The jungles of rural central Laos are virtually unexploited, marked by spectacular limestone karst formations that thrust through the jungle canopy, forming jagged cliffs, caves and river canyons. From the provincial capital Tha Khaek, 224 mi/360 km southeast of Vientiane, the Khammouane National Limestone Biodiversity Conservation Area is reached overland during the dry months and by long-tail boat during the rainy season. The town of Tha Kek is undergoing considerable growth in anticipation of a third Thai/Lao Friendship Bridge to be constructed from Nakhon Phanom on the Thai side across the Mekong to Tha Khaek.
In addition to natural scenery, the forest is home to countless species of primates and other tropical fauna and foliage, plus remote Lao villages where resourceful residents use the shells from U.S. bombs for everything from home construction to kitchen utensils. The Aran ruins, the remains of ancient temple pillars, have not yet been studied but are believed to be of Khmer origin.
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