A Champasak road trip

Pakse was our entry point to Southern Laos following our two weeks in the North. We were not sure what to expect but had booked a three night stay so that we could visit nearby Wat Phou which is a Khmer ruin that predates Angkor Wat.

Our mid-day arrival in Pakse gave us time to scout around and organise both a trip out to the Wat and our onwards travel to Si Phan Don (4,000 islands) some 145km south of Pakse.

Travelling with Joe and Beth Volk gave us the option of booking a private van without it breaking the bank. Even better, we found the travel company located in the hotel (Pakse Hotel) the most helpful and as a ‘cherry on top’, they organised a combined Wat Phou & Bolevan Plateau road trip for us.

We had read about the challenges of road travel in Laos and our two relatively short excursions to date have validated that you do need to be made of sterner stuff (than us) if you intend to travel long distances by vehicle. Apart from the poor condition of the roads, there is plenty of slow traffic to contend with and wandering animals are a constant hazard. There are no fences and the cattle, goats and dogs will cross ‘at-will’. We even encountered a goat at a toll station on a busy road – a quick check of the fee structure for the use of the road did not show a fee for goats so I can only assume it was heading for greener pastures (good luck with that – the grass looks pretty dry).

Ruth, our guide, Beth and Joe stride out towards Wat Phou and the climb to the smaller temple and sacred water further up the mountain.
The ruins of the main temple complex included two buildings – one for males and one for females.
The pathway and stairs up the mountain were flanked by old frangipani trees that dropped flowers onto the pathway.
An offering left by festival goers.
As with the temples of Angkor, the carvings, especially the door and window lintels are very intricate.
Looking back down the pathway. The complex was covered in litter which is not unusual for Laos but the excuse had been a major Buddhist festival a few days earlier. Teams of workers were collecting the rubbish and throwing it into the bushes so that it was not so obvious to the visitor.
Looking down on the complex from the higher and smaller temple.
After lunch we hit the Bolaven Plateau and following a relatively short drive from Pakse, we were soon at an altitude of around 3,000 feet. The air was pleasantly cooler and the scenery was suddenly coffee and waterfalls. The coffee beans are dried in front of the houses along the roadside, a road that was in various stages of construction. I suspect the final product might be about 80% coffee beans and 20% dust.
We were impressed by Tad Yaung waterfall and even took the rather dodgy path down to the base.
The even more impressive Tad Fane waterfall tumbles more than 100m into the gorge below.
Even monks love taking selfies and pics when near a waterfall.
These industrious people were making knives from old vehicle suspension components – it was a roadside foundary




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