Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Bolaven Plateau

Well, we spent one night recovering from our 12-hour bus ride to Pakse and then we were off again. At this point in our trip through Laos, we had been in the country for 12 days and spent 5 of those days in-transit, so we were feeling the need to get away from the mass-transportation and savor some independent exploration for a couple of days. Nick and I, along with our new Dutch friend Daniella, rented motorbikes and set out for a 3-day journey through the beautiful Bolaven Plateau.

At first glance, there’s not much to the Bolaven Plateau. The ride is scenic, but by no means breathtaking.

But tucked away inside the plateau are gorgeous cliffs and plunging waterfalls that make the long bike ride worth the while. I had absolutely no expectations about any of the waterfalls we were planning on checking out during our trip, but if I had had expectations, they would have been far exceeded.

The first pull off we came to was Tad Paxuam where the water falls over ink-black cliffs.
The cliffs were wide open for exploration, so we were able to walk right over to the top of the falls, climb over the boulders,
and sit right at the edge. (Which I have to admit was just a little bit frightening!)
After a short time visiting these falls, we got back on our motorbikes. We weren’t sure how long it would take us to get to Tad Lo falls where we planned to sleep for the night, and we wanted to make sure we arrived before the sun set.

As we made our way through the Plateau, we got a taste of Lao life; we passed by small farms, bamboo houses on stilts with thatch roofs (many equipped with satellites!), cows, pigs, goats, and chickens.
Finally, after a surprisingly grueling 2 ½ hours on the road, we made it to the stunning TadLo falls.

In the late-afternoon light, it was absolutely gorgeous. We sat on a deck overlooking the falls and ate dinner while we watched children playing on the rocks. They were climbing up over the falls just like monkeys and running after each other through the water.
We found ourselves some little bungalows over-looking the river, close enough to the waterfall to hear it as we slept… or so we thought.
The view from our porch

While we were envisioning a quiet and relaxing night listening to crickets and the rushing waterfall, the townspeople had something different in mind. Apparently there was some sort of Buddhist full-moon festival going on at the temple just down the river from where we were staying. The festival must have required celebrating until the moon went down (or the sun came up) because the temple blasted Thai pop music throughout the village until 5:00 in the morning!

But when it finally did finish, we found the peace we were looking for. We spent the next morning reading near the river and then went for a short hike to the top of the falls where we hung out for the rest of the afternoon – sunbathing and swimming.

our friend Daniella sunbathing on a rock

Thankfully, the next night there was no festival and we fell asleep early to the sound of water rushing down the falls.

The next day we were up bright and early to make our way back to Pakse. Although most of the drive we did was paved, the first 20 kilometers after Tad Lo were on very a very dusty dirt road (at some points it felt like we were on a BMX dirt-bike track).

 watch out for the dust cloud!
the Lao equivalent of orange traffic cones: rocks and sticks

Daniella was a bit gun-shy on the unpaved roads (driving about 5-10 miles an hour the entire time) so it took 2 hours to make it past those 20 Km.

A bit dusty and impatient at 10:30 am, we were happy to be off the dirt road and on our way to the next waterfall. We spent the rest of the day exploring the three waterfalls between Tad Lo and Pakse.

The gorgeous Tad Niang falls:

The breathtaking Tad Fane falls:
 The Tad Fane waterfall ran down a sheer cliff right in the middle of the plateau. It looked as if someone had taken a huge apple-corer to the plateau and dug out a hole in the center. 
 The cliffs were so steep, it gave me vertigo just to look at them, it was spectacular.

And the refreshing E Tu falls:
Where we stopped for a refreshing dip in the water.

After one last stop at a local “gas station”
we were headed back to Pakse for the night feeling refreshed. 

Although I had no idea what to expect when we entered Laos, it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

1 comment:

  1. I have missed so much in the past couple of weeks - catching up now. I love that pic of you and Nick!