. We passed a number of old ladies walking with great packs on the back as they return home from a long walk scavaging for food in the forests as they always have. Whilst we were here the rain returned to end what had been a bright morning and by the time we had walked through the forest to the falls we were soaked through especially as we did not have the foresight to bring coats or umbrellas. Luckily Som had things covered and ran back to the van and returned with a couple of brollies by which time we were saturated. The falls were quite pleasant but nothing spectacular. Returning to the van we drove on through torrential rain and watched the scenery pass through steamed up windows. When we arrived at the turn off from the main road to the Tad Yuang falls we were confronted by a quagmire of a road which meant that we had to park up the van and walk the last few km. There were a small collection of restaurants around the head of the falls which are a popular picnic spot on better days than today ! The stairs thsat descended to the foot of the falls looked steep and treacherous as they were soaked, had a stream of water running down them and were covered in fallen leaves and moss. I took the decision that I wanted to see the falls but wanted to live beyond the next hour so more. We returned to the restaurants where we indulged in a range of local foods. By the time we had finished eating the rain had stopped and the sun was trying to reappear. As I am unlikely to ever come here again I decided to make an attempt at descending to the foot of the falls and set off on my own
. Now the river of water that was washing down the stairs had stopped things were no too bad. As soon as the falls came into sight there was a tremendous wind blowing through caused by the volume of water dropping and I very soon got soaked again. The twin cascades were dropping about 40m and with the volume of water from all the rain looked pretty good. Got the camera out quickly for a snap then back under cover out of the wet. Walked back to the van through the dirt and then off to our last waterfall Tad Fane, the longest in southern Laos. Once again we had to leave the van at the main road and slip and slide through the mud to reach the falls. As we approached we were stood on one side of a deep valley and the falls were on the other side - or so I was told. The valley itself was completely full of low cloud and spray from the falls so although we could hear them there was no sight of them at all. About 5 minutes later, however, everything miraculously cleared for all of 2 minutes allowing a clear view of the impressive falls as the twin cascades of the Huay Bang Lieng river poured out from the deep forest opposite and dropped 120m to the valley floor. We returned to the van walking through a coffee plntation and then drove to our final stop; a tea plantation. This had been here since French times and one of the former workers had kept it going after the French had left. Had a taster of a green and very bitter tea before a quick walk around the tea bushes. We then begin our return journey to Pakse in typically late in the day sunshine. I enjoyed the day but am not sure that I would recommend it to anyone else - particularly the 'zoo' ! Taking advantage of the sunshine we head to the Pakse Hotel alittle earlier today at 16:30 and are pleased to find that at last their rooftop bar is open. We sit here for an hour so watching the sun go down over Mount Penis in the distance and enjoying a couple of BeerLaos - probably the last I will have for a few months. Stop and eat at a small restaurant on the way back to the room as the hotels prices we beyond us, well not really but they were excessive compared with other places.
Eat a liesurely breakfast and are picked up outside our hotel at 08:00 by Son our driver for the day. We head off towards the Bolevan Plateau climbing slowly into the mountains and arrive at our first stop about an hour later. The Tad Paxsuam waterfall is located next door to a 'people zoo' or a 'minorities village' as they call it here. A collection of representatives of various Lao tribes have been relocated here to live together so that people can come and see them. We stop and chat to a couple of old boys from the Katu and Alak tribes who are wearing tatty tribal clothes and entertain us by playing musical instruments, smoking an old bamboo pipe and showing us a few tricks they have made. It was all quite sad really and as much as I wanted to go to villages where these small tribes live this was not what I had in mind. It looks as though I am 20 years too late. It seems to be Lao government policy to move these people out of the forests which is their natural home and they are now to be found living alongside the main roads