Tat Lo waterfall

Trip Start Oct 16, 2009
Trip End Nov 15, 2009

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Where I stayed
Sipaseth Guesthouse

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Salavan,
Sunday, November 1, 2009

- EDIT in 2015 -
In hindsight I would not ride an elephant with knowledge I have today, nor recommend others doing that. At the time I did not know how uncomfortable and unnatural it is for the elephant. I thought it was a lot like riding horses.


1st November - Tat Lo waterfall and elephant ride

I wanted to get out of Pakse quickly because it didn't seem all that thrilling and also because logistically there is no other way than to come back there two more times during the coming days. I went for the first bus to a small settlement called Tat Lo, after the series of waterfalls with the same name. The guidebook was a bit unclear about how long it would take.

Nice bus ride
It left ahead of schedule (7.10 a.m. instead of 7.30) and turned out to take only 90 minutes. It was an extremely comfortable bus, I had some sort of huge love seat with arm rests to myself. They played nice modern Lao music and I asked some girls if they knew who was the singer, but they didn't know. I'd have liked to buy the cd.

Pleasant town

From where the bus dropped me off it was another 2 km ride on the back of a motorbike to Tat Lo. Tat Lo is a pleasant, very quiet little town, many of the guesthouses and lodges overlooking the river and waterfalls. From my room I look out onto a shared balcony overhanging the river and waterfall. A nice place to relax and stay for a couple of days!

I went to explore the town a bit and to look for info on the elephant rides. I got to Tim's restaurant and met a nice English girl, Jennifer (24) whose boyfriend was sick. We ended up having breakfast together and having really nice conversations. I gave her some ORS for her boyfriend. I only saw him later that day when he finally felt better.

Elephant ride
I walked around some more, it was a bit hard to find the Tadlo Lodge to book the elephant ride but in the end I did and booked for later that day, took a nap, and then went on the elephant ride. I really liked it! It takes you across places you'd never dream of walking: swamps, impenetrable jungle and bushes, and even across rivers. Another guy was also doing the ride on a second elephant. We're going to exchange our photos of one another. :-)

Both elephants seemed pretty hungry and kept stopping to pull out gigantic pieces of bamboo and eat those, so the two guides had to spur them on all the time.

Videos of the elephant ride:
Video 1
Video 2

My elephant had trouble crossing the river back. On an island halfway in the middle of the river, he simply refused to go further, stubbornly hanging its head and flapping its ears in frustration, and even breaking a thick branch in pure frustration, not to eat it. The guide gave up, and we waited for the second elephant to drop off the other tourist, come back and take me back. So I had to climb from the one seat to the other one but they were close together and it was fine. My first elephant seemed greatly relieved and immediately made his way home. The second elephant's seat also felt a lot more comfortable, so I think the one on the first elephant was probably hurting its back. I hope next time they attach it in a better way.

Dinner with Jennifer, Rebecca and Luke
That evening Jennifer found me in Tim's restaurant and asked me to join her and two other travellers for dinner at the Tadlo Lodge. This way she also had someone to share the very dark and uneven walk through the forest with to get to Tadlo. The other two were also really nice people, an English girl Rebecca and her Australian husband Luke, and we talked about all sorts of things. The Tadlo Lodge's restaurant overlooks another part of the river and feels very posh, but the food is not expensive. Rebecca and Luke left earlier and I hung around with Jennifer. We talked about politics and racism and travelling and kids versus carreers and all kinds of things.

Funny otter cuddling our feet
When we paid our bill, suddenly an otter (!) walked in and started lying its body and face on Jennifer's feet! It was sort of the lodge's pet. It kept following us around and seemed very keen on stroking its head up against our feet and then lying flat with its body against them. Funny little creature!

2nd November - relaxing!

Today I just slept late (for a change! after many days getting up at 6), had a slow breakfast, read my book... and used the computer because I don't want to forget all the details that make my holiday special. It's the first chilly and rainy day and I don't mind. My knee keeps me from doing much walking anyway.

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