Although we left Thakhek hitchhiking, the last kilometers we had to take a local bus since it was already dark and we preferred to reach Pakse that day. There we’d perform a similar motorbike loop to the one in Thakhek but only for 2 days and, in my opinion, more interesting. The Pakse loop goes around the Bolaven Plateau, a plateau formed millions of years ago after the eruption of an ancient volcano. This region is famous for its waterfalls and for its coffee (mainly Arabica and Robusta, planted during the French colonial times) which is worldwide exported and it’s an important income for Laotian families. It was mid January and the coffee plants had flowers so driving through the fields we could smell its delicious aroma which reminded me to the sweet jasmine at first. Besides the good moments with my friends in Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang, this would be with no doubts the best part of my trip around Laos.
The first important stop was Mr. Vieng’s Homestay, an organic coffee farm totally recommendable. It’s a perfect stop on the way for having some lunch/brunch the first day. It’s at the beginning of a village called Km 60 (which, oh surprise!, is 60 km away from Pakse) and, after crossing a bridge and drive up a slope, you’ll see in the left side a sign saying Katu Homestay. It’s pinned on the map
Just arrived to the farm we got some excellent peanuts (also produced there) and bananas. And yes, it’s free, something that I didn’t expect at all. The food was delicious, vegetarian, very well served, good quantity and fair price. We didn’t do it but they also offer a tour around the farm explaining about the coffee production and breeding (if you pay). They also sell handmade scarfs and, in fact, we could see Mrs. Vieng weaving them. Indispensable to buy coffee on the farm, of course, although we couldn’t take that weight with us and our budget was very reduced either so we had to get along with some bags of tasty peanuts for the long hitchhiking journeys.
Not really wanting to left the welcoming Mr. Vieng’s Homestay we drove towards Tad Lo, a small village which was a mandatory stop to overnight. Accommodation is very cheap and we slept in a king size mattress on the floor by 10000 kip for both (around 1€) in MamaPap Guesthouse
In Tad Lo there were also a two waterfalls to visit. The most impressive one is worthy to see before sunset when they open the dam to produce electricity.
There we met Berta and Mark, a Catalan couple with whom we had long conversations about the Catalan Nationalism, hahaha. We met again in Pakse but after that I didn’t see them again, although Belén traveled with them for a while when we separated in Si Phan Don (4000 islands of Mekhong).
The second day of loop we visited two breathtaking waterfalls, Tad Yuang and the double Tad Fane. For both of them is necessary to pay an entrance (10000 kip I reckon) but Belén and I, fucking tired of paying for everything, decided to walk around and we found an entrance to Tad Yuang through a coffee field
Once inside, and after visiting the waterfall, it was possible to follow a hidden path through the forest and reach Tad Fane (this path can be found in OpenStreetMap so if you’re using Maps with me App you’ll be able to follow it and not get lost). We played the fool with the lianas and cross the waterfalls by the topside, just before the fall. It was really funny although Belén had a bad time due to the vertigo, hehehe
We came back to Pakse when it was almost night. What a nightmare! Both in Laos and in Cambodia driving a motorbike at night is a craziness: many motorbikes and bicycles don’t use any kind of light (well, they can see at night, why do they need lights? If the other vehicles cannot see them it’s not their problem, of course!); helmets are shit and one must lift the visor to see so your dinner will be hundreds of insects, if they don’t end up in your eyes and let you blind; that’s the moment at which the people burn all the garbage accumulated on the ditches because in these countries everything is thrown to the floor or to the water and everything is always full of trash and shit.
There is poverty, yes, but essentially there is a brutal lack of education and awareness that nobody seems interested in changing, specially governments and powerful people, of course. The more ignorant the people the easier to manipulate them.