An unspoilt rural paradise

Patithin Phetmeuangphuan

VIENTIANE (VIENTIANE TIMES/ANN) – Vangvieng always tops the list of getaway plans for Vientiane residents looking for a weekend escape. Its stunning scenery and many interesting activities are a major drawcard for thousands of overseas visitors.

But those wanting a similar but quieter and more natural option away from the crowds should opt for Meuangfeuang, which is perfect for anyone wanting more privacy and to feel special.

Why is it so special? Meuangfeuang is a small community surrounded by stunning karst mountains on the banks of the Lik River, but there isn’t much in the way of tourism ventures yet, so everything there is relatively untouched and natural.

Meuangfeuang could also be described as one of my hometowns because I lived there for a couple of years when I was two years old but haven’t been back until recently.

Now Meuangfeuang’s profile is growing on social media with visitors from Vientiane sharing and liking the beautiful bucolic scenes.

The crystal clear waters of the Lik River reflect a massive outcrop. PHOTO: VIENTIANE TIMES/ANN

I went there a month ago coinciding with the rice harvest, so I was very lucky to witness the golden crop that contrasted with the green and black hills.

Meuangfeuang district is easily accessible by car or minibus from the Northern Bus Terminal in Vientiane. It’s about 30km from the junction at Hinheup Bridge, where you need to turn left and branch off from the road heading to Vangvieng on the right.

I wasn’t entirely sure how to find the local points of interest, but as the town is quite small, I had little trouble navigating my way around.

Upon arrival, I recognised one beautiful spot from social media. It’s a wooden restaurant located on a rice farm. Here I could order food and drink and relax in a wooden hut in the middle of the farm watching people harvesting rice.

After an hour spent there chilling out, I followed the advice of locals and went to Sam Meun Toub Feuang in Ban Done. It’s three kilometres from town.

They said it was the most beautiful place in the district and they were right. Sam Meun Toub Feuang is located in a rice field close to the Lik River and surrounded by picturesque hills.

The quaint huts are built from timber and rice straw, but most visitors like to sit on the riverbank, which was my preference.

The river is amazing because it’s so clean and reflects the azure blue sky and adjacent hills. It was quite late in the afternoon and getting cooler, but it didn’t stop me and others from taking a dip in this heavenly spot.

Meuangfeuang is also a great place for cycling or driving around looking for adventure. You will really enjoy taking in the amazing views on your travels, especially in the late afternoon when the sun’s golden hues descend on the town, stunning hills and rice farms.

There are some guesthouses in the town, but you should go early to find the right one as some don’t provide food. However, the nearby market and several restaurants offer plenty of sustenance.

Room rates vary from LAK50,000 to LAK120,000 a night.

Meuangfeuang is full of interesting stories in the caves, waterfalls and old temples that await exploration.

Xinxaiyalam temple is one must-see in Nonehinhair village making you feel like it’s an ethnic museum.

Including to local legend, Sam Meun Meuangfeuang is a reference to the 30,000 huts made from rice straw, built by strangers who came from different parts of the country.

These people gathered there to dig for gold on Pha Thor Nor Kham area (Pha Thor Cliff). They stayed for years attempting to reach the hill of gold, but none of them could succeed because it was an inaccessible and sacred place.

Finally, they returned to their hometowns empty-handed and left the 30,000 huts behind.

Sam Meun originally referred to the 30,000 huts, and Meuangfeuang refers to the rice stems used to make the thatch roofs.

This story has been handed down from generation to generation.

Nowadays, people said they can sometimes see a glint of gold on the rocks that rise up in the distance.

But no one can say whether or not it is real gold because the locals still believe the site is sacred and unreachable.