This is our first attempt at a true Vientiane-area hike — or at least as close as it gets around here. Over the past six months, Lori and I have been looking for opportunities to get out into “nature” within a short drive of Vientiane. Sure, there are a ton of options around Vang Vieng, a few hours north of the capital. But we’ve been itching for some day hiking options with minimal fuss.
First off, the capital region is not known for hiking — actually, that’s an understatement. There are zero formal resources for hiking within a hundred miles — not in English, not in Lao language, nothing. There are no marked or maintained trails for hikers…and really, there aren’t even hikers. It’s just not a thing.
But of course, there are always hikers, even if there aren’t established trails, routes or maps. Obviously, with a GPS device, some provisions, the right attitude, and a boatload of time, you can make your own route along farm paths, rural roads or highways. You could also forge your own path, but that’s probably not the smartest idea in the most heavily bombed country on Earth (even if the area around the capital was largely spared, it’s still in the back of your mind). Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of time these days to go roaming around in the countryside making our own hiking routes, but luckily for us, there are others out there that do!
Lori and I worked off of a screenshot of the route transposed over satellite imagery, and the above map is the result of tracking our actual path (errors and all) with the MapMyHike mobile app, imported into Google maps. You can actually do this hike yourself by clicking on the map above on your mobile device and following along.
We were told to start at the Tat Moun waterfall parking lot (the big “P” above), which worked really well for us. It appeared that the lot was a pay lot, but no one came to collect money from us.
We started in the south parking lot, crossing the highway and following the route counter-clockwise. I’d recommend doing the same, as it puts the more “picturesque” parts of the hike towards the end (and the mini-landfill up front).
Six miles took us about three hours, including a few wrong turns and water breaks. Noe slept for about a third of the hike, which isn’t bad these days.
The cloud cover kept the midday temperatures down. We’ve had some pretty hot days over the past couple of weeks and it’s only supposed to get hotter. There isn’t a lot of shade on this route, so we’d recommend starting much earlier and bringing sun protection. We wouldn’t have even considered going so late in the day if it weren’t for the overcast skies and cooler temps.
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