The sun pierced through the small crack in our guesthouse door, we stood up and packed our bags. It was still a bit chilly as we stepped outside and started walking towards the motorcycle rental place. We were excited about the next days and could not wait to finally get started.
It was around 7 a.m. in a town called Pakse, the provincial capital of Champasak and second most populous city in Laos. Settled between the Xe Don and Mekong River it has developed itself as an interesting tourist destination and a great starting point for discovering the beautiful surrounding landscapes. Our plan was to explore the Bolaven Plateau – an elevated region in the eastern Champasak province known for its great scenery, amazing waterfalls and tribal villages. The best way to do so is by renting a scooter and exploring the area in 3 to 5 days, depending on how much you want to see. The night before we had a great introduction at Miss Noy as to where to go and what to see and we decided to go for the longer loop and spend at least 3 days on the road. The entire trip is referred to as the pakse loop or Bolaven Plateau loop and is one of the nicest rides in the country!
And so it went. We met up with Luc, a friend we found during our crazy adventure at the Laotian border, packed up our bikes and headed onto the road…we were about to commence on riding the Pakse Loop!
It was our first ride on a semi-automatic scooter and our first ride in Laos. We did some riding before in Koh Lanta, Thailand and it was such a fun thing to do. After a short phase of settling in with the gears, breaks and balance it was good to be back on a scooter again.
On the Road
First stop on the road was Tad Pasuam, roughly 35 kilometers out of town upwards the northern route. A great place to have a first stop as you can not only see a nice waterfalls with some huge fish swimming around but also can have a rest at a very cozy and nice restaurant. There also is, or better, was a somewhat different resort there which was made up of small huts located amidst the trees of the surrounding forest. A bit further into the forest there is a small tribal village where you can see some local handicrafts.
Pakse Loop Start – Our First Stop in Tad Lo
After a nice break we then headed up all the way to Tad Lo, a great place to spend the first night on the trip and to explore the surrounding waterfalls. We stayed at a great guesthouse named Mama Pap’s, owned by a sweet old lady who offers you a bed and lots of food. The portions are very big, ranging from fried rice, fried noodles, soups to delicious banana pancakes. The dorm is extremely budget friendly (around € 2) and you are very well located close to some waterfalls. We had some unexpected cold weather around the entire area which made us freeze during the nights and also while on the road. It was unbearable at times and the only way to survive was to wrap ourselves up in layers of t-shirts and any other kinds of clothes that we brought along.
The Amazing Waterfalls of Tad Katamtok & Xe Katam
With the cold winds blowing through the tiny cracks between the wooden planks of our dorm-room and the loud noises of the kitchen forcing us out of our beds we eventually continued the journey. As we decided to take the big loop we had a longer trip ahead of us. Our aim was to reach the great waterfalls of Tad Katamtok, also known as Tad Xe Katam. The dirt roads slowly started winding their way up the Bolaven Plateau, making us climb over 1,000 meters high up and presenting us with some beautiful scenery. This was actually one of the most fun part of the trip and left us amazed by the surrounding nature. Once you find the entrance to the waterfalls you can enjoy a breathtaking view from the top. Curious as we were we decided to go and have a look at the falls from the bottom, leaving us scrambling down a very steep and dangerous path until we could feel the strong winds and sprinkling of the water.
We were amazed by both the power and beauty of this natural wonder.
With the sun slowly fading away behind the mountains we continued the ride and looked for a place to stay. We reached a smaller town close to Paksong and found a rather small and very decent guest house at the end of the road. By this time we were freezing as the winds got colder and the sun was almost gone. We were happy to have a longer rest now and were more than looking forward to a nice and warm bed. On the way we met up with two other friends of ours who eventually also stayed at the same guesthouse. It was great to be in such good company!
On the Road to Tad Yuang
The next morning started with a nice, hot noodle soup in a restaurant close by. This was a great way to start the day and prepared us for the upcoming journey back to Pakse.
Next stop on the trip was the waterfall of Tad Yuang. The entrance of the waterfall is marked by a small coffee plantation named CPC, where we eventually stopped after to have a freshly roasted Laotian coffee. A small river snailed its way through a part of the forest and marked the beginning of the upcoming waterfalls. We reached the top part and could see the crystal clear water gushing down a large cliff. On the side was a smaller trail which led you to the bottom from which you have a great view and can get up close. The Tad Yuang falls are simply beautiful and very picturesque. They are made up of two smaller falls which plunge over some grass and plants.
We then left the falls and had a coffee before we hit the road and drove all the way back to Pakse.
It was a fantastic ride and we had the great opportunity seeing the wonderful landscapes of the Bolaven Plateau. Definitely worth taking a scooter and exploring the entire Bolaven Plateau loop!
Below is a map where we put together the spots that are great to visit. You can get this map in the scooter rental place of Miss Noy (Mr Yves).
Tips for your Trip on the Pakse Loop
- Make sure to bring some warmer clothes as the temperatures can change fast, especially once you ride high onto the plateau. Windbreakers are recommended.
- Plan around 2 days for the small loop and 4 days for the large one. We did the large one in 3 days and two nights and spend quite some time on the road.
- Once arriving in Tad Lo there are several guesthouses to choose from, but make sure not to arrive too late as they get booked out rather fast. Mama Pap’s is one of the cheapest there.
- Many people rent their bikes at Miss Noy’s (close to Hotel Lankham on road 13) as it is the most popular one. They have good bikes but can be sold out quite fast. Make sure to reserve at least one day in advance. If not you can also find other rentals around town. We got our bike at a scooter rental / hotel down the road next to an AVIS car rental.
- You can swim in some waterfalls so bring some swimming clothes with you.
- In general the area is safe and nothing happened to us. Makes sure to keep your bikes in safe places over night.
- You don’t need to be an expert at driving bikes! They are simple and easy to use and you will get a hang of it quite fast.