After spending the ultimate days of our Cambodia tour in Siam Reap, we looked forward to arrive in a more quiet and natural surrounding. We chose Don Det as a destination, this is one of the 4000 islands in the southern part of Laos. After we crossed the border, our lao adventure directly begun: Instead of driving in a normal bus, we were “loaded” on a truck with an open passenger hub and drove nearly half an hour to the port of Ban Nakasang. As everything takes a little more time here than usual, the sun set already and with a very small wooden boat we continued to the island.
Happy to finally arrive, we found a nice homestay on the sunrise side of the island right next to the Mekong although we had no reservation and the next day we cycled over the island. The vibe is very relaxed here and you can see some people smoking Marihuana at the riverside. Special attention lay on the citizens as they were very friendly waving and smiling all the time as the islands were not that highly frquented by foreigners until only some years ago. Passing by the waterfalls of Don Khon, we found an idyllic little oasis with a cute café and hammarks right next to the imense falls. There is also a beach to take a bath but as we saw an imense water snake the first day we were not to much into jumping to the waters. Also here, there were not too many people and everything still seemed very original, only a little wooden fence divided the steep cliffs of the river of the walking ground- a nogo for european circumstances but this is what makes the charme of Laos- the nativeness of the landscape and also the people. Another example? We passed by a house where a father and his son just had dinner at the patio and suddenly the little kid got of his chair, went to the balustrade and peed on the dusty path were we stood- we were lucky enough not to cross his direction:op
The next day it was time to head north to Pakxe. It took us approx. 4 hours by minibus (when we hear this word, there are some really bad experiences tied with this kind of transportation because it is very common that the operators promise a pickup at the hotels… at the various hotels… so pretty often you spend the first hour just driving from hotel to hotel watching the bus get fuller and fuller). Trying to organise a tour to the numerous waterfalls nearby, we were disappointed because as there are only a few operators every tour was quite expensive and we missed the good travel infrastructure of Vietnam a bit- but if you want to visit the abandoned places, of course there are not too many providers what turned out to be our luck: we rented a semiautomatic motorcycle, initially for one day, grabbed a selfdrawed map and started our private tour to the Bolaven Plateau, famous for endless coffee plantations, beautiful landscape, native villages and- surprise- waterfalls! After a short introduction of how to drive the semiautomatic transmission (pretty easy), we dared the adventure! Driving north, our first stop was Tad Pasuam- a little bit of a tourist trap beacause the waterfalls were not that big at this time and in the village itself was not idigenous at all. Following the recommendation of the scooter rental, we took another stop at Mr. Vieng, an organic café . It was our luck that a group of dutchies, italians and kiwis arrived there at the same time because from then on, this was our lovely travel entourage and what was planned to be a day trip turned out to be a 3-day- discovering tour!! At the end of day 1, we ended up in Tad Lo, about 80 km away from Pakxe. Our homestay there was one of the cheapest we ever stayed in, for 1,5, we had a 16-dorm, veerry basic with just a mattress on the floor and a mosquito net. We had some beers and went to bed early to be prepared for the next day as we had about 100 km on our way to the next destination- wich we didn´t know by then:opSo after breakfast we went east to Kok Poung Tai, the town of “Captain Hook” according to our motorcycle rental. Not sure what to expect we entered the village and immediately we were surrounded by many (half-) naked children who begged for food or little presents. Meeting captain Hook, we found a small guy in his 30s, showing us his selfmade tattoo (the writting Captain Hook of course!) explaining that many years ago americans came to his town to do some research and teaching english to him. Walking around the little village and visiting the coffee planttions and herb gardens, he explained us many facts about his town:
Consisting of 724 people, the leaders of Ko Poung Tai are the guru and the shaman. The villagers stay for themselves and it´s not allowed for other people to constantly enter there. Men can have several women and if a woman gets a baby, she leaves to the forests around. After some days, she brings the newborn to the shaman who decides if it has a good or bad spirit (based on the dreams of the woman). In case of a bad spirit, she has to return to the forests:o/ ear, a little puppy is sacrafied to keep the bad spirits away and as a reward, the villagers get a new water buffalo. As everybody in this world sees the same sun, differences in time are a lie- if the sun shines in Laos, it shines everywhere! And differences in skin colour appear because of drinking too much of “blue” or “red” waters- so I drank too much blue water, Captain Hookwas explaining.
A little confused, we left the town and continued to the next waterfall in Tad Faek.After a short lunch break, we continued to Tad Tayicsua, the most beautiful part of our trip as the landscape was overwhelming! We even saw the sunset… wait, the sunset?? We still had a little bit of a way upcoming to the waterfalls and… one moment. was this tiny path over there the actual way to the waterfalls?! Okay, no excuses- let´s go! We found ourselves on a dirt road, it was about to go dark and we didn´t even know if we´ll find a homestay but we were keen enough to try- and we had no other options:o) luckily, we found a nice stay in a natural hut and had the best preconditions to explore this beautiful area in the early morning next day!
Waking up in the middle of nowhere we were very excited to leave. After an 20 minute hike, we found an awesome waterfall and even a place to swim! It was so worth th go there and we got in some kkind of an adrenaline rush. I even could enter the water right under a waterfall and let myself float in the river for some meters, that was really huge!! Energized by this adventure, we continued west to finish our 340 km loop by the end of that day. At Tad Yuang we took another brief stop and saw two enormous waterfalls.
Arriving back in Pakxe we enjoyed a last common dinner with our new travel buddies before we continued our journey further north on the next day. Our new destination was Thakek, where we went with a local bus- again it was very intersting to watch some local habbits: every half an hour we stoped in small villages and about 5-7 roughlooking women entered the bus with food, mostly speard on a stick: whole chicken, fish or sweet sugar balls… and if some of these touched a seat or a shoulder, nobody even cared… it seams like the 3-second-rule is also locally adabtable and in Laos there is a very flexible interpretation of it:oP
We really enjoyed our stay in Laos, the silence at night and the calm spirits of the people.
Read in our next post how we nearly drowned in the Xe Bang Fei cave and how we made it from Laos to Thailand in just half an hour.