Did you know that you can find some world class coffee in Laos? I am not talking about drink sweetened with condensed milk that you get with your breakfast, which requires getting used to it… I mean the coffee that is grown on the Bolaven Plateau, some 1.420 meters above the see level in the otherwise flat region of the lower Mekong in southern Laos.
I was definitely in no mood for the usual tour including a trek through some tropical rain forest, stopping at some waterfalls, visiting the usual ethnic villages and of course a coffee plantation. So I decided to go and discover the Bolaven Plateau on my own, on a scooter. I opted for the more popular 250 kilometer loop starting north of the Plateau, with an overnight stay in Tad Lo, and then only climbing up the Plateau on the second day, heading to Paksong before driving back to Pakse.
There are no “real” highlights or places of special interest along the way. Nevertheless, the whole ride was exiting and definitely off the beaten tracks, even though this is supposed to be one of the highlights of southern Laos. It was basically a journey through lush primary rain forest. On the way, there are numerous waterfalls, but after stopping at two, my interest in seeing more slowly faded. These waterfalls were nice but not worth the sometimes big detours.
Most interesting were the numerous villages that I passed. Sure, there is at least one paved road crossing them and electricity has reached all of them. However, apart from these modern features, it is only wooden huts on stilts and lots of small kids playing, waving and calling out “Sabadee”. And … There are definitely more animals like pigs, piglets, chickens, goats, cows, dogs, buffalos etc. than people in these remote villages! Those animals are simply everywhere, under the stilt houses, lying on the road and freely roaming the countryside.
Tad Lo, even though highly praised in the Lonely Planet, has remained very laid-back and unspoiled. To put it into a proper perspective, there are more guesthouses than tourists and there are not that many guesthouses! Anyone looking for some serious relaxing, this is the place to go!
It may sound boring but during those two days, relatively little happened and it was still an exciting time, discovering these very remote villages where almost no tourist stops and then driving further ahead. The biggest excitement was actually spotting a giant scorpion on the road, about 15 to 18 centimeters long. For a scorpion, this is really, really impressive!
The other excitement was that I had lost contact to Heidi for 3 days. In her last eMail, she not only asked me to change all my plans so that she would be able to visit the region of Pakse with me, but she also promised to write the same evening with further details of her travel plans! And then… No sign of life for the next 72 hours! She did not even check her mails, which I realized after a while when logging into her GMail account. That was the most disturbing fact for me, knowing Heidi’s addiction for her eMails. After three days of increasing worries, I finally contacted the Austrian Embassy in Thailand, which is also in charge of Laos, asking if an accident had been reported. I immediately got an answer that no, there was no report of an Austrian person injured or in trouble.
Of course, the same evening Heidi contacted me again. To solve the puzzle, you need to read Heidi’s entries “My most favorite bus ride“ & “The journey is the Reward”.