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Vientiane - Pakse - Bolavan Plateau - Tadlo

The cutting edge, thundering water and giants in the jungle.

sunny 36 °C
View Footloose in Laos 2012 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Early start for a 06:30 flight to Pakse in the Chamapssak District of Southern Laos.

Having read the itinerary about the Bolaven Plateau being 1000-1350 metres above sea level, we'd both heeded the warning about the cooler climate and wore jeans and closed shoes. Cooler, my foot! 36C and brilliant sunshine. Call that cool?

Houey Ten
As there are no factories in Laos producing knives, most villagers make their own. The village of Houey Ten has taken advantage of this, and around 30 families have set up a little knife making business, making various different cutting implements from recovered bomb shells.


Tea Plantation
The Vietnamese brought tea plants to this area in the last 30 years, and now the locals produce green and oolong tea – the difference being in the drying process.


Tad Fan Waterfall is the highest in the area, at 120 m high. The area is declared a national park and is said to hold wild elephants and tigers. Trekking is very popular here.

Coffee Plantation
Coffee is Laos' most valuable agricultural export, and was brought here by the French in the 1930s.


Tha Teng Market
The wares sold at the ethnic food market are very similar to those in other markets we have visited in Laos, but the atmosphere was not as friendly and welcoming as it was further north. Lots of cooked foods, raw ingredients (fish being the speciality in this area – live catfish, eels and frogs seemed to abound) as well as clothing and household goods.


Ban Kiang Tatsoung Village
The poorest of the ethnic minorities in this region are the Alak tribe, an
Austro-Asiatic ethnic group. Animists by religion, they believe in the supernatural, spirits of the mountains, forests and other natural features, and have a shaman to cure their sick and predict the future. Their society is matriarchal – women lead the family, control finances, make major decisions (sounds like most western families...)


They have various clans named after animals (pigs, buffalo, chickens...) - the animals they represent are considered sacred hence they are not allowed to eat them. At least once a year during the New Year, the village holds a buffalo sacrifice, and in times of disaster, a chicken is boiled and the shaman studies the liver to find the spirit responsible for the problem.


It's the first village where we have encountered children begging for 'money' and 'bon bons' and at times we didn't feel entirely comfortable walking in amongst the houses.


Lunch was taken overlooking the Tak Hang Waterfalls where locals and tourists were bathing in the cooling cascades.


Our local guide, Kien, recommended the wild pig larp, and although we asked for it Mak Phet (with chilli) it came pretty well totally bland. Apparently they are afraid of upsetting the delicate western palate. They obviously haven't met the Howards yet...


After checking in to our rustic lodge on the banks of the river, we set off on a short jungle trek to see the beautiful Tad Lo Waterfall. This area is famous for its waterfalls, and there are literally hundreds!



Today's highlight was without a doubt the elephant ride this afternoon. The lodge has rescued two female elephants from a life of logging, and instead of seven hours of hard labour they now have a life of luxury, ferrying tourists about for an hour a day, and the rest of the time they are well and truly pampered.


Starting off from the lodge, into the jungle, we climbed along the river's edge, then crossed the creek to the opposite side and deep jungle with tall grasses on either side of the path, before entering a clearing and riding through the local village. A slash and burn area followed, accompanied by the sound of the local temple drums, making the whole experience totally magical. David, being the perfect gentleman that he is, agreed to accompany me on this ride, despite not having any interest in the elephants at all. For the first five minutes, I was terrified (remembering the bad fall from a camel in the Sudan), but I soon felt comfortable and safe aloft the pachyderm and every time I was looking at David, he was grinning broadly. He reluctantly agreed with me afterwards that the experience was way cool! Not only was it one of the highlights of this trip, it was probably the best elephant ride ever!


Posted by Grete Howard 04:08 Archived in Laos

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