Following on from my last blog I had just arrived in the small town of PakSong on the Bolaven plateau.
By the time I was arrived I was very hungry so pulled into what looked like a restaurant on the side of the road which was deserted apart from the owner who said he would cook me up some lunch.
Well there was one other person there, his daughter. She climbed up onto the top of my table, totally ignored me and proceeded to empty a full bag of seeds all over the table and the floor one by one.
My lunch time companion.
Opposite my lunch time shack was a building that had obvious French connections. Old and run down yet still quite beautiful in a way.
The Bolaven plateau is coffee country and it was gearing up for the harvesting season. Everywhere you look are coffee bushes.
After lunch I went and saw the man about the dog called Agarwood, picked up a few things and headed back to Pakse. Along the way I saw a sign to a waterfall called E Tu saying it was only 800 metres off the road.
Being so close and having a small amount of time up my sleeve I thought I would call in. 5,000 kip (20 baht or .60 cents) to enter and the same again to park the car is a welcome change to the 400 baht ($13) that Thailand try and charge white people with long noses for far less beautiful waterfalls.
The stairs down were slippery and steep.
If they looked like that going down then they looked like this going back up! A good work out but well worth it.
This is the view of the waterfall from the top of the stairs.
Down the bottom it was a lot better. You can swim here if you wanted to. I didn’t have time to linger long so gave the swimming and the restaurants a miss and continued on back to Pakse.
I checked into the hotel before hitting the streets of Pakse looking for some food. There were quite a few new restaurants since I was last there and I had a nice feed before returning to the hotel for a good nights sleep.
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Tagged Bolaven Plateau, E tu waterfall, French influence in Laos and Paksong, laos agarwood, Laos coffee, Pakse, Paksong, Seng Aroun hotel, Thailand agarwood, Ubon to Pakse, waterfalls on the Bolaven plateau
A few days ago I crossed the border into Laos for a little over 24 hours. I had reason to see a man about a dog named Agarwood but was in no rush so I organised it for the day my entry permit for Thailand was due to expire and needed to be renewed.
I went through Chong Mek and Pakse up to Paksong to see the dog before back tracking to Pakse. It was getting late by then so did not want to push it for another four hours to get home so pulled up stumps at the Seng Aroun Hotel on route 13 in the middle of town. The rest of the trip report will come soon but at the moment this is just a hotel review.
I chose this place for two reasons. I had stayed here before (trip report here) and remember it as an okay place plus I knew it had a secure car park which was a necessity with my ute (pick-up) pretty full. The first hour of arrival I spent repacking everything in the car before eventually checking in. The walk in rate was $23.
The place had gone down hill since I was last here. The rooms seemed very dirty with many brown stains on the doors and walls and the bathroom was not very clean. Someones left over soap in the soap holder complete with short little black hairs? I mean seriously, how hard is it to clean the basics? On the morning I checked out they were painting the outside of the building which to me (apart from the Lobby) was the cleanest part of the building!
Breakfast was not included in my rate so I cannot vouch for it or not but given the abundance of food on the street outside then there really is not much reason to pay a whole lot more to have breakfast included.
One positive was the water pressure which was decent. After a long days drive and with nothing on the TV I thought I might treat myself to a massage that I saw advertised in the room. It said it was open until 10pm so at 7.30pm I called to make a booking only to be told they had closed for the night!
There is no wifi apart from in the Lobby but if you want it like I did then ask for a room on the 1st floor directly above the reception and you will get a signal although not very fast. Being on the 1st floor though means no view but it allowed me to keep an eye on my car in the car park.
For the price compared to other hotels close by I guess it was not that bad and perhaps I am being a little tough but I am sure I could do a lot better if I tried a little harder next time.
…So I arrived in lak Sao around 2pm and spent the next 4 hours catching up on the harvest. I quickly learnt that a lot of the trees were still developing the black wood and that we would need to be very selective with our choice of trees for harvesting and that it seemed liked we would need to come back in 3 or 4 months time to finish the rest of the trees. It was a very late wet season this year , in fact it didn’t stop raining untill 2 days before my brother and Sammy arrived (5 days before I did.)
The first few days were spent checking out the various plantations that we had bought trees from, counting them all to find out how many had been stolen. Over the past 6 months we knew that some trees had gone walk about which was obviously a real concern for us. Once people start realising that these kits do work we are going to have even bigger troubles with theft. We discovered a few more had gone missing but not to many. We also came across someone wanting to sell us some wood which we recognised as being one of our stolen trees! After much investigation we realised that it was a tree of ours but one that he legally owned. What had happened a few months prior was that someone was caught with a stolen tree and had to pay a fine which we received 80% of it and the police the other 20%. With the fine being paid the tree did not have to be returned to us which is why it was still out there on the market.
Apart from counting trees we were also testing trees for dark wood and cutting down the ones we thought contained it. These trees were then taken back to the house for processing.
Testing for dark wood
Chain-saw Sammy doing what he does best
We had three teams set up. The first had about 5 people in it and basically they would strip the trees down close to where the dark wood was located. This white wood that they were cutting off the logs were then cut into smaller pieces for drying as we will sell them to a local business who will distil them for oil.
After a tree has been felled and chopped into smaller parts it goes onto stage 1
The pieces then go onto the second team of about 7 people where using chisels they get rid of any remaining white wood so that only the good stuff is remaining.
These pieces then go onto the final team of around 9 people who are the real craftsmen who can easily spend up to 4 hours on a piece whittling it down ever so slowly so that only the best wood is left.
Each tree needed to be recorded and followed through the system working out what kind and what quality of pieces came from each tree. Three processes also meant three different types of chips left behind which also needed to be recorded and dried separately. So although not really physically demanding you had to be on the ball.
Chips had t be taken out every morning to be dried and put away every afternoon.
The carvers worked from 7.30am – 12 noon. Then 1 pm – 5pm and then again from 7pm – 9pm.
The cooks were great and cooked up a wide variety of great food.
It got to the stage where we decided not to cut any more trees down locally as they were still developing the black wood and that we needed to wait a few more months.
There was one last plantation however that none of us had ever seen. Whenever we attempted to get there either we were denied permission by the government or the road was impassable.
Obviously one of us needed to get there to have a look and if any trees were found worth harvesting then I was going to stay on while Paul and Sammy headed home.
No 4wd’s were available for rent locally so we waited for one that was owned by the company that sells the kits to arrive. It took three days to get there as it broke down en route and the driver had to then travel back by bus to the capital to find a part. It was a Sunday and everything was closed so he had to wait for Monday. No parts available so one had to be made then he caught the bus back to the car, fixed it and finally drove on to pick us up.
The 4wd getting fixed (again)
So Paul set out for the long drive to check out the plantation. This included some very rough roads plus a ferry across a river which is really a pontoon pushed along by a tug boat the seriously looks older then the titanic. While some good trees were found it was decided to wind up the harvest and wait a few more months before starting again.
Part three coming soon….
You need to be careful as it is amazing what crawls out of those logs sometimes!