Pakse & the Bolaven Plateau

Pakse itself was pretty unremarkable. Most people just use it as a base to arrange further transport, and we were no exception. We hired out a motorbike and went off to explore the surrounding Bolaven Plateau; or more specifically, the waterfalls of the Bolaven Plateau.

We set off early in the morning on the 80K ride to our destination, Tad Lo. The ride was a long straight road littered with broken down vehicles, nonchalantly wandering cattle and lined with the occasional tiny settlement. But what was quite heart-warming was that, whenever we passed a group of young Laotian kids they would grin and wave frantically, shouting ‘Sabaidee!’(hello) as soon as they saw we we were Westerners. No strings attached, it was just a genuine friendliness.

Tad Lo

After stopping at another waterfall on the way for a spot of lunch, we arrived at Tad Lo around midday. Tad Lo is basically a group of picturesque waterfalls that have proved so popular that a resort of sorts has sprung up around them. We found a local guesthouse in which we had our own bungalow right on the falls, and then went off to explore.
That night we crossed a vertiginous bamboo bridge and stumbled across a kind of hippy-esque village. We sat and ate in a tiny little restaurant whilst dreadlocked Caucasians strummed guitars and cooked their dinner over the heat of candles. One bloke was even juggling with fire! It was good entertainment. Afterwards we went back to the bungalow and were lulled to sleep by the sound of the cascading water.

On the ride back the next morning we narrowly avoided a petrol disaster. The fuel guage was becoming increasingly low but there were just no petrol stations to be seen. Cursing the developing world, we had no choice but to keep going and then perhaps enlist the help of a passing truck or tuk-tuk. The gauge had been on empty for miles (or kilometres they’re called out here) and we literally had metres left when we suddenly twigged that the little wooden huts with 2 cylinders that looked like they were full of orange juice, which we’d been passing all the way, were in fact petrol stations. There had been at least 2 in every town! So we filled up and made our merry way back home.

Next stop: Four Thousand Islands.

Vang Vieng – Toobin’!

Vang Vieng was the next stop in our itinerary. It was what you might call a tourist-town, in that the only reason it exists is to fleece money out of drunk Westerners! Think of an Asian version of Magaluf or Faliraki and you’d be close to the mark.

Still pretty sober at this point…

Possibly the sole reason for the town’s existence – and definitely the sole reason for its prosperity – is tubing. What this entails is as follows: each person rents a rubber tube and is taken by tuk-tuk about 2k upriver to a bar. Participants then have a drink in the bar whilst staff hand out free shots of Lao-Lao whiskey (rice whiskey) to anyone who wants it. Next, they get in the tubes and float downstream. Every 20 yards or so there is another gigantic bar, each one replete with┬ámore free whiskey, a massive rope swing, zip line or a giant slide, which the increasingly drunk participants can play with to their heart’s content. Dangerous? You betcha! It is absolute carnage.Great fun though! The idea is that you make it back to where you start but we spent 6 hours getting about halfway!

Vientiane is just another big, unfeasibly hot city and doesn’t deserve an entry in it’s own right. We stayed one night in an expensive hotel (11 pounds a night doncha know!) and have booked an overnight bus down south to Pakse (on which we get our own bed!)