20.10.2013 - 23.10.2013 30 °C
After another epic bus journey we finally made it to Pak Se, Laos about 22:00 (only about an hour late). Unfortunately, our bus dropped us about 2km outside of town, but there were plenty of Jumbo (large tuk-tuk) touting for business and we ended up paying US$10 dollars when it should have only been about $3!! But at that time of night our choices were limited and they have you over a barrel.
They dropped us at the Lankham Hotel, http://www.lankhamhotel-pakse.com where we had one of their newly renovated rooms for 150,000Kip (£12) which was nice and big and very clean. Unfortunately there was no water coming out of the taps in our bathroom. The guy at reception was very apologetic about this and gave us they key to another room next door saying keep both and either move rooms or just use that bathroom!
We slept really well and were up early as we needed to decide whether we were going to stay in Pak Se longer (in which case we needed to book another nights accommodation!), or whether to arrange transport to our next stop. After a nice breakfast at a local cafe we were able to do something we have not been able to do in about a month - we took a trip to the Tourist Information!! They were great and helped us come up with some options realising that Lonely Planet was a little unfair on this sleepy town and that it actually had a really nice relaxed atmosphere, but is also a great base for local activities.
On our way back towards our hotel we walked past the Phi Dao Hotel http://www.booking.com/hotel/la/phi-dao.en.html which had been our first choice for the previous night but it had been fully booked - we took a chance and luckily they had a room available and after a quick look round agreed to take it for two nights. After swapping hotels we hired bikes and cycled round the town and along the Sedone and Mekong rivers taking in the beautiful scenery and stopping for a beer along the way. The day ended with a chilled out dinner and drink before heading to bed as we had organised a trip to Bolaven Plateau famed for it’s tea and coffee plantations early the next morning.
In our private air-conditioned Minibus we drove out to the Plateau and our first stop a Tea Plantation. We were a little disappointed as our driver pointed to a field of Tea plants and left us to it. We thought we would get an explanation of what tea was growing and how it was harvested but were just left to wander around. We did however get chance to taste the tea which was very nice. From here we went on to the Tad Fane Waterfall which is also a hotel resort but again were just dropped at the entrance wtth explantnion of where to go - this was what we had booked! The waterfalls are beautiful, but sadly you can’t get anywhere near them and you are jostling for position with large tour groups to take photo.
Now it was time to go to a Coffee Planation and luckily this was much better. We were taken round by the owner/farmer who pointed out all the fruit and veg he was growing as well as describing the process of growing tea and coffee. Everything grown on the farm apart from the tea and coffee was for him and his family consumption so the only money he made was from selling the tea and coffee to the big factories to process. We then got to try more tea and Nick had a really strong, but delicious Lao coffee - he also gave us a homemade Passionfruit Juice!
Just as things were starting to be on the up, we were taken to our next stop, the E Tu Waterfall but again were left to our own devices! The falls were very beautiful and this time you could go really close, so we got very wet before stopping for lunch overlooking the river.
Our final stop on the tour was to, you guessed it...another waterfall. The Tad Lo falls were also stunning and were set inside a “cultural park” where you could also visit an Ethnic Village with traditional stilted houses, but again without a guide we were left a little clueless as where to go and what we were looking at. The tour operator had also said this is where we would be able to go swimming, but we could see no signs of this and no one else doing it so said went back to the minibus to be driven back to town where the they were surpised to see us back so soon.
The tour had been a little disappointing. Although the scenery had been beautiful, it was essentially a very expensive taxi service. We could have hired a tuk-tuk for the day for half the price!
Our final day in Pak Se was spent, well not really doing much to be honest. We had a nice lie in, went for a long lunch and a walk by the river before spending the rest of the afternoon outside a coffee shop reading - nice and relaxing.
We had also booked our tickets for the night bus through the same tour operator who had arranged our “tour” of the Bolaven Plateau so were concerned that we may get screwed over again, but true to her word she picked us up personally and dropped us at the rather vintage looking sleeper bus to Vientiane, the capital of Laos.