Planet: Roads Less Travelled, screening internationally on National Geographic.