An amazing motorbike tour in Laos

  Sonia   |     30/03/2018

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I finally reach Pakse after 11 hours on a bus coming from the capital of Laos, Vientiane. The pick-up from the hostel is at 6:30 pm and it takes us more than 1 hour to reach the bus station south of the city (tuk-tuk makes a thousand rounds and often stops to get more people). The bus actually leaves at 8:30 pm. This is a really comfortable bus with real beds instead of the seats that lie completely. I said "we are" because here with me there is a dear friend met during my Erasmus in Poland; Luis will travel for a few months around Southeast Asia with me.
We arrive at Pakse at 7 am. We stay at the Downtown hostel where we pay 40,000 kip per person. We have breakfast with omelettes and baguettes for 10,000 kip and a smoothie for 8,000 kip (remember that € 1 is equivalent to 10,000 kip).
We spend the day wandering around Pakse with a rented scooter for 40,000 kip - because by now it's afternoon and we get a 10,000 kip discount, instead, the full price would be 50,000 kip. There is also a difference in the price depending if you hire the automatic scooter (which costs you 80,000 kips) or the semi-automatic one (it costs you 50,000 kip). This time I decide to take the semiautomatic one because I want to learn how to change the gears. It is not so complicated!
The city of Pakse is the capital of the province of Champasak and the fourth largest city of Laos. Founded in 1905 by the French and washed by the Mekong River and Sedone (Xe Don), it is the starting point for exploring the Bolaven plateau.
The Bolaven Plateau is located east of Pakse in southern Laos about seventy kilometres from the border with Thailand. It is actually an ancient volcano collapsed on itself millions of years ago. The land of volcanic origin makes it an extremely fertile area as can be observed from the luxuriant vegetation and coffee plantations considered among the best in the world. You can decide to explore it by motorbike or by car. We decide to do it by motorbike in 4 days.
We leave Pakse at 9 am and the first stop is the Tad Pasuam waterfall. We pay an entrance fee of 10,000 kip and swim in it. Really nice place, with only 2 tourists besides us. It is important for women to bathe with sarong because for Laotians bikini is not well seen.
After an hour we continue the journey and we stop at the coffee house called Katu Homestay to relax a bit 'on bamboo hammocks. We arrive at the village of Tad Lo around 3 pm and we start looking for accommodation. We finally stay at Sailomyen bungalows for 60,000 kip per room with a river view. Very nice accommodation with bathroom in the room and of course everything is very basic. In this accommodation, there is also a restaurant that offers very generous portions at an average price for Laos (you can eat a soup for € 1.50 or noodles with meat and vegetables for € 2).
DAY 2: Tad Lo village - Thateng (30 km)
The next day we visit the 3 waterfalls in the surroundings of Tad Lo village: Tad Hang, which is the one we can see from our bungalow, is easily reachable by scooter or on foot making a small climb (we pay 5,000 kip for the parking of the scooter). And finally we venture out on a trek to visit the Tad Soung waterfalls but at some point we get lost in the jungle and go out on the main road; finally, after about 1 hour, we reach the waterfall which unfortunately is rather dry; however, it is a good opportunity to interact with local children who stop to talk with us, after leaving school, and to observe various women who wash themselves in the river or who wash their clothes. In the afternoon we return to the Tad Lo village and we walk towards the town of Thateng. Here we stay at Viphavanh Guesthouse (50,000 kip per room). Eating here is very cheap: at € 1.50 you can eat a plate of noodles with vegetables and chicken for example.
DAY 3: Thateng - Attapeu (122 km); Attapeu - Tad Fek (59 km) - tot. 181 km
We stop at the Tad Fek waterfall where we pay 5,000 kip for the parking lot. The waterfall is very pretty, with few tourists and there are bungalows where you can relax for a while. Then we leave again and head to Attapeu. We then divert the circuit 48 km because we read that there would be a nice view but we really do not recommend it unless you have time and want to spend a few hours or a night in a larger town than those found during this round. After having lunch we decide to get back on the scooter but when we are almost at Bane Bang P. K. Luis's scooter suddenly stops! We, therefore, ask for help from the locals because we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere and we have no idea how to find a mechanic; beyond all, there is not even signal so there is no way to contact the agency where we rented the scooter. After several attempts, speaking in English and gestures we can understand each other and so two guys help us bring the scooter to the nearest mechanic that is about 10 km from where we are. In the meantime, the whole neighbourhood arrives and they start to look at me, to talk to me, to smile and we take pictures together. Finally, we are at the mechanic and he informs us that he does not have the spare part and that we must return the following morning. Meanwhile, it is 7 pm and it's already dark and we do not know where to go to sleep because we do not see any Guesthouse nearby. Suddenly we see a temple so we try to ask the monks if they can accommodate us. Their answer is affirmative so this night we sleep together with various Buddhas, obviously on the floor, and with cows, sheep and dogs in the surrounding area; all very suggestive! We dine with instant noodles and the monks turned out to be very kind, even offering us bottles of water.
DAY 4: Bane Bang P. K. - Pakse (130 km)
The monks start to play the drum t 5 am; we hear some shots but we continue to sleep. At 6 o'clock one of them starts shouting: "Good morning" to which we understand that we have to get up. We thank them and we go around; we stop along the way to admire the sunrise and have a coffee. We take the scooter back at 9.30 am and leave again. First stop of the day: Tad Katamtok, the highest waterfall of the Bolaven Plateau and is seen approaching the road on the left. After about 4 km there is also always on the left a place where they make orange juices for € 1. Very good!
We drive directly then to Paksong. Here the first waterfalls we see are Tad Yuang. Entry is 10,000 kip plus 5,000 kip for scooter parking. The waterfalls are very beautiful. You can also take a bath but for women, you need to cover yourself with a sarong. The road to get there is full of pebbles and slippery. Careful not to fall!
Then we go to the Tad Fane waterfalls. Here, too, entry is 15,000 kip in total. These are two very tall twin waterfalls and they attract a lot of attention. Here you can also do zip line for a price of $ 40 or drink a tea being suspended with the waterfalls view for a price of $ 60 per person. Obviously very expensive for our budget.
We continue with the last waterfall that we have set out to see: Tad Champi. Here we pay 5,000 kip for entry and 3,000 kip for parking. In this waterfall, you can swim or for 10,000 kip you can rent a bamboo raft to get closer to the waterfall. The road to reach it is full of holes and dirt for at least 15 minutes.
After visiting this waterfall we decide to return to Pakse and spend the night at Sakhone Guesthouse where we pay 60,000 kip for a room (the bathroom is not in the room but there is hot water). A very nice environment with a nice owner. We highly recommend it.
P.S. The road from Paksong to Pakse is under construction so be prepared to breathe a lot of dust.
In total, we have done about 420 km in 4 nights and 4 days counting the last night in Pakse. If you do not have these days available you can do it in 3 nights and 3 days.
The next day we decide to continue to explore the area so we visit Champasak (46 km from Pakse) where is the Phu Temple (UNESCO Heritage). The entrance to the temple is 50,000 kip. It is a Khmer temple and is very small compared to the Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia. It is worth visiting if you are passionate about temples and if you want to see green fields or drink a coffee or a fruit shake while admiring the Mekong river in one of the many places along the path in pure tranquillity.
I can say we have spent a great time here, completely immersed in the communities of local people as well as in nature. It is a highly recommended circuit to learn more about Laos and its less touristic areas.

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