Yesterday I woke up early to beat the heat, rented a bike, and set off with the morning commute of uniformed schoolchildren. My goal was Somphamit Falls, 3 kilometers from the village. The claustrophobic village road, where neighbors and guesthouses and simple restaurants of thatch roof and tables hug the narrow dirt road, receded behind me. I pedaled past dead rice fields, simple elevated houses, pigs and chickens, and the occasional wandering cow pack that barely blinked at the honking of a motorbike’s horn. 15 minutes later I reached the ticket booth for the falls.
Relieved of 35,000 kip (roughly $4 US), I walked over a rickety wood bridge, through an empty ticket turnstile, and out to the newly built, half-finished restaurant at the head of the falls. As I approached, I could feel the rumbling, hear the roar, but all I could see was the forest and a few hand-painted signs assuring me I wasn’t lost. My first taste was the rusted water wheel flashing in the golden morning sun as turkeys grazed around the sedate green stream. Just steps away, over a muddy path and the newly poured concrete base of a future viewing platform, the Mekong River starts its angry descent, gnashing through rock and crevice, as multiple tendrils devour the earth across a wide series of small gorges.
From here I could see the river approaching me, a wide, deceivingly calm plateau of water, seeming to pause just a moment before tumbling into the teeth of Somphamit. Turning 180 degrees, I looked down the gorge, a couple kilometers out, where waterfall after waterfall of the Mekong pour into the funnel that recedes into the distance. Continue reading