Tad Xay and Pha Xay is in Phou Khao Khouay National Protected Area of Laos.
Tad Xay and Pha Xay are considered to be the most beautiful waterfalls of Phou Khao Khouay National Protected Area (PKK). They consist of two falls within less than a kilometre. The stream Houay Xay has its source in the northern mountains of the park, meanders through dense and relatively untouched evergreen and dry deciduous forest, and finally empties about 2.5 km north of Ban Hatkhai into the Nam Mang, one of the three major rivers of the PKK area. This small stream appears to be a calm and gentle creek with little water during the dry season (October to May). As soon as the rain starts to fall, though, it turns as quickly as it dried out into a roaring “wild dangerous beast” for the rest of the year. Particularly in September, Tad Xay is nothing but a thundering white wall.
By reaching Tad Xay, the crystal clear waters Houay Xay are cascading over seven 1-3 metre steps, and then flowing in a sharp curve to the left through a picturesque small valley, to plunge 800 metres downstream over a steep 50-metre cliff info a breathtaking forested gorge.
“Tad” means waterfall in Laotian, “Pha” – cliff, “Houay” – stream, “Nam” – river and water.
Can be reached directly from Vientiane by car or motorbike. Turn left short before entering Thabok (Km 90, highway 13 south), the dirty (and during dry season, very dusty) road leads to Ban Houay Leuk (5 km). Always follow the road signs “National Park”. After crossing iron bridge over the Nam Leuk turn right after 1 km. Two kilometres on, you’ll pass another small village, Ban Hatkhai, which is the “gateway” to this part of the park.
For the time being, a bridge only half a kilometer before Ban Hatkai collapsed end of 2002, and is not passable during the rainy season, but can be by-passed without major problems during the dry season through the riverbed. The waters can be very deep there. Makeshift bridges have been constructed several times, but were later torn away by torrential waters. These bridges were also very narrow and shaky and it’a on the nerves of the driver to cross. The construction of a new, solid bridge turned out to be very costly for the villagers and it may still take some time to repair it.
The remainder of the road to Tad Xay and Pha Xay is inside the forest and may occasionally get a bit rough and steep. This part after Ban Hatkhai, about 7 km long, is amazingly good. Finally, you reach the parking area, from where you are to explore the beautiful surroundings by foot.
Highly recommended for people who want to experience more of the beautiful nature: Ban Hatkhai offers well trained guides, who will bring you to Tad Xay on a rewarding 45-min boat trip and relatively easy 1.5-hour trek through wonderful jungle. Other treks to different destinations can be booked as well.
Ban Hatkhai can also be reached by boat from Thabok (a little bit more than 2 hours). It’s not a regular tour so you have to find someone to bring you there and negotiate for the price.
From Vientiane is available from bus stations at Talat Sao (Morning Market) or at Talat Thad Luang. These buses or pick-ups pass either Thabok or go once a day directly to Ban Hatkhai. Irregular and often overcrowded public transport is also available from Thabok to the Long Xan valley, passing Ban Houay Leuk. 1 km after this village at the junction Tad Leuk/Tad Xay, leave the car and walk for about 2 km.
Starting at parking area, two trails are marked with coloured triangles:
- White-red is leading to the viewpoint of Pha Xay. Enter the forest less than 100 m before you reach the parking itself (almost there where the incoming road turns sharp left). Watch otu for a big tree. A marker should be there, but people sometimes like to remove it. A dark hole in the otherwise dense vegetation may give you a hint. There can be fallen trees on the path which you’ll have to climb over. After 200 metres you’ll reach the viewpoint.
The safety fence is there, but should be approached with ultimate care. It’s going down 50 m straight and can be very slippery when wet. The cliff is not fenced over its entire length.
- Yellow-red is leading to Tad Xay. It starts just left of the big signboard, where you have to cross a small bridge. During the dry season you can also be able to cross the river itself and walk up-stream inside the sandstone riverbed along the opposite riverbank to the waterfall.
It is also a very good plase for a picnic. A large pool with clear water all year round at the foot of Tad Xay invites visitors for a refreshing bath. Please bring back your rubbish and do not use soap in the water.