Laos roadtrip: the Big Loop through Bolaven Plateau by motorbike
Are you ready for your motorcycle expedition through the magnificent Bolaven Plateau? So here's all you need to know to face this adventure hassle free...
First of all, decide how many days you are going to spend on the road so you can plan where you'll stop at night. There's not a right ammount of days to travel the Plateau, it will depend on your time availability, resistance over the motorcycle and willingness to explore more or less places. Most travellers chose the small loop (two days, one night) or the big loop (four days, three nights), but it's possible to extend the trip even more. We opted for medium loop of three days and two nights and it was enough to explore a lot of places, plunge in amazing waterfalls and make great friends along the way.
In Pakse there's a handful of agencies and guesthouses that rent automatic (U$11 / day) and semi automatic (U$ 6 /day) motorcycles, but the most popular and trustworthy we found were Pakse Travel and Miss Noy, which are one next to the other and always quite busy. Both offer detailed maps and workshops to lay out the route and give updated news on the road (we recommend the workshop!), and their motorcycles are in perfect conditions.
ROUTE (3 days, 2 nights):
DAY 1 - Begin early in the morning to avoid the hard sun and make the first stop in Tad Pasuam waterfall (km 35). The place is not only beautiful, but it also offers clean toilets, a restaurants and... shades! Since you're exploring one of the biggest areas of coffee production in the world, nothing better than stopping at Mr Vieng Organic Coffee for a freshly grinded coffee and on top of it get some free bananas and peanuts. The last stop of the day is at Tad Lo, 55 miles from Pakse, a nice small village where you'll find guesthouses and homestays to welcome the travellers doing the loop. Choose your room before going to the waterfall, because in the end of the day most motorcyclists arrive in town to fill all accommodations. Tim's Guesthouse it's highly recommended: it has nice and comfy rooms with shared bathroom, friendly service, wi-fi and delicious food. Fandee Guesthouse is the most charming in the village, but you have to get there really early to find a room available.
DAY 2 - Forget the idea of sleeping at Sékong as some guides and maps suggest. The town is far from interesting and you'll get there with still many hours of sunlight ahead. Trust us and follow your way for a much more interesting stop! Start the day in Tad Lo Waterfall for a swim and cool off before another day of hard sun over your head. The road gets more beautiful and empty after Sekong, so make the most of it and go on with the trip even if you start feeling hungry. The ideal stop to satisfy your hunger is the hidden PS Garden, restaurant and camping close to the Tad Hua Khon waterfall (also known as Houa Krone). If at this point you already feel tired, you can rent a tent and spend the night there. If you still have some energy left, go on until Tad Tayicsua to spend your night in a place hard to forget. The uprise starts about 8 miles after Tad Hua Khon and the scenery is marvelous, but be aware of the time because you don't want to be still driving after dark! Before the final goal, a last stop at Tad Katamtok waterfall with its more than 300ft is worthwhile. In the last stretch of the day, pay attention not to lose the road to Tayicsua (indicated by a terrible wooden sign) and follow the small road for about 3 miles (yes, that orange, bumpy and dusty road, have faith and go on!). Right after the small wooden bridge, you'll finally reach Tayicsua and, although you may be exhausted, smile when Nattaya comes to greet you (she doesn't like grumpy people…).
DAY 3 - Instead of getting up and hitting the road, spend your morning exploring the surroundings of Tayicsua, since the area counts with nothing less than eleven waterfalls. If you have nothing important waiting for you in Pakse, consider spending one extra day here to be able to explore everything this amazing place has to offer. If you really need to go on with your trip, trek to the first three waterfalls. Your jaw will drop with the second one and you can plunge on the third before hitting the road. The return from Tayicsua to Pakse is long and wearing, thus many travelers prefer to spend the night in Paksong and make one extra day of loop. There are many waterfalls, coffee plantations and villages in this part of the road that can make this fourth day pretty interesting, but Paksong itself doesn't have many attractions. In case you want to end your loop on the third day (as we did), don't be afraid of driving directly to Pakse. If you leave Tayicsua after lunch, you still have enough time to chill out in the famous (and crowded) Tad Yuang before reaching Pakse for a good dinner and a long and deserved bath.
MOTORCYCLE LOOP THROUGH BOLAVEN PLATEAU (PAKSE)