The Somnolent South

Vientiane Travel Blog

 › entry 13 of 20 › view all entries

Pakse is the biggest town in South Laos, and the 4th largest in the country. To call it sleepy is to exaggerate its activity. By early afternoon it's well up in the mid 30s and little moves except the slow drift of the Mekomg.

We booked a day out in the nearby Bolavan Plateau, 1500m up and cooler and fresher. Several beautiful waterfalls tumble into gorges and we trekked to see them close up, down and up steep paths and through what our guide, Lar, called jungle. She poined out all sorts of medicinal and useful plants and trees. She took us on to Paksong, a small town with a traditional market, and where non-Lao ethnic groups trade. As well as the usual array of lovely veg and fruit, there were the trad medicines, lots of dried fish covered in flies, lumps of congealed pigs blood and (really) ants eggs. They are apparently served as a salad or added to soup. It was Chinese New Year. Some market ladies were happily celebrating with beer, singing and dancing.

Next morning, while we breakfasted, a group of youngsters celebrated New Year by doing a tiger dance through the hotel foyer to bring good luck. They then danced on down the street.

We set off in a grander tuk tuk for Kingfisher Lodge, on the edge of a huge protected area, the Se Pian. We rode an elephant from the 15 strong herd of the local village, and Mike took a one day jungle trek. In between we sat on our bungalow terrace, or in the lounge bar, and read or watched elephants. Or otherwise idled away the time before an evening beerlao and a nice meal.

Then a tuk tuk back to Pakse via Wat Phu, the remains of a 10th century temple that trailed up a hillside and sort of evoked Indiana Jones. We  crossed the Mekong on a ferry to get there - heavy planks across 3 boats, one motorised, that took about 6 cars or vans, and set off when more or less full. No sign of lifejackets! Refreshments - pho - provided by a lady squatting on the low barrier around the boat.

So back to Pakse for a pizza to build us up for the 10 hour sleeping bus ride to Vientiane, which turned out to be fine. We had a slight dispute at the bus station to ensure we got the lower deck bunk we'd booked. Then we crawled into a more or less two thirds side double bed one side of the aisle. There were 5 beds one side, 5 the other, then 10 more on the upper deck. Off we went at 8.00pm. Lights out at 8.15! More sleep than expected then, as the bus rocked and rolled through the night to reach Vientiane, the Lao capital, by 6.30. A shared jumbo tuk tuk to the guest house on the river. The room was ready. Clean up and change, and out by 9.30am for breakfast and to explore the delights of Vientiane.

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photo by: skydiver