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International > The picture of the week > Khone Falls in Laos

Picture of the week (No.22): Khone Falls (Mekong Falls) in Laos.                              Share

Each week (actually about 2 times a month), Willgoto selects here a nice picture. After an interruption due to a long trip abroad, we resume our periodic selection. The Mekong Falls, better known as Khone Falls, in Laos are the theme of the twenty-second picture of this series. These falls located in southern Laos only a few kilometers from Cambodia prevent navigation between the two countries. They are actually made up of several waterfalls totally separated from each other. You find hereunder the pictures of two of them.

Khone Phapheng (Mekong) Falls in southern Laos
Khone Phapheng (Mekong) Falls in southern Laos. Partial view.

The river. With a length of 4350 km, the Mekong is the longest river in Southeast Asia. Rising from the Himalayas, it irrigates the regions of Tibet and Yunnan in China mainly through narrow valleys. Then, it forms the border between Laos and Myanmar over one hundred kilometers, flows into the Golden Triangle - a crossroads of three countries (Laos, Myanmar, Thailand) known as one of Asia's main opium-producing areas -, thereafter enters Laos and then forms the border between Laos and Thailand over 850 km.

Thereafter, the Mekong crosses the south of Laos, then Cambodia where, depending on the season, it receives the waters from Tonle Sap - the great Lake of Cambodia - or, instead, feeds the lake, a phenomenon of flow reversal  probably unique in the world. Shortly thereafter, the river is divided into two, the Bassac to the west and the Mekong to the east. Both rivers give rise to a vast and fertile Delta that extends to south of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

Outside of China, the Mekong River is often very wide, but not always very deep in dry times. It plays a major role in the economy of the 5 countries it irrigates, particularly in terms of transport, rice-growing and fishing. It passes through the capitals of two countries, Vientiane and Phnom Penh. It is estimated that the livelihood of some 90 million people depends on the river.

Several hydroelectric dams are in operation on the river in China and several others are in project in this country as well as in Cambodia and Laos. It is also planned to improve the navigability of the Mekong River between Yunnan in China and Luang Prabang in Laos on a thousand kilometers. Several friendship bridges span the Mekong River to connect Laos with its neighboring countries: one with Myanmar, four with Thailand and three others in construction or in project also with Thailand.

Somphamit (Li Phi) Falls on the Mekong River in southern Laos. Partial view.

Khone Falls. In Laos, in the southern part of the province of Champasak, the Mekong crosses resistant rocks and seeps through many islands and islets, hence the name Si Phan Don, i.e. 4,000 islands, given to this region. Half of these islands are submerged when the Mekong River is in flood. To the south of this riverine archipelago, just a few kilometers away from the Cambodian border, each of the river's arms experiences rapids and falls so that none of them is navigable.

All of these falls and rapids are known as Khone Falls (or Mekong Falls), popularly also as Mekong Niagara. From east to west, the Khone Falls are made up of the Khone Phapheng Waterfalls (the largest Khone Falls), the Tad Pho Rapids, the Xang Pheu Rapids, the Khone Pa Soy Rapids, the Somphamit Falls (also known as Li Phi Falls) and the Salaphae Waterfalls.

The whole stretches over a width of ten kilometers and is considered as forming the widest falls of the world. On the basis of the overall water flow that actually varies dramatically depending on the season, the Khone Falls, as a whole, is one of the five most important waterfalls in the world. The total volume of the flow is 5 times larger than that of the Niagara Falls in America. However, the height of the Khone Falls is rather small, with the highest drop being limited to 21 meters.

Irrawaddy dolphins, an endangered species, can sometimes be viewed off Don Khon island.

At the end of the 19th century, in order to convey among others two heavy cannons by the river and bypass the Khone Falls, the French built a railway line on two nearby islands, Don Khone and Don Det, that they connected by a bridge. Subsequently, the construction of a road bypassing completely the Khone Falls and thereafter the Japanese occupation during the Second World War resulted in the abandonment of this railway line. Only a few vestiges of the line remain. In the meantime, the bridge connecting the two neighboring islands has been opened to traffic.

In Laos, the highest waterfall is Tad Fane Falls formed by two rivers that fall from 213 m and meet in gorges. It is located in the plateau of Bolaven (province of Champasak), known for its production of coffee. The most scenic waterfall, in any case the one that attracts the most tourists in Laos, is probably the waterfall of Kuang Si located about thirty kilometers south of Luang Prabang in northern Laos.

You may want to see also these beautiful pictures from waterfalls in Laos:

Khone Phapheng Waterfall

Somphamit Waterfall

Tad Fane Falls

Kuang Si Falls

The author of the pictures. All above pictures belong to Willgoto.

See also:
Picture of the week 1: Bee hummingbird, the smallest bird in the world. It is endemic to Cuba.
Picture of the week 2: Pagoda of the Golden Rock in Myanmar. It is one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the world.
Picture of the week 3: Seychelles beach. Seychelles is a perfect destination for a dream holiday.
Picture of the week 4: Lemur of Madagascar (Coquerel's sifaka), an endangered species of primates, which, like all other species of lemurs, is endemic to Madagascar.
Picture of the week 5: World heritage in Cambodia. The temple of Banteay Srei, better known as 'Citadel of the women', in Cambodia is a jewel of Khmer art and a world heritage site.
Picture of the week 6: Bull shark and tiger shark. Both sharks are unfortunately known for fatal attacks on humans. However, experienced divers can approach them and swim with them.
Picture of the week 7: Firewalking in Mauritius. Walking barefoot over a bed of hot embers is an ancestral religious practice.

And many more pictures of the week including:
Picture of the week 19: The Beaches of Isla Mujeres(Cancun). They are much appreciated by holidaymakers, especially those who come from Europe and the United States in winter.
Picture of the week 20: Tourist attractions of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka offers a wide range of attractions that make it a tourist destination visited by a growing amount of holidaymakers.
Picture of the week 21: Tourist attractions of Thailand The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) in Chiang Rai, famous for its whiteness as pure as unusual, is one of the many attractions of Thailand.

See all our
"Pictures of the week".



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The Khone Falls in southern Laos a few kilometers from Cambodia prevent navigation between the two countries. They are in fact made up of several cascades totally separated from each other.