Bertrand is an orchid specialist working for Vientiane Orchidées in Laos, a Vientiane based company dedicated to the preservation and the knowledge of Lao orchids (of which many species are endangered). He organizes treks and educational hikes in Phou Khao Khouay, a giant national park and the protected area around 200,000 sq hectares, located about 100 kilometers from Vientiane, following road 13 towards Pakxan.
After two hours we reached Ban Hat Khai, the village which is the base camp of Bertrand’s botanical hiking excursions in Laos. Two local guides jumped into the car and we were ready to enter the forest and encountering its beauties.
I instantly felt myself getting excited about all the different species of plants as they were pointed out in nearly every corner of this protected and very special place. Ferns, mosses and strange mushrooms living in the dark, wild gingers with outstanding flowers, fragrant cinnamon and thorny rattan, crazy climbers that run everywhere, tiny begonias living on the rock’s surface and, of course, orchids!!
Bertrand is a real enthusiast and helps you discover all the species you can find there (around 80 just for the trek), he knows every species’ characteristics and has the eye trained to find them even when they are hidden on a tree trunk ten meters from the ground.
If you are at all interested in unique plant life you will be pulled in completely to this wonderful experience. I was stunned by the beauty and so happy that we were able to see some many orchid varieties full of colors and with nice names such as Dendrobium, Eria, Coelogyne, Bulbophyllum, Taenia, Habenaria, Thrixspermum, Phalaenopsis, Anoechtochilus, Liparis, Calanthe and Eulophia, just to name a few!
During this special journey through the landscapes of Laos I also discovered many types of environments, different kinds of forests, open areas where you can meet the Drosera, a little carnivorous plant that uses a natural glue to catch its prey, rocky sandstone outcroppings with amazing rocks standing high above the trees, little rivers that cut through the forest which can be crossed by foot (except during the rainy season, when they become much bigger). Then after all this, I thought the day couldn’t get any better, but the end of the trek is at the beautiful Tad Xai waterfalls. It was so refreshing to jump into the cool water after a long day of walking!
Enjoying a cold BeerLao in the village after this exciting and intense Nature walk and Orchid hike was a nice way to end the journey. As much as there was to learn there was to see,…and almost everybody was sleeping in the car on the way-back.
The trek is accessible to everyone, children are very welcome, the picnic is prepared by the villagers, no problem for vegetarians, we adapt. Part of the payment goes directly to the local guides, the village, the park and the tourism authorities in the Province and District.
Program available on request. (in English or French). Transport by Ford Ranger or minivan depending on the number of people.
The trek is open every day, contact details.
The explanations during the tour are in English, French or Lao.
Written by AlbinD in 2012. Updated April 2022 by David Allan.