It’s a few years since I made my trip to the Bolaven Plateau in Southern Laos, but it still remains one of my most memorable trips. If you are planning to travel to Laos I’d recommend looking into this particular region. The plateau itself is located in the Champasak region and the elevation is mostly around 1000 to 1,350 metres or 3,280 to 4,430 feet above sea level.
The year was 2011 and I bet many things have changed since that, as during that time other travellers were very few and far between. The cool thing about Bolaven was that some of the waterfalls and sights had been pretty much inaccessible because of thick jungle and huge rocks, until someone decided to make them accessible.
There is something called the Bolaven loop, which comprises the short and the long loop of roads. I did the short route with a motorbike I had rented from Pakse (capital of Champasak province and next to the border of Thailand). You should be able to get a motorbike for about 200 baht a day($7-8) in Pakse. The short loop (~180 km) can be made by almost anyone able to ride a motorbike, but it is said that because of the bad roads, the longer loop that’s about 320 km long requires some more experience, especially during the monsoon season. Considering the rapid development in Lao PDR, I’m pretty sure these days they would have a paved road.
Tad Alang, Tad Yuang & Tad Fane
I did the loop counter-clockwise, but there’s probably no difference in how you do it. The trip was going to include quite a few trips to different waterfalls. My first stop was at a waterfall called Tad Alang, there are some scary steps down to the waterfall, but once you’re down, you can find a small paradise with lush green walls of wildflowers.
Tad Yuang is not too far from Tad Alang, and I’d say this is a waterfall you definitely should not miss when you travel to the Bolaven Plateau. Of the waterfalls in the region, it was my most favourite. A bit similar to the Tad Yuang, but bigger, and it seems like it lies in a big valley. The people that were there, were either swimming, taking photos or just lying on the rocks doing nothing. Below you can see my pictures of all the waterfalls.
Tad Fane is also within a few kilometres away from the two previous waterfalls. Unfortunately, I made my trip to Laos during the hot season, so the water levels were quite low and although impressive, I wonder how much better it would have been during a not-so-dry period. The drop is a cool 120 metres and as can be seen in the pictures it’s surrounded by green green jungle.
Paksong & Random Little Village
After the waterfalls, I headed to a small town called Paksong. Paksong is famous for its coffee, and as a coffee lover, of course I had myself a cuppa’. Also stopped at a quite big market close to one of the plantations. I wandered around, with no one to be seen apart from heaps of minced meat, wrapped in banana leaves left out nicely in the scorching sun. After having walked through almost all of the market, I found a small stall with people in it. They were all playing cards. After a while, someone looked up at me, acknowledged my presence, and continued playing.
A bit further on the loop, I found a small village which for some reason I found suitable for staying overnight. Until this day I have no idea what the village was called, but I know it had two guest houses and a market. I had a stroll around the market with all kind of animals running around me. I watched the sun setting behind the mountains and went to sleep.
Tad Lo & Uttayan Bajiang– The Final Episode
Tad Lo is most likely the most well-known waterfall in the region, still at that time, relatively calm and quiet. The drop itself is not huge, but rather the waterfall consists of a long stream going through a few different drops. There are quite a few bungalows in the area, and it was a given to stay there the next night. I spent the whole day just chilling around the waterfall.
My favourite moment was when I walked up the stream. I came to a part of the waterfall that was almost still. It was close to a small village. In the water the kids were playing and on the rocks, the women were doing laundry and doing the normal gossiping. I hung out there for quite a while playing with the kids. When dusk was closing in, the men came back from the jungle with their big machetes. There seemed to be only one way to live your life in this village.
The Bungalows were basic and there were a lot of sounds in the night from different creatures. If you´re scared of small creatures it is probably not your best option, but it does get my warm recommendations.
Along the way back to Pakse I stopped for a coffee at the Uttayan Bajiang (Tad Pasuam) waterfall. A nice little place to end (or start) your journey, as you can see from the pictures below.
I still hold the memories of my trip to the Bolaven plateau very dearly. I hope one day I will be able to return, maybe to do the big loop and check out even more cool waterfalls. If you still haven’t decided where to go after Champasak, have a look at my post called “Islands on the Mekong”.
Until next time!
From Pakse to Tad Yuang & Tad Fane – 40 km
From Tad Fane to Paksong – 12 km
From Paksong to Random Village – Maybe one day I’ll go back to find out.
From Paksong to Tad Lo – 55 km
From Tad Lo to Pakse – 80 km
Tad Pasuam to Pakse – 38 km