The next day in Pakse, we decided to rent motorbikes
to get to the Bolaven Plateau, a large national protected area with coffee and tea plantations and beautiful waterfalls. It took about an hour to get there, but it would've been faster if Stella had gone more than 40km/hour the whole time. It was my 2nd time renting my own and her first, so I guess she was a little nervous about it. The first waterfall we could only see from afar and tried to hike down to see the bottom, but the trail ended at a cliff,
so we had to reverse to the top.
The 2nd waterfall we spent about an hour hiking around, swimming, and taking pictures
. Stella decided to swim in all of her clothes which were soaking wet for the ride back to Pakse, when it started to get a little chilly. After we descended from the plateau, the temperature went back up significantly and it was a smooth ride back to the guesthouse.
The Sabaydee Guesthouse was my first dorm experience in Southeast Asia and a very good one. I met a German guy, Jan, who had been aimlessly wandering around Pakse for a week, talking to locals and bumming around. We went to a Chinese school to watch a basketball game between Savannakhet Province and Champasak Province. Then at night, there were some locals playing Petang, (like the traditional French game where you try to get the metal balls closest to the wooden ball), which is the most popular game in Laos, so Stella and I joined in for a couple tosses, but they were playing for some serious money, so we became spectators and drank beer with them. Lao poeple say cheers every time they take a sip,
which I wasn't used to, and they also watch you drink until you finish the glass. This one half Vietnamese, half Lao guy kept on pouring the glass and then made Stella become the waitress for the 15 other locals drinking. It was a fun unique experience for both of us.
The rest of my time in Pakse I spent going for jogs, which was very amusing for the locals, going to the huge Vietnamese food market where I bought a frisbee, and going on a bike ride around town. I ended up staying much longer than I expected and had a really good time.
I didn't really wanted to leave because in a few days, the Laos National Games (the Olympics for Laos) were being held in Pakse, but I decided to move on to Savannakhet. Tired of getting ripped off by bus companies, I thought I would pursue a different mode of transportation...
Next Stop: Savannakhet
Oh those sneaky tuk-tuk drivers...On the way to Pakse, Laos' biggest city in the south, I met an American girl, Stella, from Chicago who had been travelling just as long as me. The bus we took was one of the pickup trucks converted into a minibus, so it was exposed to the outside on the sides. We would make various stops along the way where the locals would reach through the truck with all their products, including some dried beef that was interesting...After about 2 hours on the bus, we were anticipating a stop at a real bus station near town to drop us off. Instead, the bus pulled over about 10km outside of Pakse, where a tuk-tuk driver tried to make us get off the bus and pay extra just to go where the bus should drop us off. We had to be firm and tell the bus driver to forget about the scheming tuk-tuk guy and just take us to town. Backpackers, or "Phalong", as we are called here can pretty much expect that kind of scam in Southeast Asia. Sometimes, they will offer to give you a ride for 2 blocks and make you pay 5 bucks. In this case, Stella and I laughed at the whole situation and eventaully we made it to town.