If you never considered putting Laos on your list of countries to visit, you should definitely give it a second thought. In case you did have the chance to see it you will probably feel the same way as we did when we visited a few months ago. Laos is simply a beautiful country – from the fascinating and extremely chilled Mekong Islands in the south to the mystic mountains in the north, it is an incredible destination to visit. Attracting a somehow different, non-beach-searching set of travelers as those to be found in its neighboring countries, Laos is a landlocked country mostly characterized by its stunning natural beauty and enchanting Buddhist culture.
We were very curious about discovering this fascinating country and decided to do so by going on a motorcycle trip around the Bolaven Plateau, located in southern part of Laos. The Bolaven Plateau is an elevated region in the eastern Champasak province famous for its great scenery, amazing waterfalls and tribal villages. The best way to explore this area is to rent a small motorcycle or scooter and do the ‘loop’ between 3 – 5 days, depending on how much you want to discover.
The tour starts in the city of Pakse, the provincial capital of Champasak and the second largest city in Laos. Settled between the Xe Don and Mekong River it has established itself as a great starting point for discovering the beautiful surrounding landscapes, including the Bolaven Plateau. Our route was clear – we planned three days on the road, taking the way up north and following the path clockwise until we will eventually return back to Pakse.
Biking in Laos: From Pakse to Tad Lo
The first day on the road took us out of the busy streets of Pakse to the more peaceful and natural surrounding areas of the province. Leaving the buzz behind we made our very first stop at Tad Pasuam, roughly 35 kilometers out of town. Tad Pasuam is a relaxed stopover with a few smaller waterfalls and a local restaurant to provide you with some energy for the road ahead. The spot was formerly known to be home to a resort which was built into the trees and bushes. It was abandoned many years back, only leaving the rotting wooden remains of the houses left as a memory of what it used to be. Moving into the forest a bit further is a small local village offering its visitors a small range of indigenous handicrafts.
We left the forest and falls of Tad Pasuam behind us and moved our way upwards, past the small town of Bane Lao Ngam and to our final destination for the day – Tad Lo. We eventually found a cozy little guesthouse to stay in and spent the rest of the day exploring the surrounding waterfalls and local villages.
From Tad Lo to Tad Katamtok & Paksong
Leaving the lovely town of Tad Lo we continued our trip to the east, aiming to reach the beautiful waterfalls of Tad Katamtok, also known as Tad Xe Katam. The dirt roads slowly started winding their way up the Bolaven Plateau, climbing over 1,000 meters high and presenting us with some beautiful and breathtaking views. This was the most fun part of the trip and left us feeling astonished by the scenic natural surroundings. The road lead us further up until we reached a small dirt path which took us to a viewpoint right across from the waterfalls. Walking through the bushes we discovered a fantastic spot to get a great view of these majestic falls.
Curious as we are we decided to have a closer look at the waterfalls. It could only be reached by climbing down a very steep slope that would bring us to the bottom of the falls. Slowly making (and partially falling) our way down the dangerous path we eventually reached the bottom, feeling the strong winds and wet gushes of the water as we approached it. It was an amazing sight!
We especially loved the hundreds of small flowers around the waterfall which showed how fertile this area was and provided a nice contrast to the rough and powerful sight of the waterfall.
Climbing all the way back up to our motorcycles we continued our journey across the plateau to reach our next and final stop of the day. We found a small guesthouse located close to the town of Paksong and stopped here for the night.
From Paksong back to Pakse
Waking up to some great noodle soup in the morning we packed our stuff and started the last day of the tour. Before making our way back to our starting point of Pakse we aimed to stop by another beautiful waterfall named Tad Yuang. The road was now leading us back down from the highlands of the plateau and into the warmer regions of the Champasak plains. Passing by some smaller villages we reached the entrance to the waterfalls of Tad Yuang.
A small river wound its way through the forest and marked the beginning of the waterfalls. We parked our bikes and walked to the top of the falls from where we could see the crystal clear water gushing down a large cliff. On the side was a smaller trail which led to the bottom of the waterfall. It was yet another steep path but far from the one we walked down at Tad Katamtok. The Tad Yuang falls are simply beautiful and very picturesque. They are made up of two smaller falls which plunge over some grass areas, inviting us to take some nice pictures.
We walked back up the trail which brought us to our bikes and drove back up the dirt track towards the main road. The entrance was marked by a small coffee plantation which we decided to visit before leaving. The Laotian coffee is quite tasty and we enjoyed a nice cup of it before making our way all the way to the city of Pakse.
It was a fantastic adventure and we absolutely loved the freedom of biking around the roads of the Bolaven Plateau. My wife and I were happy to have had this great opportunity to discover this beautiful part of Laos and really enjoyed the diversity of the countryside. The Bolaven Plateau motorcycle loop is a great adventure for any eco-friendly traveller who is seeking to explore Laos from a different side. You do not have to be an extremely experienced driver but a bit of knowledge would not harm you here. The bikes are semi-automatic and easy to drive and you will get used to it after a bit of practice. We can definitely recommend this trip to any sort of adventurous traveler and highly approve it to be compatible for traveling couples.
To follow Julian’s incredible adventures, check out his website.