Our bus to Pakse arrived after midnight. We’d taken the non-airconditioned, non-tourist bus and it was a long, bone-rattling journey, involving frequent stops - sometimes 50 metres apart! The Pakse bus station is miles out of town - so far out of town that it's three times further from the city centre than the local airport - a scam that could only have been dreamt up by local tuktuk drivers, who’ll gladly take you into town for a fee.
By the time we had arrived, the last remaining tuktuk driver at the bus station took full advantage of the scarcity of rides into town and overloaded and overcharged enormously to the point where some luggage (not ours) fell off the tuktuk on the way into town and was damaged on the road.
We stayed at the Pakse Hotel where, as we’d seen a few times on our trip so far, our room did not have any outside-facing windows, but lucky we were moved to a much nicer room for our second night. We found Pakse to be more interesting than Savannakhet with more happening and a real centre.
We hired a brand new Honda XR250 from the Lankham Hotel. Be warned that we've heard some stories of unscrupulous motorbike hire companies in Pakse who'll do all sorts of nasty things to get some extra cash off of you (including stealing the bike from you while you're responsible for it). From everything we've heard, the staff at Lankham Hotel are honest and trustworthy. Unfortunately the bike didn’t have the touring alterations our previous bike from Jules Classic Hire but it was in great condition. As our Laos visa was fast running out, we only had one day and we wanted to see the Bolevan Plateau as we’d been advised to visit by other travellers.
Our Bolaven mini-tour started with a ride to Tat Lo, a village situated close to some well known waterfalls. Tat Lo seems a lovely place - all geared up for backpackers with lots of places to stay and eat, just not many tourists. While we were having lunch here, a man who must have been in his sixties came and asked if he could ask us some questions about the English that he was studying. He was a real character and we were happy to help, and we also got some insight into how difficult it must be to learn English. In the same way that we really struggle to hear the difference between words in tonal languages such as Lao and Thai, he just could not hear any difference between “bless” and “blessed”.
After lunch, we headed off to see the biggest waterfall in the area Tat Suong. We scrambled down a rough path and arrived at the top of a massive cliff over which the water was running. There wasn’t much water in the river, but it offered a spectacular view of the surrounding area.
After visiting Tat Suong, we decided to try and do a mini-loop, allowing us to head up onto the Bolavan Plateau and visit Tat Fan. The road from Tat Lo to Paksong is in the process of being tarred, so we spent much of the time on the tracks along the edge of it - it was very dusty, but a good ride.
At Tat Fan, we found some nice looking bungalows, but the waterfall was a bit far away and we couldn’t get anywhere near it without doing a big walk. As it was getting late, we then headed back to Pakse for the night and got ready to head to the 4000 islands (Phon Si Don) the following morning.