A Setting for Laotian Folklore
The trek to Tad Ham Waterfalls is mystical as it is picturesque.
Thousands of years ago, legend has it that the people of Botan captured a majestic serpent that had 12 nostrils. Because of its poisonous fangs and venom, the people decided to hold it captive in one of their fishponds, which they secured with massive bamboo fences. This solution proved to be effective in allowing people to live and peace. Little did they know, this would be short-lived.
In wicked vengeance, the serpent transformed itself into a crab. Using its gigantic pincers, it grabbed the king’s daughter and escaped from the clutches of its captors. Struck with grief, the king ordered his servants to go after the vicious monster in hopes of having his daughter returned.
In honor of his beloved offspring, the king named the river Thanang, which means “young woman” in the Laotian tongue.
Following their king’s decree, a small group set out to find the kidnapped princess. They journeyed through the river and proceeded to name parts of it to mark events in their journey.
Moments later in their voyage, they found the girl’s red shirt at a deep part of the river. With heavy hearts, they called this part of the river Vang Sadaeng which means “deep, red water.”
Later, they chanced upon rabbits along the river’s rapids. Seemingly innocent from the dangers that surrounded them, they hopped merrily among the turbulent stream. The people decided to name this area the Kaeng Kaday, which means “rabbit rapids.”
Darkness soon fell. Despite the pale moonlight, the group struggled to land their steps safely as they moved along. Finally, they decided to light candles to aid them in their journey. They named this part of the river Kaeng Thian which means “candle rapids.”
The Boten people fought against the faint realizations in their hearts that they may no longer be able to retrieve their beloved princess. Still, they were determined to persist. It wasn’t until they reached the Tad Ham Waterfalls and rain poured that their feat proved impossible. With grave dismay and disappointment, the crew decided to accept their fate and end the search empty-handed.
Today, the Tad Ham Waterfalls is known to be the end point of the fabled group’s journey, admitting defeat to the evil serpent.
A Challenging Climb
You can find the Tad Ham Waterfalls along the Nam Ham River. Massive jagged rocks frame the beautiful frenzied stream of water running down a 15-meter high cliff, collecting itself into a large, clear basin.
From Boten Town, take on a 3-kilometer path to reach the starting point to trek Phou Pha Daeng (Red Mountain). If you’re using a car, an area is available for you to park, which is within walking distance from Tad Ham Waterfalls.
A trek to the peak of Phou Pha Daeng (Red Mountain) is excellent for young and experienced travelers aided by a tour guide for safety. This excursion is immensely satisfying if you want to re-trace the fabled pilgrimage and see its famed endpoint along the way. You can also enjoy a view of the Thailand mountainsides from its summit. This point is known as the highest area in all of Laos.