The view from the amazing Hin Nam No mountain in Laos
Welcoming Visit Laos Year 2018, Vientiane Times is publishing a series of feature articles and images inviting you to experience the authentic nature, culture, history and hospitality of Laos, Jewel of the Mekong.

Hin Nam No otherwise known as the Stone Formation Forest Karst in Khammuan province’s National Protected Area is a beautiful place with breathtaking views.
The mountain is part of the Annamite range, which runs between Laos and Vietnam. The area is also the single most abundant source of limestone in the country and has a high biodiversity of flora and fauna.
But despite its beauty, few people visit it because of its unreachability. The Heritage Department Director General of Information, Culture and Tourism Ministry, Mr Thongbay Phothisane said only 4x4 and off-road vehicles are able to reach the area and tourists will have to make a lot of effort if they want to go there.

The cave mouth of the Tham Namlot Xebangfay in the National Protected Area in Khammuan province where Hin Nam No site.                                                             --Photo Vilasay Rathahao

Laos has 18 provinces. Khammuan province is located in the central part of the country. Thakhaek district is located long the Mekong River. It’s an old town made up of French colonial buildings from the early 20th century. It also borders Thailand.
Hin Nam No mountain is about 150km east-south of Thakhaek. From Thakhaek, travel east along the road number No. 12 to Mahaxay district, 43 km long.
On the way to Mahaxay, turn right to Panam junction, 25 km long. At that point turn left at Panam to go to Bualapha district. It is 68 km long. The road from Mahaxay-Panam-Bualapha is unpaved.
From Bualapha, turns left after the district administration office and then turn right to go to Nongping village, which is another 14 kilometres away. The village is adjacent to the site of Karst Mountain.
This 14 km is the most difficult part of the route and it’s really for people who like a challenge and the nature that rewards them at the end.
“The bad road conditions start from the town of Bualapha Administration Office to Nongping village. Travelers can go only in the dry season. It’s a jungle where only 4x4 or off road vehicles can enter. However, a government proposal has been put forward to rebuild a section of the 14km road with the government,” said Mr Thongbay last week.
The road is not that long but it does take a few hours to reach the Nongping village. There, you can find shops selling food and water. The villagers are very friendly, smiling and welcoming to guests going on to Hin Nam No mountain.
For travellers looking for restaurants they’ll find some at the Langkhang junction where the route links to the Naphao Laos-Vietnam border checkpoint. It’s about 24 km from Bualapha District Administration Office.
Hin Nam No National Protection Area covers an area of 82,000ha; it is home to over 40 mammal species, over 200 bird species, 25 bat species, 46 species of amphibians and reptiles, over 100 fish species, and more than 520 plant species.
Lao government is hoping to submit Hin Nam No to the UNESCO list soon after both Laos and Vietnam signed a document giving their consent.
The signing ceremony took place in Vietnam and was signed by Lao Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Boua Ngeun Xaphouvong and Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Ms Dang Thi Bich Lien.
The committees in charge now have worked together to prepare the submission of the Hin Nam No National Protected Area to UNESCO and have been on many trips to Khammuan province over the past years.
During the mission, relevant officials made a field survey, held field discussions with all stakeholders and a formal consultation meeting in preparation to apply for the status of World Heritage Site in favour of the Hin Nam No National Protected Area, Mr Thongbay said.
Meanwhile this area is contiguous with the Phong Nha-Kebang Natural Park, located in Quang Binh province, north-central of Vietnam, which was nominated as a World Heritage Site in 2003.
Under the agreement, Laos needs to prepare all of the needed documents to nominate the Hin Nam No National Protected Area as a World Heritage Site. It hopes to complete its submission by 2020.
According to the Ministry of Informational, Culture and Tourism, the process of submitting the Hin Nam No NPA to the World Heritage Committee began in 1998.
Once approved, the government is hoping that Hin Nam No will attract both local and overseas tourists to visit the site and generate income for local people.
Presently, the government is ready to send documents to nominate the Plain of Jars in Xieng Khuang province as a World Heritage Site to UNESCO.
Laos has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the ancient city of Luang Prabang, which was nominated in 1995 and the pre-Angkor Vat Phou temple complex in Champassak province, which was nominated in 2001.

By Khonsavanh Lathsaphao
(Latest Update February 10, 2018)

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