When the internet / wifi doesn’t work and your phone is kaput, thank god for cheap beer, food and cigarettes.
We had a fantastic day today, a minibus tour around the Bolaven Plateau in Eastern Champasak province. Thanks to Debbie and Al for helping to arrange it all!
( – from Pakse, 150,000 kip, booked through Khem at Lao Adventure Travel, ph: 02095775785 – there are a broad range of tours to take, or travel independently).
Pakse has so many more international tourists than Savannakhet – and it is easy to see why. So much more development, more built up, more investment, and by far, more natural sites to visit.
But the flipside of that is, tourists are not so friendly (or desperate?) to talk with another falang, and the local people are far more used to foreigners.
We set off sometime after 8am, and picked up others on the way. The ‘planned tour’ we were sold wasn’t quite the way it eventuated, but no problems (boh phenyung), it was an adventure. All those on my bus just happened to be Germans, but spoke English well – lucky me! (oh never forget the privilege of being born into a majority English speaking country!)
First stop Tad Fan and Mr Coffee. Brilliant waterfall dropping far down into the abyss from two different rivers. Not sure how the valley was formed but really spectacular, photos could not do it justice. Coffee plantation was fascinating, seeing the beans on the trees, the spiders doing their business, and bees producing honey as well. Sample coffee was delectable, had to buy myself a supply to take back with me. Tea plantation a little further on also had delectable teas so I finally managed to get some black tea for my new teapot (Thai – Muktahan).
The stops at ‘Ethnic villages’ are always a little discomforting. You have to wonder how the people feel about these strangers wandering around their homes, taking photos and trying to be friendly – but understanding that our tour pays a fee for the privilege, and recognising the little signs of how these proceeds are spent such as a very decent little outdoor toilet that I was much relieved to find! This wonderful woman sitting on the step chatted away to us in indecipherable language (ethnic minority groups have a range of languages different to the more common Lao – by her body language I could only think that she was telling us about her sore head, her sore eyes, her sore legs… I asked for a photo – it was still quite unclear what she was saying, but she was so delightful and animated I had to give her some money – she took my hand in response and seemed so happy, aside from all her aches and pains… again, my interpretation!
Another woman sitting in a doorway had bags of roasted almonds she wanted to sell. They were actually very good, reasonably priced, so Debbie and I agreed to buy two bags. She was particularly interested in my rings (what she wants my rings as well as my money?). I went over and showed her my hand – she seemed interested in my mother’s wedding ring (a diamond), but also a ring made out of tortoise shell from the Solomons. She wanted to take them off – luckily they are pretty well jammed on my fingers for good!
The stop I most enjoyed was the two hour lunch/waterfall/swim stop. I had my stash of fruit with me for lunch and after taking some shots of the spectacular waterfall, took off downstream to the little shelters by the swimming area. Ah, the water was so cool and delectable, all so serene and refreshing. The sand underfoot is apparently volcanic residue, ground down to a silken consistency. I investigated the little river side bungalows – 50,000 kip / pp – what a wonderful place to come back to with my family! I wandered through part of the village and met these wonderful girls, Anny (13) Tookrok (13) and Daowan (15) at the little ‘free school’ there – most entertaining and friendly! I only got their ages because Anny wanted to know mine! Daowan didn’t know how to write her name in English so I gave her my approximation. Tookrok – I think her sister, wrote it on her hand for future reference. They all wanted to take photos with my camera of us together – that was fun! Very friendly and welcoming people here.
Final stop was yet another waterfall/ethnic village/museum. Again, spectacular, with a swing bridge constructed to walk across, and an amazing wooden structure that composed restaurants, viewing areas and accommodation. Not a long stop but I could also imagine spending more time here relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere, and the lovely people too.
Dropped back at guesthouse, happy and contented after a day’s adventures! 🙂