Tag Archives: Pakse

Paksong on the Bolaven Plateau and E Tu waterfall

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.

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.

building with sign

building close

The Bolaven plateau is coffee country and it was gearing up for the harvesting season. Everywhere you look are coffee bushes.

Coffee trees

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.

E tu sign

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.

Steep stairs down

If they looked like that going down then they looked like this going back up! A good work out but well worth it.

steep stairs up

This is the view of the waterfall from the top of the stairs.

e tu waterfall 1

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.

e tu waterfall 2


e tu waterfall 3

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.

Ubon Ratchathani to Pakse including the new Big Buddha overlooking the Mekong

Before I checked into the Seng Aroun Hotel in Pakse I had experienced quite an eventful day.

I left my home in the village at 6am on the dot, got 10 minutes down the dirt track before remembering I had forgotten my camera. By 6.30am I was back where I started after finally locating it!

The trip to the Chong Mek Border crossing took two hours and was pretty uneventful with just the one stop for a take-away breakfast from the side of the road consisting of some BBQ chicken. In most larger towns and cities where ever there is meat being cooked on coals then little packets of sticky rice will also be for sale at five baht each. I asked for one and she looked at me strangely so I asked again and this time she said yes and scurried out the back. She had been gone more then a minute when I remembered where I was (a tiny little village) and that all her customers would already have their own sticky rice with them! Just as I thought, when she returned she had a plastic bag filled with part of her own families daily supply of sticky rice! It would have been 5 x more then what you would get anywhere else and it was so very kind of her. The stray dogs at the border also thanked her when I fed them 90% of it because I could not finish it!

Part of the Chong Mek border crossing on the Thai side.

Part of the Chong Mek border crossing on the Thai side.

The Chong Mek border crossing is slowly being upgraded and brought into the 21st century and it was quite noticeable this time with it only taking 15 minutes to exit Thailand with a lot of the process streamlined but as per usual it took about 45 minutes to get into Laos.

Swapping onto the right hand side of the road I enjoyed the relaxing drive into Pakse. Just before I got to the bridge across the Mekong river I noticed a large Buddha statue up on the hill to the right and a road snaking it’s way up there. Never noticing it before and figuring it must offer some great views I followed the road that was still being built and made my way to the top.

The place is still under construction and according to the internet it is some kind of tourist park that they are building. The views were well worth it although it was quite hazy but that is normal at this time of the year.

The Big Buddha. As you can see it still is not complete. The road is still being built as are many of the buildings. It basically was a construction site and I was not even sure if I was actually allowed up there or not.

The Big Buddha. As you can see it still is not complete. The road is still being built as are many of the buildings. It basically was a construction site and I was not even sure if I was actually allowed up there or not.

P1050981

This is my car in front of hundreds of smaller Buddha statues.

This is my car in front of hundreds of smaller Buddha statues.

The road back down.

The road back down.

Somehow I missed these stairs on the drive up. Looks like a good work out if you want to take the short cut option.

Somehow I missed these stairs on the drive up. Looks like a good work out if you want to take the short cut option.

I crossed the Japanese Bridge across the huge Mekong river swung right bypassing down-town Pakse and headed towards the town of Paksong up on the Bolaven Plateau. I love it up there as it is always so much cooler being 1,000 metres plus above sea level. Traffic was light and I made good time into the rather ramshackled town.

I will save Pakson, and the return trip to Pakse and Thailand for my next blog.



View Big Buddha in a larger map

Review of Seng Aroun hotel in Pakse, Laos

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.

P1060007

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.

P1060004

P1060005

P1060006

Trip to Laos part III

Trip to Laos part III. Following on from Part I and Part II

We were on the road by 8am and struck trouble within the first 200 metres! I thought I would try a different route out of Pakse this time and took the bridge instead of going around. Little did I know that the bridge was one-way and by the time I reached it a swarm of mosquitos were bearing down on me. These mozzies took the shapes of Hondas and Yamahas and there also seemed to be a queen mozzie who was flapping his arms and blowing a whistle. I was about to experience my first dealings with the police, Laos style.

I quickly reversed out of the way then walked over to where I was being summonsed to – the police box. What proceeded was quite a laugh. For maybe five minues or more we joked about how I hadn’t seen the traffic lights, what I was doing, where I was going, the weather, how many people were driving past at that moment breaking the law before eventually the fine got mentioned. He was adamant that I should pay 400 baht but after I explained that that was expensive even for Thailand and in my best accountant voice explained the GDP of both countries and why a Laos fine should be cheaper then a Thai one he eventually agreed upon 200 baht ($7 AUD) (still too much) and we were free to go.

That's me in the background putting my negotiating skills to the test.

We proceeded on unsure how far we were going to get that day. We bypassed Savannakhet and made tracks for Tha Khaek.
This part of Laos is very boring and dusty rice fields were the order of the day apart from one 30km stretch about an hour north of Pakse where they obviously have access to water all your round and a second rice crop for the season was well underway.

Seven years ago on one of Dad’s trips to visit us in Thailand he came across grilled rat for sale in a local market. He turned his nose up then but decided on this trip he was going to be brave and wanted to at least try one. We went back to that same market and many others in Thailand but never saw any so I was hoping to find him one is Laos. Just before the bypass road past Savannakhet there are dozens and dozens of women all trying to sell meat on a stick. You pull up and are besieged by at least ten of them all thrusting various tempting and not so tempting meat snacks in your face.

Unfortunately they had only Pork and Chicken, Rat it seems was not available that day. As a result we had to stop a little way down the road where we had too much food at a tiny little roadside restaurant. Whilst eating we marvelled at the sugar cane trucks rolling slowly by. We caught up with them on the road very quickly after lunch.

As you travel from province to province in Laos you will pass through a toll gate like this one.

Last year the toll was 2,000 kip which has now suddenly jumped to 5,000 kip or 20 baht (65cents AUD).

Eventually we arrived in Tha Khaek. It was only 3pm but we decided to call it a day otherwise at sundown we would have found ourselves in an area with only very small villages and not much (if any) in the way of accommodation.

We had been recommended a hotel and found it easily enough and checked in before going for a walk to check this little place out. Not much goes on here but it was still a nice little place to visit.

Whilst the French left decades ago there is still some of their influence that has been left behind. Road and pedestrian layouts and building architecture the most noticeable.

Dinner was on the banks of the Mekong looking across to Thailand watching the sun sink behind the city of Nakhon Phanom.

I took advantage of getting a Thai phone signal and made some calls which were a lot cheaper then if I made them from my Laos sim card. An early night was had by all ready for the drive to the farm and the work that lay ahead the next day.

Day four: Tha Khaek to Lak Sao and the farm coming soon.

Trip to Laos part II

Trip to Laos part II. Following on from Part I.

Bright and early the next morning we set off towards the Bolaven Plateau and the town ofPaksong. First stop was the farm of Delta Coffee which is where Peppers buys all their great coffee from.

Although no one was there we had organised our visit ahead of time. We had a good look around the farm, this being the first time I had ever seen coffee plants up close.

We had a look around the sheds as well and discovered all kinds of equipment.

Down the hill a little we were delighted to find a pristine looking stream and much to my Dads delight a working mini hydro plant.

After spending over an hour there we heading back into the township of Paksong where I wanted Dad and Des who, how shall we put this nicely…. are addicted to coffee, to meet a man by the name of Coffee and indulge in what he does best, drink and talk about coffee! Unfortunately he wasn’t home so we pushed on.
Apart from coffee the other major reason for travelling around the Bolaven Plateau was to check out a few Agarwood plantations. We came across one major place which had some good looking trees but the rest were just a few scattered here and there. Before we saw any though we stopped and had a look at coffee beans drying on the side of the road.

As well as this nice waterfall. The car park was full of tour buses from Thailand and people were everywhere but it was still a nice place to stop and stretch the legs. I am hoping that Mr Coffee who reads this blog will let me know the name of this place as well as the next waterfall that I am about to write about. *edit* Mr coffee has emailed me and told me that it is called bacheanc (the disneyland waterfall.)

I saw this interesting sign in one of the car parks.

It was then time to find some lunch (and coffee!) Not much luck on the coffee front (this was a trend that was to follow for most of the trip much to their disappointment!) Lunch was also interesting in this small village that we stopped at. A lot of things looked promising but failed to deliver while there were also a few pleasant surprises as well. Whilst there we met an American man who was riding around on his motorbike. Thankfully he had a map as the road we had planned to head back to Pakse on we found out was a lot further then we thought as well as being in very bad condition. It would have seen us arriving home well after dark. He also told us of another waterfall which was only a few kms away which we decided to go and see.

This place was much quieter as well as being a better waterfall to look at and we enjoyed our time here. *Edit* Mr Coffee has informed me that it is called Couple Waterfalls.

From there we drove straight back to Pakse arriving just before sunset. Outside the hotel we saw the aftermath of an accident which Dad took a few photos of.

I really love the second one that he took. Notice the bike coming out of the side street? Five people on board, no helmets and not concerned about the policeman (getting off his motorbike) at all!

That night we met up with some friends of mine for dinner who live in Pakse and are currently setting up a Cafe/Bakery to help train up locals by giving them skills in English, cooking, cleaning, business management, customer service etc etc. It is a great project and I will follow it with interest. Next time I go over there I plan to take some photos and publish more about what they are doing exactly.

After dinner we went and had a look at their business premises before walking back to the hotel for a much needed sleep!

Day Three, Pakse to Thakhek, coming soon.

Trip to Laos part three

The road from Pakse to Savanakhet was uneventful apart from a truck roll over and a section of irrigated rice fields which broke up the rather brown barren landscape with some patches of brilliant green.

We got into Savanakhet around 1pm so stopped for lunch. Previously I had entered the location from google earth into my GPS of a highly recommended French Restaurant. Unfortunately the location directed us to the middle of the Mekong River! (Well I did stop on the bank.) Actually this happened on a couple of occasions on this trip and someone told me that if you take locations from Google Earth and transfer then to your GPS they are usually a few hundred metres out. Why is this?

Anyway we ended up at another mediocre place for food before pushing on as we had made a booking back over the river in Thailand at a place called Mukdahan. It was a place I had read about online and spoken with the owner on the phone, a bit of a bed and breakfast that we were looking forward to.

Everything went smooth at the border crossing until the final check point when we were sent back due to some irregularity. It turns out that we had forgotten to check the girls into Laos. What an embarrassing stuff up! As my girls have Thai and Australian Passports we obviously only brought their Thai ones as it is so much easier and cheaper for a Thai to enter Laos then a Westerner. So easy that we simply forgot to check in! While I was organising my visa the girls waited in no mans land having a coffee and then we then simply drove off.
The Laos immigration people gave us a hard time demanding a $200 US dollar fine needed to be paid. Seerung talked them down to 500 baht ($15) thank goodness.

So finally we were back in Thailand and easily found Dons place. We unloaded and had a look around. It was exactly what we had pictured, a room for us and a room for the kids. The rooms opened out onto the pool deck and had great views of the might Mekong River. The place got even better though when we started ordering food! It really was top quality stuff. Imported western food goods and the best quality local produce for the Thai food meant that for the three days that we were there we didn’t eat anywhere else!! We did pop into town twice but always ended up back at the house for meals.

Basically we just played with the kids, swam, read, ate and drank. It was just what we needed. After three days we paid up our quite modest bill and made the 2 1/2 hour trip home to Ubon. We were relaxed and ready to face a new year with the business this time as 100% owners.

If anyone is interested in getting hold of Don then you can call him on 042632577 or email donhunter@windowslive.com

*Edit* September 2012 – they now have a website.

Here is the outside of his house.

The pool with the Mekong in the background on a misty morning.

Peeking over the fence and this is what you see.

Checking out the pool.

Breakfast.

The best Lamb Chops I have had for years!

Steak was going to be on the menu that night but Ariya wouldn’t catch it for us!