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The Secret Lake

  • MYSTERIOUS: Many people believe that Nongfa is volcanic and was active hundreds of years ago.
  • SMOOTH TO ROUGH GLASS: Nongfa is about 70km away from the paved road.
  • TIME TRAVEL: Traditional Lao houses are found within the surroundings of Nongfa lake.

Nongfa is a mystery. No one knows how wide or deep it is. Many have attempted to measure its depth but all failed.

A mysterious lake is piquing the curiosity of visitors in the southernmost province of Attapeu. It is known locally as Nongfa (Blue lake) and lies more than 1,100m above sea level, hidden inside a mountain range.

“Nongfa is a mystery. No one knows how wide or deep it is and the water stays a deep turqoise all year round,” says Khamphanh Bounnhavongsy, an official from the Provincial Tourism Office.

Khamphanh is a resident of Attapeu and has visited the lake many times to trace its history with the help of older people who, he feels certain, know its depth.

He says he really wants to know the width of the lake and has attempted to find out during his visits to Vangtard village. Accompanied by some locals, we walked around the perimeter of the lake, which took from 10am to 3pm, including an hour’s break for lunch.

"The lake’s depth and width are still unknown and the provincial authorities have no means of determining its measurements."


The footpath around the edge of the lake made by the villagers makes walking easier. “While we walk and talk, we can hear different kinds of birdsongs. This is a wonderful place and we never feel tired because the natural beauty is always an inspiration,” he says.

“On the way up to the mountain top, the scenery is something special.”

The lake and the village are in Sanxay district, which is some kilometres away from the province’s main town. It’s a 2-3 hour drive to Nongfa on Rd No 18B. The road was built a few years ago and is the main road in the south of Laos linking with the border province of Viet Nam to the east.

Sanxay is at the Km 100 point on Rd No 18B and Nongfa is another 70km off the road. This district borders Ngoc Hoi district in Kon Tum province, Viet Nam.

The area harbours several fascinating places that can enlighten the visitor about Lao history, culture and ecotourism, Khamphanh says.

“Nongfa is a great place for tourists and we find that both local people and overseas visitors are interested, despite its distance from the town of Attapeu. From Samakhixay district, it’s about 170 kilometres to the lake.”

He says local people consider the lake sacred and find mystery in its hidden aquamarine depths.

Locals have used bamboo stems to try to measure its depth. They tied together 10 lengths of bamboo, each measuring about 10m, but even this failed to reach the bottom.

Then they used a length of nylon with a stone fastened at one end to try to touch bottom, but this still didn’t work. “The nylon was more than 100m long,” Khamphanh says.

The lake’s depth and width are still unknown and the provincial authorities have no means of determining its measurements. They also don’t know why the water is as green as seawater all year round.

Many local people hypothesise that this area is volcanic and was active hundreds of years ago.

“The local people named the lake Nongfa because the water in it reminds them of the colour of seawater,” he explains.

Khamphanh says the area attracts visitors because of the cool temperature and the view, combined with unusual biodiversity and the chance to spot some wildlife. He says locals tell him they have seen gibbons and other types of monkey, as well as deer and barking deer.

Visitors can also learn about the local lifestyle, particularly that of the Yare ethnic group. Most of the members of this group have settled in Sanxay district.

Attapeu is the southernmost province of Laos and borders Xekong, Saravan and Champassak provinces.

By road from Xaysettha district in Attapeu province, it is 113km on Rd No 18B, passing through Phouvong district en route to the Vietnamese border province of Kon Tum.

The road is in good condition, and the whole drive from Vientiane, the capital of Laos, to the Vietnamese border is about 1,000km.

Buses to the southern provinces depart every day from the bus terminal in Xangkhou village in Vientiane. (By PHON THIKEO in Vientiane/ Vientiane Times/ AsiaNews)

MySinchew 2008.04.28

 

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