Bolaven Plateau & Waterfalls, Pakse, Laos (April 6, 2007)

We took advantage of the free wireless at the Pakse hotel to register our domain and get this website up and running. Pakse is a sleepy town which has a certain charm as the Lonely Planet guide puts it “The centre of Pakse retains the sort of Mekong River-town lethargy”. It became apparent this was contagious as we kept extending our stay much to the delight of the French Hotel manager and his Laos wife. (Apparently, it is illegal to have a relationship with a foreigner here until married)

Eventually, we dragged ourselves away from the screen and went on a day trip to explore the nearby Bolaven Plateau. Once past the traffic, a scenic rural landscape unfolded and soon we approached the turnoff for the Phasoume Resort & waterfalls. There were a small entrance fee and no charge for parking. The entrance obliviously went to good use as the grounds were impressively well kept. Wooden signs pointed us in the right direction as well as the gushing sound of the waterfall itself.

A picturesque fragile bamboo bridge lies in front of the falls and we stopped to take in the impressive view. They have also built a wooden platform for the optimal photo opportunities which a large animated Japanese tour group were taking full advantage of. So we decided to explore another side of the parkland wandering through a ‘tribal village’ although sounding contrived it isn’t and it aims to integrate ethnic tribal groups with tourism in a positive, informative way. Although I did have a problem with the caged animals on display including a young gibbon and a chained young elephant.

There was another waterfall which looked so perfect it seemed man-made and later I learned that it had been ‘enhanced’. The lack of tourists in this section was refreshing. Slices of wooden trunks were laid out as stepping stones making it easier to explore the jungle terrain. After lunch my pale Irish skin had turned a deep red colour so I had to buy a t-shirt to cover up, however, it was the ultimate touristy one ‘ I was in Champasak Province yes very beautiful’ was printed in large letters much to my embarrassment.

Further down the road, we turned off for the Tad Fan falls. Again we heard the falls before we could see them. We peered out from a rickety wooden fence to look at the view. Wow. Parallel streams flow down 120 meters to the pool below. The strong current smacking the rocky shelf halfway before descending further into a misty cloud. I stood mesmerised following one splash all the way down. We went to the restaurant balcony and zoned out on the view over lunch.

2 km further there is another waterfall called Tad Yuang. On arrival, you first pass the top of the waterfall with pretty bridges leading to islands with grassy banks that invited further exploring. Once you walk down a few steps the view slaps you with its intense beauty. To the right is a canyon deeply forested with peaks either side. A deep green haze spread towards the horizon. Halfway down there are seats built on a shelf all made of bamboo attached to a tree so tall it touched the sky. There is a strong mystical feel here a place perhaps in which fairy stories are born. On the journey back the sun was burning orange as it set behind the purple-hued mountain.

To finish the day we stopped at the Delta Cafe for a beer. Alex more hungry than I was ventured out for food later, to the amazing Indian restaurant ‘Jasmin’. Unfortunately, he was approached by a suicidal Slovenian who he couldn’t escape from for some time as beers kept appearing. The restaurant seems to attract these types of odd characters and swarms of hippy’s gather from the nearby backpackers also.

After the long day it was nice to be able to escape to our $19 dollar luxury room (with breakfast, a/c, ensuite and did I mention free wifi!) Tasteful archive photos in black and white adorn the walls and handwoven material in brown and rusty orange colours hang adding a cosy feel to the place while local wood carvings and wicker baskets are scattered throughout the lobby.

Finally, it was time to leave Pakse and we booked an overnight VIP bus to Vientiane the capital of Laos which was a 10-hour bus journey away. However, this VIP bus came with a hostess to greet you and show you to your seat, supply you with free drinks and a tasty rice meal. While eating we watched a subtitled movie from our reclining seats with leg rests and wrapped ourselves in the blankets provided. The lights and screen went out for the night and I slept soundly for the remainder of the journey until the hostess woke us with fresh cold towels. This was the longest bus trip yet the easiest one of our travels so far.

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