I left Don Khon after a very nice food poisoning. I blame the papaya salad I reconstituted on the morning of departure. It’s my own fault really, the restaurant looked clean but I should have stayed away from raw veggies with a ton of spices and garlic. So this time I managed to not be sick for 10 full days!
Lucky me, only one boat and two bus to Tad Lo, our next stop! We arrived there after dark and picked the cheapest guesthouse we found. It turned out to be great! A small bungalow with a balcony overlooking the river and two hammocks. Very rustic and eco friendly, entirely made of bamboo, we could hear the mice (let’s pretend it was not a rat) eating the mango in my bag at night. After the monstrous New York cockroaches, my level of acceptance got pretty high pest wise.
Tad Lo is like a backpacker’s heaven. Surrounded by pretty waterfalls and nature, in the morning I could see the monks and locals going in the river from my hammock, or elephants bathing after a 5 minutes walk. The town is quite small, with a tiny strip of guesthouses offering delicious food. We then rented a motorcycle to explore further and go through what is called the small loop: a two days tour of the Bolaven. There are some minority villages you can visit around Tad Lo. We stopped at one to see a waterfall, when dozens of kids surrounded us and asked for money for “parking”. I refuse to give money to kids, so we ended up not going at all. We later met a couple (the french guys who were with us at the Lao border) who went there and gave the kids money for parking, plus candies. Then they required more money because they walked them to the waterfall, and more again for the parking… In another village, as soon as the kids saw us, they asked us for money, that’s the only English they seem to know, “money”. It’s very disturbing as it looks like there is no possible communication, all we are to them is dollars. You smile to them, say hi, and all you get is “money”. It’s heartbreaking of course, and I still don’t know how to react.
This area of Laos is famous for its coffee and its waterfalls, so there’s plenty to visit. The scenery is beautiful, the Bolaven plateau is the crater of an ancient volcano so we were surrounded by lush vegetation and mountains far away. I was really not on board for motorcycling at first, but there’s very few traffic in this province and it was the best way to visit. I really liked to drive it and be a passenger, but I don’t think I’m ready to buy a moto! As for the 4000 islands, it felt very relaxing, very quiet and not so touristic.
The view from the top of Tad Lo’s highest waterfall.