Dong Amphan NPA

National Park in Bolaven Plateau Region

The highlight of this 1975-sq-km protected area in eastern Attapeu Province is the fabled Nong Fa (Sky Blue Lake). This beautiful volcanic crater lake, also known as Nong Kai Ork, sits at an elevation of about 1500m. The view looking back away from the lake is just as beautiful as the lake itself. Unfortunately, until infrastructure is improved, travel to the lake is difficult if not impossible. Ask at the Attapeu tourism office about getting here.

Used by the North Vietnamese as an R&R (rest and recuperation) spot for soldiers hurt on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, this beautiful lake was once only able to be reached via a difficult five-day trek. New roads mean you can make it here and back from Attapeu in a day if you have a 4WD (available through Dokchampa Hotel) or an enduro motorcycle. Typically, it's visited on a two-day trip, with your guide arranging an informal homestay near the lake.

The park itself was, until recently, one of the most intact ecosystems in the country. However, logging, gold mining, wildlife poaching and hydroelectric projects on the Se Kaman and Se Su (Su River) have taken a toll on the pristine environment. Still, gaur, tiger, elephant and some 280 bird species, including the beautiful crested argus, inhabit the forests of Dong Amphan NPA.

The 65km of dirt track off Rte 18B from Attapeu to the park has steep hills, lots of rock, and some streams to cross, making it tough in the dry season and impossible for much of the rainy season. Theoretically you could get here on your own, but it's a very remote route and you risk being turned back by officials before you reach your goal.