After a disappointing day in Phonsavan, we were ready to head for the Bolaven Plateau but not looking forward to the 18 hour bus ride we had ahead of us, driving down the entire length of Central Laos. Realistically if we would have had a bit more time we would have broken up the journey in two, stopping off at Tham Kong Lo Cave which is supposidly a beautiful area in the country. On our bus we met a nice, friendly Australian family from just outside Queensland who owned a farm, and soon offered us jobs when we told them about our travels. With all their details we hope to be able to get in touch with them and potentially work for them for a while if all goes to plan.
Once again, arriving late at about 2am meant we had to look for accommodation in the centre with availability using screenshots of guesthouses. After trying about five different options, we found a reasonable place to stay just on the edge of the river.
With The Boulevan Plateau known for its coffee plantations and two of Laos’ most famous waterfalls, it was well worth the stop before heading down to 4000 islands as it surpassed every expectation. With fairly direct roads and a decent tourist map, renting a motorbike was the best option for visiting the attractions, both in terms of cost and convenience (doing everything at our own leisurely pace).
Tad Yuang, the first waterfall we visited was the further of the the two and was only a ten minute drive from the main road followed by a short walk. As we approached the waterfall, we first came to the top of the fall which overlooked the very large drop and massive valley between the mountains.
The views from the top really were breathtaking due to the amazing scenery and combinations of the water and surrounding greenery in amongst the landscape. With little attention to safety we really got to appreciate our surroundings as we were able to get right on the edge of the waterfall. Here we spent at least half an hour just sat on the edge really enjoying our surroundings, however it was almost a little bitter-sweet as my phone fell into one of the small ponds. It was only after a couple of minutes that I realized when I saw it lying in the water, but luckily enough after drying it out, the S4 seems to be quite waterproof.
As well as from above, the waterfall was equally as impressive from the bottom where once again we were able to get up close. Along a steep path through the edge of the forest we got to a number of different vantage points in front of the waterfall which gave us impressive views of the entire fall. The lowest vantage point was down at the waters edge and was the closest we could get without getting into the water.
Despite giving the swim a miss, down at the water level it does not take long before you get very wet from the spray as you can get fairly close.
To date, the view from the top at edge of the waterfall was definitely one of, if not the most impressive views we have had so far. The combination of the spectacular scenery surrounding such a beautiful waterfall in an area so untouched, as well as being able to get so up close really allows you to enjoy and appreciate it.
When leaving the waterfall, at the entrance we met the very friendly local farmer who owns the surrounding twenty-eight acres of coffee plantations. After a few questions about his coffee, he was more than happy to give us a bit of information on the different types of coffee and how the plants are grown, as well us giving us a few beans to taste. With each of his acres containing approximately 30000 plants, he told us that his entire farm just covers him to sell coffee at his two restaurants throughout the year. This just put it into perspective as to the number of plants needed in order to sell coffee on a mass scale. With his plantation at about 1140 meters above sea level, in the ideal range of altitudes between 1000 and 1200 metres above sea level, he grew Arabica, Robusta and a French Brand which were each from trees of differing size.
When considering the taste of coffee, the raw beans directly from the tree taste quite different with a relatively sweet flavor; nothing like a cup of coffee. The flavour of coffee that we are used to comes when the skin of the beans are removed and are then left to to dry in the sun. As well as his coffee plantations he looks to build a set of bungalows for people looking for relaxation where they can swim in the fresh cold water of the waterfall in the mornings followed by a warm cup of fresh coffee.
On our way back to the centre of Pakse, five minutes along the way, we had time to visit a second waterfall, Tad Fane. Despite not being to get anywhere close to the falls like at Tad Yuang, it was still quite impressive in terms of its vast size. It was a fair distance from the view point, however we were able to see the entire 120m drop which was pretty spectacular. At the base of the waterfall there was a large round hole where the water would collect. With not much else to do at the view point, other than admire the the scale of the waterfall in amongst some beautiful scenery, we were not there for much longer than approximately 20minutes in comparison to the two hours at Tad Yuang Waterfall.
The drive out to the waterfalls in both directions was a really enjoyable ride as for the majority of the journey we were able to admire the many local houses and restaurants at the sides of the road which were built out of wood and raised on stilts. Being able to really see how some of the locals lived when out of the main towns and cities, It really gave us a feel of some true Laos lifestyles.