Published: January 2nd 2010December 22nd 2009
Champee Waterfall and Rach in Laos-suitable swimming attire
So from Kratie we had a nice easy bus journey across the border in to Laos - parting with a few mysterious dollars at the border on request of the border guard! We arrived in Pakse which didn't really seem much different to Kratie and after a bit of wandering around, turning down a few hotels, we settled in to the pretty cheap and standard Lankham Hotel. Then we were at a bit of a loss! Didn't seem to be anyone hassling us for things to do (or for tuk tuks etc.), we found the office for Green Explorer but there treks were really pricey, and the local tourist office was closed. We had a drink on the top floor of a swanky hotel and then a curry (very nice!) and chatted about what we could do. Luckily www.travelfish.com came to the rescue, detailing the motorbike tour through the Bolevan Plateau (similar to Lonely Planet info) and importantly convincing us that the route was easy enough for us relatively inexperienced drivers.
So the next morning we farted around getting ready, and at 10am headed off on our trusty steed (a 100cc motorbike....scooter really!). We pootled along keeping an eye on
Gnarly to the max
the odometer so we knew when we were at various turnings....but still managed to miss one of the main waterfalls! Never mind, we came across a sign to Champee Waterfall and afetr 8km down a bumpy dirt track came to a lovely series of waterfalls/cascades where we had a swim to cool off. Then back on the bike to head to Tat Lo. We arrived and it was stunning! The route we had taken took us over a small wooden bridge over the river, Tat Hang waterfall to our right and the village on the river banks to the left. We checked in to Tim Guesthouse where we got a lovely little wooden bungalow for some reason on stilts in a small pond! Very simple and lovely. We had a little wander through the village which is tucked behind a row of guesthouses. There were kids playing everywhere - the chuck the flip flop game being popular (you have to knock a card out of a circle with your flip flop, then you win the card....I think), also marbles (with marbles or nuts/fruit) - and even Tennis-Football as invented by the mighty Pete and Hugh combo with assistance from the
We didn't trust them!
Seffers in the streets of Stockwell! Who'd have thought that our game made it over here - people tried to convince me that this game was actually big throughout Laos and Thailand in particular and was called Kataw, and was not invented by us....but I knew different. The game is effectively a competitive keepy-upy played by teams across a net. There were some differences from Tennis-Football I'll admit - namely the ball is made of ratan (not a football), the net is higher (at about 1.5m rather then 0.4) and the players are incredibly good and athletic (we had our day, but possibly didn't do near backflips). Back to the village, there were animals roaming everywhere (pigs, chickens, goats, cows), and once it got to evening half the village seemed to head down to the river for washing, or the kids just splashin and playing around, some fishing. It was lovely and everyone was incredibly friendly with cries of Sabai Dee (hello) everywhere.... so we stayed two nights!
During the next day we first went on a 4hr walk with a guide, visiting a couple of waterfalls and some villages, and then in the afternoon just headed off to
Tennis-Football (or Kataw I guess!)
find a secluded spot on the river for swimming in the pools and reading on the rocks. At one point a mahout wandered along to wash his elephant below us (they give tourists rides but after our Elephant Valley Project visit we couldn't bring ourselves to ride them).
On the second day we again jumped on our trusty steed and headed via the towns of Tha Taeng and Paksong to Tat Yuang, an absolutely stunning waterfall tumbling about 40m to a large clear pool, where we had a very cold swim, in a lush gorge dripping with vegetation. From here we walked for about 45mins along a ridge through stunning jungle (found some wild runner beans which I'm sure you'll all agree is very exciting - same leaf as our cultivated ones with a little hairy bean pod) and coffee plantation hanging to the sides of a steep valley to the head of Tat Fan waterfall. As we were at its head we could not see the fall itself, but it was an amazing site with the river and ground disappearing at our feet at the head of a very deep (120m), vertical gorge which had been cut back
Some just won't accept they are short!
by the waterfall over 1000's of years. Not good for the vertigo! The drive took us through some stunning scenery, orchards and mostly coffee plantations with a backdrop of low mountains, and from the edge of the plateau a stunning view of the lowlands. Everywhere were drying coffee beans, spread out in peoples front gardens or just on the side of the road.
We arrived back at Pakse in plenty of time for another curry, and booked our Christmas holiday to Don Det! We just had enough time to pick up some Christmas essentials in case we couldn't find them there - two Santa hats (one complete with pigtails), some tinsel and a bottle of nice (hopefully) wine!
There are more photos below