Laos – Pakse & The Bolaven Plateau

Leaving Kong Lor was a bit of a mission. We were picked up from our guesthouse by an open air tuk-tuk shared taxi at 07:30 (basically a small truck with benches in the back).

🚌Tip: If you are planning on staying in Kong Lor, you need to plan for a minimum of 2 nights because the only tuk-tuk taxi out of the town leaves at one time, 07:30am. It costs 25,000 Kip / per person. That is of course if you are using public transport. If you have a motorbike or are part of an organized tour you can disregard this tip.

Missed our previous Kong Lor Cave post? Read it here

It took one hour to get from Kong Lor to the main road where you can get public transport. Once at the main road, there is a little stand with locations and prices. But mostly tuk-tuk taxis will just shout locations at you. Once you hear your location called, hop on. ‘Tha Khek! Tha Khek! Tha Khek!’ That was where we needed to go to grab a bus to Pakse. So we gave a wave and were ushered quickly to our ride.

🚩Tip: If you are heading south, you have no choice but to go through Tha Khek. This will be your access point, as this is the capital of the province and has the main bus station. Tickets to Tha Khek are 50,000 Kip / per person.

They strapped our bags to the roof and we smashed our bodies in between the loads of people. Our legs were cramped in awkward positions as our feet were trapped between bags of produce, luggage and random household items. The hot dusty wind blew past our faces as the sweat rolled down our backs.

How long was this glorious ride you may ask?

4 long hours. Our backs hurt, our bums hurt, our legs were cramping, our feet were going tingly.

Finally, we arrived in Tha Khek. We thought, maybe let’s just grab a hotel here, wash off this layer of dirt and relax the rest of the day.

Then, we looked around the town. What did we see? Not a whole hell of a lot! Tha Khek is a dead zone! Most people use Tha Khek as an access point to do the motorbike loop. We were not doing that, as we already decided to do a different motorbike loop.

So we walked up to the bus station counter and asked when the next bus for Pakse was leaving. He told us it was a VIP bus coming down from Vientiane and it was leaving in 1 hour at 1pm. So we purchased 2 tickets for 80,000Kip /per person.

🚌Tip: Most blog sites will have you believe the VIP bus from Tha Khek to Pakse leaves at 8am and it is not VIP, just air con. The 1pm VIP bus is not advertised, but it DOES exist. Just ask the ticket guy for this specific bus.
We grabbed some lunch from across the station and we saw our VIP chariot arrive. We found 2 empty seats at the front. The seats reclined far back, the leg rests came up and the air con was mighty. After the two shared tuk-tuk rides, we were stoked for a VIP bus. We put our headphones on and watched the countryside change over the next 6 hours.

After a total of 11.5 hours of travel we finally arrived in Pakse at 7pm. We booked a basic room at the Pakse Hotel and Restaurant for 26USD per night. We showered off, grabbed dinner and went to bed early.

Find great places to stay in Pakse

The next day we prepared ourselves for a 3 day / 2 night motorbike trip around the Bolaven Plateau.

Step 1. Create a day pack.

This meant emptying out most of Celeste’s backpack, and repacking it with enough clothes and toiletries for our 2 night trip. Then consolidating both our items into Pete’s bag and locking it up.

Step 2. We asked our hotel if we could store Pete’s bag for a few days.

This is common, as Pakse is used as a transit point for the Bolaven Loop. Our hotel had no problem doing this, free of charge.

Step 3. Rent a motorbike.

We went to Miss Noy’s as this shop had the best reviews. We rented a bike for 8,000 Kip / per day. She also provided a handy map with useful stops and recommendations. It was also at this point that we decided to do the short loop as we only wanted to do a 2 night / 3 day journey.

The Bolaven Plateau map. The short loop is highlighted, our stops circled.

We were ready!

DAY 1

Our first stop was for lunch. The name of the restaurant is completely lost on me but it was a nice place with bungalows on the river where you could eat and enjoy a cold beer.

Our next stop was Tad Pasuam which, was a nice waterfall but, honestly nothing spectacular.

Tad Pasuam Waterfall

After Ted Pasuam we went to Mr. Vieng’s for a nice coffee break.

Mr. Vieng’s Coffee

Then we headed straight for Tad Lo. This is also where we decided to hang our hat for the night. We checked into Fandee Guesthouse for 6USD for the night. They provide a super basic bungalow and bathroom. It was a decent stay for the price.

After we checked in, we went to have a look at Tad Lo waterfall and Tad Hang waterfall. Both were nice but they weren’t anything to write home about.

Tad Lo Waterfall
Tad Hang Waterfall
The bridge over the Tad Lo river at sunset

Then we went back to our guesthouse to grab some cocktails and some dinner. We also decided to take an evening walk around the small town. There really was not much happening there. But we found a woman grilling up some Laotian sausages. We are SUCKERS for Laotian sausage!! So she pulled out some plastic chairs for us, we bought some beer and she started grilling our meat. She also shared some fresh cucumber and salt with us. We couldn’t really communicate, but somehow we bonded well over food and beer.

Waiting for our sausages to finish grilling, while enjoying a beer.

DAY 2

We woke up at the cracking hour of 4am to the sound of roosters. Followed by Buddhist songs blaring, followed by blaring Buddhist chants. By 7am we gave up and decided to get an early start. We had some breakfast and chatted with fellow travelers for a couple of hours before packing up and trekking on.

Our first stop was Thateng Coffee. She served up some seriously strong brew! We were both jittering for a few hours afterward.

Thateng Coffee

We then made a stop for lunch at Sinouk Coffee Resort for some delicious chili chicken stir fry before continuing on to the Paksong Danngarm Hotel.

Our room at the Paksong Danngarm Hotel

Oh. My. Word. This hotel was stunning! Brand new and empty! It was a little eerie as we rocked up to a completely empty parking lot. I have no idea who they built this gigantic hotel for but we were glad it was there! We got a killer deal at 25USD for the night. I can only imagine what this goes for during high season.

Find places to stay in Paksong and surrounds

So we set our bags down and cruised over to Tad Yuang. It was gorgeous! This was the first waterfall of our trip that dropped our jaws. We took the slippery walk down to the waterfall viewing point. From there you can experience the raw power of the falls. It is loud, wet and beautiful.

The powerful Tad Yuang waterfall

Tad Yuang also offers a great picnic area!

🍽 Picnic Tip: Pack a picnic and spend a few hours at Tad Yuang. There is also an area where you can dip in the water.

We then grabbed a cheap and unsatisfying meal back in town before heading to our luxurious hotel for the night.

DAY 3

Our first stop of the day was Tad Fane Waterfall. It is actually 2 massive waterfalls combining into 1! It was the largest waterfall we had ever seen! Stunning and picturesque. Our second stop was at Tad Itou, which is also the location of a hotel and restaurant. This waterfall was like something out of Jurassic Park! It was so green and lush. We were mesmerized by its beauty. To see the waterfall you need to take a few hundred stairs down a narrow path. On our way back up to the top, we decided to award ourselves with some ice cold beer, curry and papaya salad. We then hopped on our trusty steed and cruised back to Pakse.

Tad Fane Waterfall

Hanging out at Tad Itou

There were no more rooms available at the Pakse Hotel and Restaurant so we checked into the Phi Dao Hotel which was decent enough. It had cold AC and a clean room.

We dropped our motorbike and laundry back at Miss Noy’s, where they charge 1,000 Kip / 1KG. We booked our tickets for Don Khon, ate a pizza and relaxed for the rest of the day.

To sum it up:

Tha Khek – Nothing happening.

Pakse – An old French colonial town used as a starting point for the Bolaven Plateau.

Bolaven Plateau – the highlight including Tad Yuang, Tad Fane and Tad Itou.

Read our next post about our time on 4000 Islands and crossing the border into Cambodia

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