Woke up to a beautiful morning, it had an appearance to it that it may rain but the skies were just tricking us and it did not. We've all been wanting it to rain, just a little so we could put on our 'Radical Rainbow Riders' rain ponchos. The day turned out to be too warm for that. We gassed up the bikes and headed on back from Sekong towards Thateng where we made our way down to Pakxong.
We found some more pineapple stalls and quickly pulled over to buy one for the group. We hadn't had any breakfast, nothing to be found in Sekong and we knew we could find something along side the road or back at the market in Thateng. The lady who sold us the pineapple was gracious enough to cut it up in chunks for our consumption. It was delicious and very sweet, we all gobbled it down in no time.
We stopped in at the Thateng Market and quickly rushed in to by some more packs of freshly made spring rolls. (The group discovered these little beauties yesterday when we stopped and have been addicted to them ever since) We bought some more Rambutans, two mangoes and Jason purchased some baked goods for himself to consume. Gotta' love the markets.
We mad e a stop at a Coffee Plantation just before the Tad Fane waterfalls, from what we read and were told this was the place to try local coffee, tea and get a bite to eat. The grounds were absolutely beautiful, the cafe however was vacant of everything; no baked goods in the display case, no fresh sandwiches or soups and the prices for all of them including tea and coffee were insane.
We decided to forgo the food and drink and instead walk around the beautiful gardens, lavishing in the fact that we were the only people there and we had the place all to ourselves. Immediately I spotted a Rhino beetle on a stone step and scooped him up with a leaf, carrying him over to some grass near a bush to hopefully save him from being stepped on. The grounds were immaculate and there was a wonderful pond with a cascading waterfall set in amongst all the beautiful trees. We set our cameras up, each taking our place on our own stepping stone going across the pond near the falls. We did several different shots and in the end we came out with some awesome photos of the group, we must have spent a good part of an hour getting these pics, happy to be in such a beautiful and serene place. We walked around the grounds and soon enough we were on our way again.
We stopped in at the Tad Fane waterfalls to hopefully have a cup of coffee at the local cafe and to check out the falls - neither took place. Upon arrival they wanted $3 to park your motorcycle, $4 for a cup of coffee and an entrance fee of $10 per person to see the falls. As a group we decided not to stay and kept on traveling back towards Pakse.
Soon enough we spotted another tea and coffee plantation just off the road on our left hand side not too far passed the falls. It was a certified organic plantation and it had a lovely, welcoming cafe to sit inside and try out their tasty offerings - at a way more affordable price than that of the previous stop. We met the owner, San and his wife and two children. They opened the organic coffee and tea plantation three years ago. It's a lot of hard work and dedication, profits are not where San would like them to be but they are not as well known yet as the previous two plantations are. They haven't made it on the tourist map yet, we took their business card and promised San that we would make a review entry for them in trip advisor - hoping to bring them more business. Why not really, they are wonderful people, serve excellent organic fare trade goods made by their family and the atmosphere and service was amazing. They even showed us their tea making process within their little kitchen setup in the back. Jason discovered that San spoke French and soon enough he was asking San questions about his family, the business and the tea and coffee making processes. Lovely little man Mr. San is, we really enjoyed our time here. He even supplied us with tips on picking out the perfect Jackfruit.
Their coffee was divine, they supplied us with free pots of tea to go along with our coffee purchases, which consisted of Arabica and Robust coffees. Everything you try is available for sale on site. Their organic tea was delicious, Jason and I bought a pack of yellow tea and happily bought two bags of banana chips to share with the group. We sat around, drinking our coffees and teas, eating banana chips and our fresh spring rolls. We were all gorging on the rolls when suddenly Jason discovered several ants climbing out of the inside of his roll.....I wonder how many of these little gems we all ate without noticing. Soon enough there were two left to eat and everyone was suddenly full, LOL.
We said our good-byes to Mr. San and his family and hit the pavement again making our way towards Pakse. We stopped in a small village to look at some Jackfruit but they were either way too big or too ripe for the eating. We decided this was the spot for the 'Radical Rainbow Riders' to get dressed in their colorful rain ponchos (even though it was hot as hell out) and have our pictures taken while dressed for success. We couldn't have picked a more beautiful spot, huge red blooming trees hung over the road on either side, baby pigs running all over the place, little fruit shacks graced us with a spot to put down our bags and relax while setting up.
The local villagers must have thought we were all crazy, we had quite the admiring audience while we donned on our ponchos and took turns doing "Up and downs" on the street. We captured some great shots, we all sweat like hell inside our ponchos but it was well worth it in the end. Happy to be out of our plastic straight jackets we surveyed our surroundings, visited with the little piglets and got back on our scooters continuing our journey.
We stopped at the 21km mark from Pakse just to refresh and maybe find somewhere to eat. We couldn't find a restaurant so instead we found a local stall selling many different selections of fruit. We purchased a Jackfruit and asked the lady to cut it up for us, her daughter played nearby with a big silver bowl watching her mom, once in a while her mom would put a piece of Jackfruit into her bowl and the little girl ate it down happily. We separated all the fruit from its shell and had a bag full of Jackfruit to take back with us.
We made one more stop at a pineapple stall before heading back into Pakse. Following the hordes of traffic making its way into the city proved to be a bit much. The pollution and fumes choked you as you as you slowly followed the line of vehicles in. Gritty dirt soon caked every available space of uncovered skin, and at certain points I would hold my breath as a stream of smoke and dirt came flowing our way.
Glad to be back at the motorcycle rental shop, we discussed whether or not we wanted to keep one bike to take to the bus station to see about purchasing tickets into Champasak. The group has decided to travel on together, going further south. Tomorrow we plan to 'blow this popsicle stand' and make our way to Wat Phou in Champasak and carry on from there to Si Phan Don - 4000 Islands to Don Khon, where we will spend the next several days before making our way back into Thailand.
Our trip to the Bolaven Plateau will not soon be forgotten. The accompaniment of great new friends made the exploration that more exciting and memorable. The 'Radical Rainbow Riders' will live on forever, as the legendary "6 pack" of adventure junkies. (Angie came up with the name of 'Plateau Pounders' early on in our trip but for some reason we all found it so hilarious that we needed to find another name - we have Angie to Thank for the end result of 'Radical Rainbow Riders' due to the inept thinking of the rest of the group to create a name!) The local villagers, their beauty, friendliness and warm gestures of welcome made this trip a more valuable memory than most.
The Laotian are a strong, resilient and endearing people. For a country who has been so heavily bombed for over 9 years by the Americans and who have suffered at the hands of many cousin countries, their faces never gave their history away. Smiles, upon smiles is how we have always been greeted. Open arms into their guest homes and everyday lives. For a country that is so poor, Laos seems so rich.