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Mr. Vimon, a native of Thailand, married a Lao woman and set off for Champassak province in 1996 to look for investment opportunity. At first, he was being persuaded to invest in a hotel but eventually did not do it. Then, he realised the potential of the Pa Suam waterfall and its natural surroundings. People thought Vimon was crazy. Even the architects he tried to hire to work here 13 years ago asked him whether he was serious or not. They believed it would be impossible to develop this place as a tourist site, so they flatly refused to help me.. However, he was not discouraged. He believed that the waterfall could become one of the most successful tourism attractions of the province. A man from the countryside who received an undergraduate degree in art, Vimon decided to do the landscape design and development himself. He found assistance in the people of the village. I encouraged my workers not to infringe upon the wildlife of the area. I explained to them that the animals were important to the ecosystem of the area and the environment. Working with local authorities, he encouraged his labourers to gather plant life from other sites for transplant around the waterfall surrounds to sustain the natural beauty and clean green environment. Vimon’s efforts eventually proved successful. The determined man could create a well-designed tourist attraction while maintaining the natural integrity of the locals. The Pa Suam waterfall retains its beauty through the passage of time and tourists.
I think Mr. Vimon did a great job together with the locals. The Pa Suam waterfall is located on the Bolaven Plateau and is a great spot to spend a lazy afternoon or a quiet overnight stay. The Uttayan Bachieng Lodge overlooks the waterfall and offers a wide range of accommodation options, from unique tree-house type bungalows to homestay in an ethnic Lave village. During our homestay we enjoyed a spicy meal which was cooked for us.
Even though Mr. Vimon is unable to see, he is happy to hear the spoons and forks of his customers tapping against each other as they enjoy the fruits of his labour. For him investment is not just about making money for his own benefit, but giving an opportunity for people of the community. Now, more than 80 people work here, seven of whom are disabled, including Vimon, he said, smiling. He encourages ethnic residents to become involved in tourism in the area so they can earn income while preserving their culture. Now 13 ethnic groups are involved in tourism around the waterfall. Even students work here during their holiday. Since gaining the opportunity to work in the area, many of his young labourers have been able to build houses for their parents. Through the passage of time, the waterfall has retained its beauty and the visitors have maintained the local environment. This is expected to continue, even through the current season sees a flock of visitors from Laos and neighbouring countries coming to enjoy the gorgeous waterfall. Some visitors to the waterfall may be confused whether Vimon established this place as a temple or tourist site. He does not allow people to bring in alcohol or other forms of unsuitable entertainment. If officials find out about such activity, the visitors will be fined. Because some visitors misunderstand the story of Vimon’s life and intentions, he decided to write a book entitled They Say I’m Crazy in order to tell his story in his own words. I want to tell the facts about my life and my work in developing the waterfall. Because I am blind, people exaggerate too much about my life. Some people even say that I am a forest guarding soldier. After its introduction to the public, the entrepreneur’s book has been selling very well. Readers seem to be interested in this man’s life and how he manages to be so successful despite impairment. Vimong has also become a lecturer, invited to speak to youth in Laos and Thailand as teachers believe his life can inspire younger people to fight and overcome set backs in their own lives.
Source: Vientiane Times August 29, 2009