The Bolaven Plateau, Laos
Feb 25, 2008
We are now in the heart of the Bolaven Plateau, east of Pakse, in Southern Laos. Internet access is spotty, so we probably won't be sending any updates (or responding to any emails) for a while. No worries, though! We're heading off on a elephant ride tomorrow, after a long hike through traditional Lao villages and a soak in the river today in a little town called Tad Lo (named after a local waterfall).
We'll be back in Pakse on Friday or so, and then head up to Vientienne, the capital. We'll have a chance to get reconnected there.
Motorcycle journey (Kyla writing)
We spent 5 days exploring the Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos, on our first multi-day motorcycle trip. The small tribal villages, waterfalls and incredible nature greatly appealed to us.
The first day I spent on the back of the motorbike taking in the small villages and saving “Saibadee” to the children walking along the road to and from school. In one memorable instance, the cutest little boy EVER (that was for you Erica!) was walking up a side road to the main road and when spotting us falang and hearing my greeting, gave a quick wave, jumped up and down kicking his legs with excitement, turned around and screamed to others to take notice of us. That is a lot of activity for a split second! It was in looking back that I spotted a row of children bathing in the village’s communal water supply and a mass of waves and Saibadees sent us along our way. Its that kind of stuff that has kept a smile on our face throughout our time in Laos.
So our final destination that first day was Tat Lo where there were three beautiful waterfalls ripe for exploring, On account of a poor map we accidentally ran into our destination much earlier than anticipated but as we approached it from a different access point were not convinced that we had arrived where we wanted to be. 20 minutes of driving around in circles later...we finally figured it out, found a simple guesthouse and were out exploring the closest waterfall in no time.
The next morning we got up early to hike to the other falls and 5 tribal villages. Nick somehow ended up drinking homemade Lao Lao (think toilet cleaner taste - actually I have never drank such a product so how would I know the taste? My sister Tanja on the other hand...) . But back to the Lao Lao. Sometimes I do not know the man I am travelling with. This is strange to me. I am married to the man I am travelling with and have known him for almost 10 years. We share a house, parent a lovable dog, get each others jokes, even committed to a lifetime of happiness together... But back (again) to the Lao Lao...I mean, the Lao Lao was sitting in a hole in the ground, I think there was an open fire as well, chickens and children were parading unsupervised very closely by, and to boot, it was 9:30 in the morning! MY family has an unofficial rule about drinking before noon. I guess the Glustiens are up for a morning drink of moonshine. Had I known this before I would have added a drink menu to the brunches we have hosted in the past!
Soon after Nick's "beverage" we spent the better part of half an hour playing with 20 or so kids. Who knew an empty water bottle could contain your interest for so long? Maybe longer after some Lao Lao?
After two days of chilling in Tad Lo it was time to hit the road again.
Our next destination? A set of huts near a bridge and river, between Sekong and Attipeau (they are about 50km apart). Lucky for us I struck up a conversation one afternoon in Pakse with an American while waiting for Nick and a Dutch women to try and figure out if the bank had just emptied their accounts when it was announced that "0 Kip is Available in Your Account - Would you Like to Continue?" We still have money in case you are wondering.
So the American raved about this secret place. Remember "The Beach"? That is it - Laos style. So I was feeling pretty cool being in on the secret and vowed not to share my secret with the Lonely Planet (THE traveller crutch - you need the book but you hate the book at the same time). Anyway the directions made perfect sense that morning outside of the ATM - "Once outside of Sekong there will be a large bridge over a river, there will be a large sign for something (but not a sign announcing the huts) take an immediate left into an area that does not make sense to travel in, and after awhile... well.. paradise.
So Nick and I set out. And I came to realize how incredibly vague my directions were, seeing as how every few kms had a bridge over a river, and Nick was dumbfounded that I, the planner of all planners, who has an incredible love for details and certainty, had nothing more to offer for directions. Speaking of not knowing who you are travelling with!! A trip around the world will bring out all sorts of stuff in your that you never could predict.
Anyway, we spent the better part of an hour driving back and forth an area of the road we thought must be the turnoff point but we weren't convinced that it could actually be it. On the final pass (we had declared it the final pass in advance) a young boy on the side of the road responded "yes" when I asked and pointed "bungalows?" Jackpot!!!! A 5 minute drive later, through forest and village and me sometimes needing to get off the bike becaue the path was not made for 2 on a bike, and we arrived. The place was deserted until a group of 4 others arrived - a Dutch couple and 2 friends from France. They too had been in on the secret. We vowed to wain for half and hour before considering our options. Did I mention that the sun was starting to set? No worries though - the owner returned, bungalows were assigned (the 6 of us were the only tenants), and we were swimming in the Tad Huan Khan in no time. We had an exceptional evening, made some new friends, and all agreed that the secret had to be kept from the travel guides.
Our good luck continued for the next couple of days. We found great accomodation in Pakson, met up with our new Dutch and American friends, took in more waterfalls. And to boot on return to Pakse we scored tickets that night on the overnight bus to Vientienne. Everything was coming up Milhouse!