Two of my friends from London joined me in Laos for 2.5 weeks. As time was limited we travelled the length of Laos from North to South in a short time ending our trip at 4000 Islands. My friends flew back to London and I was left with 8 days before I could travel into Vietnam.
I decided to travel back up north again and booked a bus form Dong Det to Champasak. I had been warned that Champasak is a one street affair and that there isn't much happening. When we got there it was only me and another guy getting off at Champasak. I didn't even know that you had to cross the river but luckily he had a guide book for Laos. I only have the Lonely Planet for the Mekong region and it seems that they have left out a lot of essential information. We had to pay 20000 kip each for the trip accross the water. It was obvious that this was a rip off but it was either paying the money or swimming.
Once we got to the other side we weren't quite sure where to go but help was at hand from
a guy who jumped out from somewhere saying that he has a tuk-tuk and very conveniently also a guesthouse that has a restaurant that is listed in the Lonely Planet... bla... bla... bla...He said the tuk-tuk is free if we take a room, otherwise we would have to pay 10000 kip. We had a look at the guesthouse and willingly paid the 10000 kip for the tuk-tuk. After walking for a while in the heat and in the wrong direction we finally found a really nice place to stay.
There really isn't much (well anything) going on there. There is a Inthira hotel which is a chain that has hotels in Vientiene, Champasak and Thakeak and it has a nice restaurant and wifi. I spent most of my time in there. There is also a Spa in Champasak which is run by a French lady and has been recommended to me by a few people but I didn't try it myself.
The next day I hired a bike and cycled to the temple. It's an 8km ride and I started early to avoid the midday heat. I got a flat tyre half way through but luckily everyone pointed
me to the direction of a repair place. Laos people are really friendly and helpful - just a bit slow sometimes....
The temple there is nice but very small and all in all you only need about 1 hour to walk around the temple. The temple is older than Angkor Wat though. Champasak is worth a visit if you have time on your hands but I personally wouldn't go out of my way to go there. I took a bus the same day at 1pm to Paske. One night there is enough.
Paske - again in Pakse. I checked into the Sabaydee 2 guesthouse which is really nice but unfortunately only has fan rooms and they get very hot. I booked myself onto a tour to the Bolovan Plateau the next day. We were 6 people and had an English speaking guide with us. We visited a coffee and tea plantation, had lunch and then visited 3 waterfalls including the one in Tad Lo. I was originally planning to go to Tad Lo but I was glad I only went there on a day trip as it is very quiet there. It's a good place to go with
a group of people as it is very nice and tranquil.
We also visited two minority villages one of which is famous for smoking pipes that look like bongs made out of bamboo. Apparently they only smoke tabacco with sugar but looking at them they were so stoned they must have smoked something else. They caught this beautiful bird in the jungle and now keep it as a pet. One of the really stoned guys just kept it in his hand. It was so obvious that the bird was very distressed and had a broken wing. It once escaped but got caught by one of the girls. She put her foot on top of it. It was bloody awful and I asked the guide to ask them to set it free. He didn't find anything disturbing about the whole thing. I, to be honest, found the whole experience in that village a bit disturbing and it looked more like a tourist show than real life.
We saw various other villages smoking and going by their daily lives but it seemed only that one family just sat under their hut smoking.
We also visited a school that the
Sabaydee 2 guesthouse supports. We got there at lunch time and it was full of pupils but not a single teacher. The teachers all had gone home for lunch. Our guide showed us a poster in one of the class rooms which shows what kind of accidents can happen to pupils if they are left alone at school. Quite ironic...
I really enjoyed the visit to the school. It was interesting to see what they learn and how the class rooms look like. The school is free and everyone can go. They wear school uniform (blouses and traditional sarongs for the girls) which the parents have to buy but it's not essential for the kids to wear uniform. Quite a few of the kids didn't have any or it was dirty or torn. I felt so sorry for them. All the kids were so friendly but some were very shy which was so cute.
All in all it was a really nice day trip.
I spent one more day in Pakse just resting and updating my blog etc. Pakse had lovely restaurants and cafes and also some massage places and beauty salons. I would say it is
probably one of the better small Asian towns I have been to. I can recommend the Sabaydee 2 tours. They can be booked even if you are not a guest. The guide spoke English and French and you could ask him loads of questions.
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