Temples, Countryside Villages and Waterfalls

Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
Trip End Jan 31, 2012

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Champasak,
Sunday, November 27, 2011

Day 1 - Transit, Around town
Didnt have the boat/bus to Pakse til 11am so had some time to kill lying in the hammock and wandering to a nearby restuarant for breakfast before it was time to go.

At 11am time to jump into the boat that would take me across the river and then time to look for the bus to Pakse. Tour operators defiantely not very informative though given almost all the places on the island sold tickets I guess this shouldnt be a surprise. Ended up just heading for a bunch of buses and the counter near it where people seemed to be showing there tickets and eventually got directed to my bus.

Arrived in Pakse a few hours later in the part of town shown on my map. Seems like a smallish town without to much interesting around the place. Found my guesthouse after I managed to orientate myself. Unlike Vietnam where every building had a sign showing the street name, Pakse doesnt even have a sign with the street name on the corner. Once again had to orientate myself using landmarks on the map.

Still early in the afternoon so wandered around to the few tour operators that were around. Considered doing a 2 day hike and while one of these already had one other person going decided that it would be to expensive ($150 for 2 days) at this point in time. Decided to save the money for a hike in Northern Loas instead. If I am lucky will be able to find a bigger (cheaper) group. Ended up deciding on doing just the Wat Phu Champasak Temple tour instead.

After sorting that wandered, wandered and wandered a bit more. First headed out to the nearby bridge for some views of the river before popping into the temple by the river. Wander how long before I get bored of just popping into random temples.

Continued on from here along the street running near the rivers edge for some fews of teh river and the surrounding mountains. Found it interesting to see how many kids were cruising the streets on their scooters. Seems this must be the thing for the kids to do in this town (on a friday afternoon at least).

Given some of them didnt look like they had hit puberty am guessing that there must be no drivers license test or at the very least no enforment about someone having a driving license. Not surprising though given that little kids get propped up in front of there parent from their time as toddlers and so pretty much behind the wheel from birth. Beside, bikes dont have that much grunt anyway though that doesnt necessarily make the drivers any less dangerous.

Once one the main river found lots of restuarants an locals sitting around. Lots of whole stuffed fish waiting to be cooked. Am guessing that as it gets later more and more people show up here for dinner.

Decided to head back from here and had dinner at a restuarant near the guesthouse. Was feeling lazy so didnt bother walking the 1km or so back to the river to check out if it had gotten busier.

Day 2 - Wat Phu Champasak Temple
Decided to do the day tour out to Wat Phu Champasak though it was more of a half day tour in the end. Not sure why we started at 8am instead of 9am but at least it got us to the site before the crowds rolled in. Was thinking at first that maybe less people than I expected visited the ruin but within an hour of arriving the place started to fill out.

Had a nice drive out with lots of mountain tops covered in lush vegitatian along the way. Definately looks like a nice enough place to do a hike through the woods or jungle. As I had observed the previous drives through the countryside it seems that almost all the houses here are on stilts. Guess this gives you a cool, shady place to sit outside and to store things.

Were given up to 5hrs to visit the ruins but really only needed 2-3hr given they werent that big and there were no trails out into the surrounding jungle.

Followed the main paved road past the bathing pools to the two palaces that were on either side. These were partly restore but could only look from afar. Here found some interesting carvings used as door lintels and on teh roof. These included lots of snake heads (Naga) that I learnt later in the museum have something or other to do with protection.

From here climbed up a number of terraces to reach the temple sanctuary. Here I found some cool looking trees overhanging the stairs. Very picturesc.

Climbed up seven terraces worth of stairs to find the temple. Again some interesting carvings and inside a small shrine with some statues that is still visited by people. I believe that a one point of the year a 3 day festival is held here to which people do a pilgrimage.

Wandered around the back of the temple to the smalls pools here and would have tried climbing up the cliffs at the back. Managed to find what looked like a gulley but unfortunately as I started to clamber up it I also found a sign saying no climbing. Decided to head the warning this time.

Wandered back down and wandered around off into the jungle on one side of the ruins. Here I found an elephant carved into a stone as well as a couple of other carvings. After this spent some time just sitting and taking in the view of the surrounding countryside from the high vantage point that the temple was located on before heading back down.

At this point tried finding some trail out into the jungle but had no luck. Managed to find a couple of dirt trails but these seemed to disappear quite quickly. Longest of these took me to a barb wire fence with steps over it. Went over but once I hit the stream decided not to wander to far. Given teh fence wasnt to sure if I hadnt wandered onto private property.

Made it back to the car park where I found the driver. While everyone else had come back a couple seemed determined to used the whole 5hrs up. At least that was the impression I got from them when I asked when we needed to be back. He said to just go visit the museum and have lunch in a restuarant. He would then find me and the others once the last couple came back.

Wandered through the museum which had statues and carving from the site. Small but Ok for something to do to kill some time. By now it had been about 3hrs since we had arrived. Wandered out of here and down past a few restuarants until I found some of the other people doing the tour. Grabbed lunch and chatted with them for a while. In the end we didnt have to wait the whole 5hrs. Ended up being more like 4.25hrs after our arrival. Definately more time then the place needed.

Drove back to town and since it was still early wandered to another one of the shores where this part of the town met the river. Wandered across the bridge and from here could see some local kids swimming. Seems they had also decided to light a fire to keep warm outside the water. Also wandered into a temple I had seen on the way into town.

When walking back to the guesthouse it decided to pour down on me for a bit. Thankfully less than 1hr of rain and then clear skies again a couple of hours after that. While it was raining decided to hide from it by having dinner at a resturant I passed and then heading back to the guesthouse to have a quite evening.

Day 3 - Bolaven Plateau Tour- tea, coffee, local villages and 3 waterfalls
Another day tour to see the surrounding countryside. Very full day. Would have liked to have done a 2 day hike but its to expensive with only one or two people. While Im sure there are lots of individuals who want to do it its hard to find a group and like me Im sure noone wants the expense of doing it alone. Wander if they had fixed departure dates whether it would help create bigger groups.

Today found that it seems that the most popular thing to do in town is hire a motorbike and go driving around the countryside. Pretty much explains why not so many people on a tour and why there are so many people in town when there isnt much to do around the place.

Had a pretty big group today and our first stop was a tea farm. Wasnt really sure it was a tea farm at first since the plants pretty much look like a coffee tree. On one shrub though I did find something that looked like a fruit but which looked nothing like a coffee fruit. Green fruit with three balls connected together and hollow (bit of juice) in the middle. Wasnt quite game enough to try eating it though.

Given we had a driver and not a guide didnt end up with much explanation about the place though it seems the leaves from the top of the branches get picked and dried over a fire on  a large metal pan. This was followed by a quick stop was a coffee farm with the common red fruits Ive come to know. Popped a couple of these which as always were sweet even if the fruit to seed ratio is highly in favour of the seed.

More driving from here to reach our first waterfall, Tad Fan Falls. Here had a short walk to a viewpoint of the two falls. Supposedly highest in SE Asia. Managed to find a trail leading into the jungle and given I had 40min decided to see how far I could get along it before I had to head back.

Going was pretty much all downhill at first. Along the way passed a couple of side trails that I skipped. Nice walk through the jungle and the place defiantely seems like it would be an interesting place for a day long hike. Pity I cant get out here without a tour.

Found the trail reached another small stream and water fall. from here not sure if it continued or not since I didnt check out the other side of the stream but assuming it did. Here found a steep drop where the water was falling. Looking out at the valley I was in could see extremely steep mountainside cover in dense jungle foilage.

Headed back and saw a couple of people coming up one of the side trails. Since it wasnt to far decided to head down for the view before heading back to the van where we had a short drive to the next fall. Not quite as big this time and made my way towards the bottom of it where I was getting hit by the spray. Walked back up to the top to look down from the top and by then time was up and it ws time for the next stop.

Ended up in a small villiage with lots of kids running round (sunday). People were friendly enough but guessing way to many tourists pass through town. While the kids werent really begging, you could see that they were hoping to get some sort of gift given the way they followed us around.

Houses here all wooden and on stilts. Guess its useful for storage and live stock. Definately lots of pigs and piglets running round so guess pork is big on the menu. According to to the tour description the village was suppose to be the place where the villagers make their own coffins but I found no evidence of any of these lying around.

After wandering around a bit continued onto Tad Lo and its nearby waterfalls. Had considered doing Tad Lo as a destination and it certainly is a nice village with enough hiking to fill a day in. Only real problem is loosing 1-2 days in transit getting to/from the place and the previous/next destination.

Had lunch here by a small fall before finding a trail and following it through the jungle up river. Defiantely a hot and sweaty journey. First stop along the way was Tad Lo waterfalls. Ran into a sign here indicating another fall 3.4kmm up the trail as well as a couple of villages along the way.

Made it to the first village where I pretty much lost the trail. Had a few options on which way to take and the one I chose seemed to disappear after a while. Didnt really have enough time to make it to the falls anyways so wandered round the village a bit before heading back. Had a few kids come running up asking about pens. While its not money (and useful) its still encourages begging from kids. Know its a nice thing to do but the bad thing about it is that it starts to associate tourists with being able to get things for free.

Made it back to the village and wandered round for a bit just watching people go about their daily lives and the cows wandering round the streets.

Continued on to the final stop which was another village. this one was termed a model village though it looked more like a rich one given the quality of the house construction compare to some of the other places I have seen. Once again lots of kids around and this time a couple of women weaving cloth. Also saw some concrete boxes that looked a bit like coffins but highly doubt these are something that a villager would create for themselves. A guide here definately would have been informative.

This pretty much ended to tour with the drive back to town being the only thing left to do. Still had a couple of hours before my sleeper bus so had dinner and killed some time on the laptop. Headed to the tour agent who sold be the ticket to find that they were having a birthday party. Ended up being offered (and drinking) beer for a bit before heading to the bus with a belgium couple who were also heading to Vang vieng.

Once again sharing the bed with another guy who didnt seem to care about where the middle of the bed was.

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