Archive for the ‘Southern Laos’ Category

  • The Bolaven Plateau

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    The fertile Bolaven Plateau is a semi remote area in the south eastern part of Laos, famous for its cool climate, waterfalls, fertile soil and high grade coffee plantations. In the last years, some “good roads” –sealed- have been constructed and it is now easier to travel around the province either by motorbike or by public transport. We decided to rent a 110 c.c. motorbike, the most convenient way to cover the area. Shopping around in Pakse we found a brand new Honda with only 15000 km and for a reasonable price and started the loop on the same afternoon.

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    We stopped for the first night at Tad Lo waterfalls, where a dense concentration of lodges and guest houses spreads along the river. It is in that kind of moments when we realise how good it is to be travelling in the low season, since most of the hotels are empty (bad for them but more intimate for us). From there we took the road on the next morning to go to Sekong. The scenic road was kind of short ride for us and we decided to continue over towards Attapeau, where we spent the afternoon between the local market and the town bridge, from where we could enjoy an spectacular sunset over the river and a pretty full moon later on.

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    On the third day, we took an offroad path (not paved) to Paksong, the capital of the coffee plantations. With “coffee plantations” we were specting something bigger, something much more spectacular. In any case, the path we took to get there and our stay in Paksong were completely rewarding. We found a beautiful wooden guest house a bit appart of the town (Boraven Guest House) with a lonely tree on the courtyard, which two friendly Gibbons considered their home. Much of the time in Paksong we were playing, observing and feeding them. We were impressed in how friendly and playful they were. On the next day, early in the morning, we continued back to Pakse, where we arrived at early noon and got ready to cross the border to Thailand again on our search for a place to fix our camera…

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  • Champasak and the Wat Phu ruins

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    Our visit to Champasak was brief but exciting. The city itself has not much to offer but it is located in a pretty emerald green scenery. We arrived in the early afternoon, after crossing the Mekong river with a local ferry, and were ready to start exploring the town in almost an hour, the time which took us to find by foot a convenient guest house for our one night stay. There we rented brand new bicycles (never again with a hired old bike!!) and went to the nearby ancient Angkor style temple ruins.

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    The ancient Khmer religious complex spreads over the lower slopes of Phu Pasak, a sacred mountain for the local people. The archaeological site is divided into three levels joined by a long, stepped promenade flanked by statues of lions and nagas (mythical water serpent common in Thai and Lao legends and art). The lower level consists in the long causeway promenade flanked either side by ceremonial ponds that once was the entrance to the temple complex. The middle level comprises the sandstone Khmer pavilions with fine sculpture and reliefs. On the uppermost level is the main temple sanctuary itself.

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    The crumbling pavilions, the Shiva ligam sanctuary, the enigmatic crocodile stone, the stairs covered with grass and moss, and the surrounding dense vegetation give Wat Phu an almost mystical atmosphere. It was great up there, sitting among old ruins, an impressive cliff and the emerald green nature, but we could not enjoy our visit properly because it was the closing time and it was pouring rain like in the peaks of the rainy season.

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  • Don Det and Don Khone, the smaller islands

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    Unexpected things are the most rewardable things that may happen while travelling and we didn’t expect Don Det to be so laid back and beautiful, so it was really pleasant to stay there for almost a week. The accommodation offer in Don Det consists in many similar wooden bungalows overlooking the river. They all look the same but there are little aspects that make big differences. We found our place in Vixai Guest House on the sunset side of the island, a family run Guest House in which the ambience was really peaceful and from where it felt very difficult to leave on the last day. The Vixai family were great hosts –always with a smile and ready to help- and it was real fun to interact with them, share a ride on their long-tail boat along the archipelago, play with their son Sitta and try to make bamboo instruments with Vixai. The room was pretty basic –mattress, mosquito net and no power or light, just candles-. The attached shared terrace/balcony outside the room worked out as a living room –with hammocks, table and chairs- and was less than 2 metres above the Mekong water, so you could almost wash your feet from there. The view was superb: water, islands, birds, vegetation and the wonderful sky with its blue colour and its amazing cloud shapes and colours.

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    Most of the time we just explored the island, walked among the rice paddies while the farmers where planting the rice, interacted with the locals in rain-calling ceremonies (so much fun!), played with the kids and mostly just chilled out. We also rented a bike and visited on a day trip Don Khone island, further south and linked to Don Det by an old bridge. We saw the beautiful Li Phi waterfalls, visited villages, tried to spot the Irrawady dolphins with no luck and refreshed in a couple of nice beaches formed in the river island. The journey was great but hard, since the bicycles were pretty bad and the paths were full of stones, plus the path was sometimes an adventure like when we had to cross a rudimentary bridge made out of a couple of wood planks and an old and rusty railway line from the french colonial times pushing our bikes and maintaining the equilibrium as good as we could. The many hours we spent riding around ended up with aching bums but admiring a great sunrise from the hammock in our room balcony with an ice coffee, the perfect way to finish the day.

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  • Si Phan Don, the 4000 Islands

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    Si Phan Don is a vast area just north of the Laos-Cambodia border, where the Mekong river opens out forming an intrincate network of channels, rocks, sandbars and islets 14 km wide. During the rainy season this section of the Mekong river fills out and covers up most of the islets. The largest of the permanent islands are inhabited all year round and offer fascinating glimpses of tranquil river village life: the fishermen in their long-tail boats, water buffaloes wading in the water, families planting the rice in the paddies, women washing the clothes or weaving textiles and children swiming in the river.

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    Is the perfect place to just sit down and relax doing nothing, although there are also several things to do if you feel active: few interesting old temples, some rapids and waterfalls, where the Mekong suddenly drops in elevation at the Cambodian border, and try to spot a rare species of freshwater dolphin, the Irrawaddy dolphin.

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