It’s no secret that Laos is a natural paradise that’s literally overflowing with spectacular waterfalls. Kuang Si Waterfall in Luang Prabang gets a lot of the cascade attention as it’s easy to visit. But, the wild falls that can be found around the lush area in southern Laos along the Bolaven Plateau in Pakse are another level of spectacular. This is why the Bolaven Plateau is heaven on earth for waterfall lovers.
Somewhere over the rainbows in Laos.
As it was the rainy season and the roads between Vientiane and Pakse were having issues with mudslides and flooding I opted to fly–something I usually wouldn’t do for such a short distance, but it was the safest option. I knew I was heading towards a magical destination when I looked out of the window of the tiny propeller plane and saw two rainbows hovering over the verdant landscape.
There’s more to the Bolaven Plateau in Pakse than waterfalls.
Many people hit the pavement of the Bolaven Plateau in a rented motorbike so that they have total freedom to go seek out the dozens of waterfalls that can be found along the way. If you go this route be sure to protect yourself and your belongings by purchasing travel insurance in advance of your trip to the Bolaven Plateau from World Nomads.
The big loop usually takes five days. After spending three days on the back of a bike in Ha Giang, Vietnam on the Dong Van Loop, I can’t imagine spending that much time on a motorbike! If you take the longer route you’ll be rewarded with an astonishing vista once you reach Tad Tavieseau (GoogleMaps). The area has seven waterfalls hidden in the jungle.
If you’re like me and haven’t braved the dangers of driving a motorbike you can still see waterfalls, don’t fret! There are options to rent cars, hirer drivers, or joined an organized tour. I opted for the last option as it was the most cost efficient (150,000 kip) and joined a tour organized by Chato Hostel. This was a comfortable and affordable place to stay in Pakse.
Whichever which way you decide to traverse the Bolaven Plateau in Pakse, Laos, keep in mind that the region was badly damaged during the Vietnam War. There are still many UXO (unexploded ordnance) in the ground. Be mindful of this and avoid going off of trails while hiking.
PAKSE WATERFALLS ON THE BOLAVEN PLATEAU
The majestic Tad Fane Twin Waterfalls.
Our first stop of the half-day trip was to the incredible Tad Fane Twin Waterfalls (GoogleMaps). The duo cascade looks otherworldly as the steam clears to show off the steady stream of water that’s pouring from a height of around 400 feet. There are several viewing platforms and a lovely open-air cafe where you can enjoy a Laotian coffee as you soak in the view. Unfortunately, there is a captive monkey here. Do not encourage animal cruelty by interacting with it and be vocal about why you’re upset to see the wild animal being exploited.
The powerful Tad Yuang Waterfall.
Nearby is the Tad Yuang Waterfall (GoogleMaps). My tour didn’t include a stop here, so I went to go take a peek at the falls on my own. My time was limited but this gigantic park was bustling with local families who were preparing to enjoy a picnic lunch in nature. The entrance to the park brings you to the top of the waterfall which offers a completely different vista then that at the Tad Fane Waterfalls. It’s incredible to see just how strong the current is moving as it jets out over the cliffside. If you visit during the dry season you’ll be able to swim in the tranquil pools at the top of the waterfall.
Short but mighty Tad Lor Waterfall.
The gigantic Tad Lor Waterfall (GoogleMaps) was the picturesque backdrop for our local lunch during the trip. As it was the rainy season it was slightly chilly out and the water was very strong so we decided not to swim. There’s a long wooden raised walkway that goes along the perimeter of this Pakse waterfall, so be sure to take a stroll to admire this feat of Mother Nature from all vantage points.
Admiring Mother Nature at Pha Suam Waterfall.
The basin-like Pha Suam Waterfall (GoogleMaps) was the last cascade of my day exploring Pakse’s waterfalls. Suam means room in Lao due to the horseshoe shape of the fall that creates a small room of water. As we visited during the offseason the majority of the tourism activities at the park were closed but apparently, during the peak season they offer a variety of cultural immersion experiences. There are loads of trails to explore here but I got spooked before I had the chance to go exploring as I saw a snake!
ENTREPRENEURIAL COFFEE PLANTATIONS AND COOPERATIVES
Handmade all-natural bamboo straws.
There are things to do in Pakse beyond adoring waterfalls. If you’re a coffee lover you’ll enjoy visiting various coffee plantations and cooperatives and trying their different roasts. During my half-day tour of Pakse, Laos we went to Haven Coffee and Tea Lovers which doesn’t appear to have much of an online presence but was on the main road near the aforementioned waterfalls.
Whichever coffee plantation you visit on the Bolaven Plateau in Pakse, Laos will give you a tour of their processing center and allow you to taste their brews. I loved visiting Haven as they allowed us to tour the farm on our own and take in the various flora and fauna that is native to the area.
I visited during the offseason and was thrilled to learn that the cooperative had decided to take on a new project, making bamboo straws! They had seen a demand for bamboo straws and realized that they had all the necessary tools to make the straws at the coffee production center. The new project had only been operating for about a week but has created a lasting opportunity to employ all staff year-round.
The regenerative bamboo straw making process is completely local and zero-waste. They source bamboo from another nearby family and make the straws completely onsite. The plant (bamboo isn’t a tree, so it’s not wood!) is cut to size, soaked in water, dried over a fire, and then polished. They don’t use any chemical coatings and the extra bamboo fibers are used to fuel the fire.
A diet of coffee and Indian food in Pakse.
In town, you can take your morning cup of joe at the adorable 124 Thaluang Coffee Shop (GoogleMaps). It was challenging to find vegan food in Pakse, Laos. I took most of my meals at Hasan Indian (GoogleMaps) as I found the food at Vida Bakery and Vegetarian Food Pakse to be pretty bland.
DON’T SKIP ON CULTURE IN PAKSE
Soaking up the serene vibes at Wat Luang.
While there aren’t as many Buddhist temples in Pakse as there are in other cities in Laos, it’s still worth paying a visit to the peaceful grounds of the wats that are located near town. I enjoyed the tranquil ambiance at Wat Luang (GoogleMaps) and recommend going here early in the morning, you might just get fortunate enough to see the monks chanting.
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