Today Isa and me took the first songthaew from Kong Lor at 6:30 to Na Hin. This one was pretty full, as in the end not only the two benches on the side but also a temporary in the middle was full of people. So the drive took quit long and we just arrived in Na Hin around 8. The next Songthaew which was arriving headed to Lak Sao, which was only partially in our direction. Just a few minutes later, another Songthaew was supposed to drive to Viengthong, but somehow it wasn’t and the driver was very fast in leaving, even before I realised it. So in the end we waited almost one hour until at about 8:50 a Songthaew was arriving which was heading to Viengthong. Once we arrived in Viengthong, about 1.5 hours later, we realised that there was no transport further north today. And as Isa has some stomach problems we decided to stay here overnight and catch tomorrow morning the bus from Lak Sao to Phonsavan. We’re still not quit sure if this bus makes an official stop here, or we need to call them in advance. The people here a really friendly and try to help, but due to their limited English knowledge the communication is not always easy. Nevertheless, I’m pretty sure we’ll manage somehow our further way to Phonsavan.
Yesterday morning Isa and me visited the Konglor Cave. The cave is 7.5 km long and you take a motorboat in order to drive through it to the other side of the mountain range near Natan village. But there is also the possibility to hike across the mountain and just take the boat for one way. But as Isabel hat all her long trousers in the laundry, it was not a real option to hike for about 5 hours. Hence, we just walked to the entrance and paid our fee. The boatman gave us some life jackets and we walked to the entrance of the cave. Due to the low water, it’s not possible for the boats to drive into the cave. After several minutes we already arrived at an area with lots of Stalagmites and Stalactites. Here we got out of the boat and walked along these objects, while the boat was driving further upstream. It was a good decision just to wear flip flops as you would get wet feet anyway. After entering the boat again, we drove non-stop to the exit of the cave, where we need to get out of the boat again due to the low water. In the cave it was pretty dark and we had only the headlights with us to see a little bit. In between the cave was quit high, but due to missing references it doesn’t felt like 100 metres as it was written. Near the exit of the cave there are some shops and we drunk a bad coffee, where we realised that we were the first visitors this day. Hence, after about half an hour we drove back, the same way was we came. But now, only with one stop in order to get the boat across the low water.
Sunday evening, after several discussions and many options, Isa and me finally decided to take the adventures drive of a night bus to Vieng Kham. That means, after returning our scooter we directly booked the tickets for the bus a few hours later. As we knew from a personal inspection two days ago, that the places are quit small Isa opted to book a double berth for her. And as I didn’t want to sleep beside a stranger, I also opted for a double berth, which was quit expensive in the end. The only advantage was that the berth is just flat and laying down diagonal is not a problem at all. Due to the bad road and unsteady drive it was not easy to find some sleep. And at midnight one guy had the nice idea to start listening to music…for sure without ear plugs. After more than half an hour I decided to stop this. I took my headlight and pointed with the maximum strength at his face and as he didn’t reacted I kicked him twice at his legs until he was awake. He didn’t understand English but followed my body language and turned off the music. After that it took again a while after I felt asleep. But at 3 a.m. Isa woke me up as we already arrived at Vieng Kham…that was another drawback of this option. As the bus stopped directly infront of a guesthouse we just walked into that and even got a room…but it was quit shabby. Isa told me that she didn’t slept during the whole drive. So we concluded that it wasn’t worth to take two berths.
After some additional hours of sleep, we woke up yesterday morning with some hangover. Just after walking out of the guesthouse a songthaew stopped and offered us a drive to Nahin. This one hour drive in the morning sun was along a nice landscape but it was really dusty. And we really could feel every pothole in the back. In Nahin we needed to wait for the next songthaew to Konglor for two additional 2 hours. There was only a small market next to the bus station, but after 15 minutes this was also done. Hence, waiting in the dusty and windy air was not comfortable and we were looking forward for the last ride to finally arrive in Konglor. Luckily we booked already one day before our guest house. Hence, we had no trouble after we arrived there.
Sunday morning we continued our drive across the Bolaven plateau. As we were now 5 people on 4 scooters it took a while until we could actually start our tour. After about 30 minutes we reached the Kok Phoung Taii ethnic village and joined a tour of Mr. Hook. It was quit interesting to learn about the people and their custom. For example it is forbidden to knock on the door, as then the ghost of the house will leave and that means bad luck. Also these people don’t shake the hands to foreigners nor touch them at all. Because, they believe that with touching then some kind of sickness will be transferred and eventually lead to the death of them. Due to their own language, which is only spoken in the village, just a few interaction to the outer world is possible. They might speak only a bit of Lao, especially the older people, but don’t write or even read. Additionally, they believe that white people are lazy, because they don’t work on the field, and are just travelling, as they have infinite money…and as they don’t like lazy people, they don’t like white people. But as the young children going to school the education becomes better, and they might no longer think that the earth is flat. But the knowledge about all the plants and the nature itself is very large in the village. Especially from the Shaman and of the Guru the two main chiefs of the village.
As Mr. Hook likes to speak the tour lasted 2.5 hours and just at noon we were able to continue. But as I started to get hungry Isa and me stopped and got some lunch, whereas the others just continued. After lunch we drove for a bit than one hour to the Tad Yuang waterfall. After paying entrance fee and a short walk down, we enjoyed the view for a short time. On our way out the three other girls just came opposite to us, as they were drinking a coffee before visiting the waterfall. So we decided also to enjoy a coffee at CPC tea and coffee, which was very delicious. Finally, Denise joined us for a visit of the large Tad Fane twin waterfall, which was quit impressive high. Before we finally drove back to Pakse in the dusk.
Saturday morning Isa and me went to the scooter rental station from the French guy after we had our breakfast at a French bakery. We got a very detailed instruction what we could see during this loop across the Bolaven plateau, but also things we should not do or not visit, as they are no longer worth to do so. We started the small loop together with Kathrin. Our first stop after about 60 km and 2 hours driving was the coffee plantation of Mr. Vreng. But before he showed us around and explained the processing of coffee making, we drunk one coffee and had a short relaxing break. As we started the coffee tour also Judith and Denise, another girl from Germany arrived. Mr. Vreng explained about the three coffee types he cultivates, Robusta, Liberica and also recently Arabica. At the moment it’s harvesting time for coffee. In order to get a very good quality of coffee only the red beans should be picked. If one picks all beans, because it’s faster, that means not only the red but as well as the green ones, you got a bad quality of coffee. After picking all beans the first skin (red) is removed and the beans got dried several days. After that the second skin is removed with a (very simple) machine. For quality control each bean is checked separately before roasting. As he grows the coffee in an organic way also other plants are growing at his farm, beside Maniok, Jack fruit also Chili and others.
After this coffee tour we drove further on to the Tad Soung waterfall. From the top of this waterfall one has a nice view across the plain below. But due to the nearby hydropower station, the water quantity at the waterfall was a bit low. After that we drove down to Tad Lo were we looked for an accommodation for the three of us. Finally we were able to find one, where the girls took a bungalow for each of them and I had a simple room with a shared bathroom, but for just half of the price. In the late afternoon we were walking to the river and viewed how two elephants bathed in the river. They seemed to be quit happy and when they were walking out of the river they just passed slowly by me in less than one metre distance. Afterwards we walked a bit up to the Tad Lo waterfall and finally to the Tad Hang waterfall, where there was a resort, the restaurant was open, but actually there were no visitors at all. So it was a bit creepy to walk through that area. In the evening Judith and Denise joined us. So it was pretty nice to have some German conversations during the whole evening.