Posts Tagged With: Bolaven Plateau

Three Waterfalls, Two Restaurants, One Campfire: More of Laos

You know a place has gotten into your heart when it’s a multiple-blog post kinda trip. I’ve tried to condense it, but the pictures are just too darn good!

There is so much of the country I want to share with you…

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From cows in the countryside…

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To dogs behind the wheel.  (Photo courtesy of Anna.)

Laos felt very pastoral. When I was in college, I took a classical poetry course, studying poetry from Ancient Greece and Rome. Virgil and Homer created a new literary style called locus amoenus. For some reason, I have never forgotten about.

Locus Amoenus is Latin for “pleasant place”, and is used to describe a remote, pastoral, safe, and comfortable environment, often a place of safety and devoid of people. A refuge. Animals are okay in a locus amoenus. A locus amoenus must have three things: grass, trees, and water.

Laos was my locus amoenus. 

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After cruising along the countryside, we stopped at a small cafe to get coffee and hot chocolate. It was surprisingly chilly, and we were all getting a bit hungry. Famous for their coffee, I had to order yet another latte in Laos.

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(Photo courtesy of Anna.)

After coffee, we hunted high and low for a restaurant to fill our bellies. Sean has something I like to call the “plastic chair policy”. He avoids places with plastic chairs. He does this for hygienic reasons, which isn’t entirely unfounded. A family friend of ours once said, “You think you can eat anything, and you do, until you come within inches of your death and wish you were dead. Then you’re off the street food.” Sean took his words to heart and now looks only for eating establishments with wooden or metal chairs and tables, a signal to him that the place must have a clean kitchen if they’ve taken the effort to set up a solid dining area.

Regardless, he had to throw his plastic chair policy out the window in Paksong, Laos. We were lucky to find the place that we did—Paksong is a quiet, empty town embedded in the hills of the Bolaven.

I have never had a “plastic chair policy”. I should probably create one. But, judging on the meal in the above photo, would you have turned this place down? Me neither.

IMG_7640The sun was setting, and it was time to find a place to lay our heads and dream…

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When I stepped out of the car to snap the vista photo above, it dawned on me that I hadn’t photographed our car yet. We’ve named her Champi, (pronounced chompy) after a waterfall we never saw. Poetic, right?

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(Photo courtesy of Anna.)

After our lovely morning of coffee, fried rice, and sightseeing, we stopped at Tad Fane, a famous waterfall in the Bolaven. We stayed in the Tad Fane Lodge—my favorite place in the entire trip. It felt like a fairy land. I could have stayed forever.
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(Photo courtesy of Anna.)

Not only did it feel like a fairy land, but it was also inhabited by rather mystical creatures. I swear this guy MUST have been the same spider that bite me. Yeah, right.



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Like I said, this lodge was heaven. They had two levels, with the upper level having a fire pit with a roaring fire. As we were hanging on the edge of the valley, the fog was curling up through the trees and mingling with the smoke from the embers. I was in love with the moment.

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Then this guy showed up.

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And his girlfriend. Our host found them. He just casually picked them off the ground, or from a counter, I’m not quite sure—hopefully not out of my beer—and set them on the table. After meeting each other, they didn’t waste any time getting down to business. Must have been the romantic campfire…

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In the morning, when the fog lifted, we had the most amazing breakfast and view yet.

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This is Tad Fane.

After we left the lodge, we had another waterfall to head to. I know, I know, enough with the waterfalls. But remember what I said… trees, grass, and water. Locus amoenus

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The next waterfall we visited had the most amazing overlook. Dr. Seuss, anyone?

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Sean snapped this photo from above as I fought the raging wind and water blowing me sideways.

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I was truly not many feet from the waterfall. These falls were named Tad Yeang, and were some of the more touristy falls we’d been to. They had a nice entrance area, and a restaurant nearby. We weren’t complaining!

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At the top of the falls there were a series of bridge to carry you to the other side of the river. We walked upstream quite a ways, looking for the perfect swimming hole.

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True love. Between which two couples? You decide… (Photo courtesy of Anna.)

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(Photo courtesy of Anna.) Like I said, there was a restaurant near Tad Yeang, serving traditional Laotian food. It was an open-air seating area overlooking the falls, run by a few local girls who were making the food fresh from the ingredients they had brought that day.


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(Photo courtesy of Anna.) We had Beer Lao, red sticky rice, mango salad, grilled pork, roasted yams, roasted pumpkin, and bamboo soup. You heard me, bamboo soup. Honestly, it was a feast unlike any other I have ever had. We ate every morsel and loved it. It was really fascinating; a series of flavors I had never tasted before.

Our final stop for the evening was Tad Etu, our final waterfall for our trip.

IMG_7833Look towards Tad Etu, graced by a lovely mist rainbow.

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Sean had to get a little closer, so he went exploring. Anna and I took pictures and stayed dry. Every set of waterfalls we came to ended up being our personal playground. Where else in the world can you get that?

Where is your locus amoenus?

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Categories: Laos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hiking In Laos On The Bolaven Plateau

I didn’t have to think hard about the title for this blog post. Most of the time I sit for five, ten, sometimes fifteen minutes, trying to come up the best, eye-catching title. I want anyone browsing the web to stop in their tracks and think, “Wow, I’ve GOT to read that!” Even if I turned someone small and everyday, like finding an Indian restaurant in Kuwait, into an adventure into the bowels of the Middle East. It’s all about creativity and perspective.

It wasn’t hard today. Why? Because “Hiking In Laos On The Bolaven Plateau” is just awesome. And it’s what we did. Kind of like “Going To The Moon Tomorrow”. How can you make going to the moon sound even more awesome than it already is?

So, we went hiking in Laos on the Bolaven Plateau.

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Photo courtesy of Anna.  She let me steal a few of her amazing ones to add to the blog.

After we left the 4,000 islands area (see last post), we drove north to a town called Pakse. Pakse is kind of the hub for the Bolaven plateau; once you head up into the hills, there isn’t a whole lot in terms of facilities. We stopped in Pakse to get lunch and run a few errands. We also found these street snacks, which ended up tasting very strange.  Delicious, but strange. They’re made with coconut flour, so taste tropical, but the inside doesn’t fully cook, so it always has a crunchy outside and jelly interior. The jelly is what gets me. Regardless, we bought a couple and mopped up the grease that dribble down our chins.

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Pakse is located on the Mekong river, which runs all the way down to Phnom Penh, and out into the Gulf of Thailand. Our trip literally followed the Mekong river all the way north. As we left Pakse, we drove to Tad Lo in the north of the plateau. The average elevation for the Bolaven is at around 4,000 ft—much different than our elevation in Phnom Penh, which is only 39 feet above sea level!
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Photo courtesy of Anna.

We stayed at Tad Lo Lodge, a beautiful place right next to Tad Lo waterfall.These were our bungalows.
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We woke up to a breakfast of fresh fruit, omelets, french bread, and coffee. You can see Tad Lo falls in the background. I could have relaxed on that patio for days!

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The main building of Tad Lo lodge.

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We started our hike the next morning. Our plan was to hike up the river to Tad Suong, which was reported to be the most beautiful falls of them all. We slathered on our sunscreen, packed our bags, and struck out for adventure.

A cautionary note: We were following a distinct trail for much of the hike. When we weren’t on a trail, we were walking in farmer’s fields. Never, ever go off trail in Laos or Cambodia. The countrysides are still riddled with unexploded ordinances—Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge and Laos from the Vietnam war. We never saw any bombs or problems, but we were warned in every tourist office. Please, if you go, tread wisely!
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The first set of falls we came to were Tad Hang. We were so excited to get to Tad Suong, we just stopped for a few pictures here then kept going.
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Tad Hang.

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Photo courtesy of Anna.

We had to go through two local villages on our hike. The people were so friendly; they always smiled and said hello. When we asked, “Tad Suong?” they smiled and pointed us in the right direction.

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Trekking through the farm fields of the Bolaven. Sean took this photo as he was walking farther away from us at one point. I am in the front and Anna is in the back.

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We found coffee plants! Coffee production is a large export on the Bolaven. And of course, I brought a few bags home.

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We were finally in eyesight of Tad Suong. Isn’t it gorgeous?

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I found the happiest woman in the world inside this hut. She was roasting and shucking corn, looking out over a gorgeous view of waterfalls and mountains. She seemed so at peace with the world. I would have loved to sat with her for a while.
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But we had to go on. This was the only real river crossing we had to do, and I left my shoes on to do it. You never know what’s in that muddy water!

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We finally reached Tad Suong! Our goal was to climb to the top of the falls, but we couldn’t find the trail. We knew the view from the top was going to be wonderful, but we couldn’t figure out how to get there.

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I stopped for a minute to consider our options, then I decided to push on…

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When I got bit by a massive spider. Okay, I never saw the spider, but the bite hurt! I thought, in my wise and composed condition, that I only had 24 hours to live. At this point in the hike, I called it quits, and suggested (in more or less words) that we head back to the lodge so someone could look at my bite.

Long story short, the bite was fine. It probably was a spider, but the men at the lodge said I would be fine. And I was. But from now on, I will certainly think twice about climbing through the guts of a rainforest!

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On our way back, Kampot was overheating, so Anna was a lovely mother and carried him a bit of the way.

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On our way back to the lodge, on the other side of Tad Hang.

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When we found an elephant.

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Amazing.

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Photo courtesy of Anna.

The lodge we stayed at had two resident elephants. They would hang out in the forest around the lodge near the waterfalls.

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When we finally made it back to the lodge, we laughed at how dirty we were! Even Kampot’s little paws were a muddy mess. Further, the sole completely came off Anna’s hiking boots. She hiked the whole way back without a sole on one foot!

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We had such a great time. Sean tried to snap a photo above his head of us relaxing on the balcony at the lodge. I love this photo because you can almost picture yourself there, laughing at our adventures.

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Time to clean the mud off our legs and our shoes…

There’s one small thing I forgot to mention. Remember how we wanted to get to the top of Tad Suong? Well, there is actually a road to the top. We just wanted to make an adventure out of it. That’s why the turning around part was so easy; we just resolved to take the car to the top once we got back to the lodge.

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It was only a twenty minute drive from the lodge. What a view!
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Looking down Tad Suong.

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I love Laos.

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Once we got back, Sean and Chino serenaded us with some music. It was a wild day, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

Up next: No more spider bites, but many more waterfalls! Stay tuned!

Categories: Laos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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