We woke up in Sekong on day four of our motorbike tour around the Bolaven Plateau. We planned to drive 117km all the way to Paxsong, but things didn’t quite work out like that. Instead, we managed to make it a whopping 16km before calling it a day.
Sekong was low on on real coffee so we’d set out that morning without a proper perk-me-up. We’d driven about 25minutes when we saw the turn off sign for P&S Camping. They had a coffee shop on site, we didn’t hesitate. A kilometre down a dirt road, then we turned into their gates and parked up. We had been expecting a rather rustic affair, but they have quite the set up, with a coffee shop and restaurant alongside a beautiful river. Cleanly swept pathways wind past raised platforms awaiting tents along the water’s edge. Raised wooden walkways continue onwards through the forest. Small wooden bridges and stepping stones carry you over the wide streams. Sandy pathways meander around rocks to bring you to a picnic area with a view of the waterfall and swimming holes.
It was peaceful. It was idyllic. It was empty. We were the only ones there, and we were really impressed. So impressed we decided to stay the day. And the night. In tents. Yes, we were going camping.
We spent the afternoon swimming near the waterfalls, relaxing in the cafe and exploring the surrounds.
We showered in bamboo bathrooms, avoided massive ant roads, played with the adorably puppy, and pilfered the supply cupboard and the empty tents for extra padding for our bedding.
Come nighttime we settled into our tents and my optimism that the tents might actually be fairly cool at night was very short lived. They were not. Despite the air cooling outside, the tents were very good at keeping the day’s warm air and our body heat inside. All tent flaps were thrown open, and we positioned ourselves as close to the doorway as possible. If it weren’t for the industrial powered standing fan that the campsite provided, I don’t know how we’d have managed. It was hot, the floor was hard despite the additional padding I’d sourced, and the pillows were lumpy. It was worth it, and I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
We woke tired and stiff and were soon on our way for day five of our road trip. This day sticks in the memory for two main reasons. The first being the absolutely gorgeous scenery we drove through, of which I have no pictures to show you because the second thing was the incessant rain. Boy were we glad we had some rain ponchos, and a few warm jackets to throw on the kids. We got very wet and very cold and the rain was a constant presence all day long.
It might have been nice to pull into a roadside restaurant for an hour or so to warm up, but we had misjudged our money situation. Many places in Laos will accept Thai Baht as currency instead of the Lao Kip. We wrongfully assumed that the camping place would do the same, unfortunately when we settled the bill that morning we discovered they would only accept Kip. Luckily we had enough, just. We were left with 8,000kip to our name, roughly 80p. We only had large Thai bills and no local places were going to accept or change them until we got to Paksong. So we had 80p to get us through a whole day, and 86km to our destination. Luckily we had full petrol tanks. So there was no stopping to wait out the rain. We pressed onwards and it wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had on a bike, that’s for sure. I have to give full credit to the kids though – neither one of them complained once. They wrapped up, put their heads down and sat through it stoically. We were so proud of them.
We arrived in Paksong mid afternoon and stopped in at a coffee chain in a large petrol station. We felt as much the drowned rats as I’m sure we looked. My hands were shaking and had pins and needles that wouldn’t go away. Our finger tips looked like raisins. The kids lips were purple. We splurged on coffees and hot chocolates, took some deep breaths and tried to relax. It had not been fun, but it was over. Once we reached our destination, the rain stopped. Of course. We biked all over Paksong trying to find the Savanna Guest House and once realising that the descriptive term “down the road in front of the Bank” did not mean the road just before the bank, but rather the road opposite the bank, we were able to find it. According to several sources, the Savanna is apparently the best budget Guest House in Paksong. If that’s case, I don’t want to know what the others are like… At least the view in the morning was pretty.
As we headed out of Paksong on our last day, the sun was shining and the clouds were moving swiftly through the sky above. This was the day for visiting some of the many waterfalls that line the route from Paksong to Pakse. We stopped at Tad Yuang and were not disappointed. It’s a beautiful waterfall with a fun walk down some jungle steps to a viewpoint near the bottom.
Alex and Chloe ventured even further down to another viewpoint and then down to the base, getting thoroughly covered in spray as they did so!
We left Tad Yuang and drove a few kilometres further on to Tad Fan, the highest waterfall in Laos. The clouds above were teasing us with the possibility of rain so I wasn’t inclined to linger too long. One day of being soaked was enough!
Tad Fan isn’t a waterfall you can get up close to, but rather a viewpoint across a ravine, on the other side of which a river plunges 120m from the surrounding jungles in twin cascades. We were lucky with the weather and had a fine view of the falls. On some days they can be completely clouded over and impossible to see.
Some brave souls were even ziplining across the chasm, Go-Pros firmly attached to capture the experience, of course. I’m all for an adrenaline rush but you really need to trust those cables…
After we left Tad Fan we decided that we’d seen enough for one day and made our way back to Pakse. We planned to leave the next morning and wanted time to do a whole shitload of laundry and arrange some bus tickets further south.
We had an awesome time driving around the Bolaven Plateau, and it has only fuelled our desire to do some more road trips with the kids this holiday. Laos is an absolutely gorgeous country and if this trip taught me nothing else, it is to be open to new experiences and just do it. We’d been unsure about doing a Homestay with Mr. Vieng, we’d been unsure about stopping in to visit Mr. Hook, we’d been unsure about going camping. But we did them all and they are some of the best memories of the trip. And I quote, “So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay your welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience.”
Well, that we sure did. Onwards to new experiences!
General Loop Info:
Cost of semi-automatic motorbikes : 50,000 kip/bike/day
Day 4 – Sekong to P&S Camping
Distance travelled : 16km
Hours of rain : 0 (once more!)
Accommodation : Two large tents at 50,000 kip each
Day 5 – P&S Camping to Paksong
Distance Travelled : 86 km
Hours of rain : all the hours.
Accommodation: Two double rooms with en-suite bathrooms @ Savanna Guest House, 80,000kip per room.
Day 6 – Paksong to Pakse
Distance Travelled : 50km
Hours of rain: zero
Tad Yuang Waterfall: Admission 10,000kip/adult (kids free), Motorbike parking 5,000kip/bike
Tad Fan Waterfall: Admission 10,000kip/adult (kids free), Motorbike parking 5,000kip/bike. I have seen cheaper prices quoted for this waterfall, but we were charged the same here as at Tad Yuang.