Pakse, Laos:31 Jan-02 Feb 2016
We arrived in Pakse by private car which was worth not having to endure another bus journey. This is a very quiet and dusty town (due to the dry season). We stayed at the Residence Sisouk, $50.00 per night which was overpriced, but had very nice architectural features including dark wood everywhere and an old elevator. There was a lot of original artwork on the walls. We had a nice view of the river when we upgraded our room a little.
On February 1st we took a tour by van to the Bolivan Plateau. Our first stop was the Tad Fan waterfall which is the tallest waterfall in Laos and spanned 120 meters down a deep depression in the rock. It was spectacular to be sure. The second stop was a coffee plantation where we could wander through the plantation or just sip on some coffee.
The next stop was a village with the problem being that we did not have a guide that understood the concept of ecotourism. The children were so sweet but they were used to begging for money or pens. During past tours, we were informed that giving the children gifts directly does more harm than good because it teaches them to beg etc. We instead would give the village chief the pens and paper that the children needed for school.
The van driver stated to us “Here is where you take pictures of the poor kids in the village”. We did not feel at all comfortable taking pictures of them but instead sang the “ABC” song which they all gathered and enjoyed tremendously. We did not take pictures of this for obvious reasons. The other tourists did take pictures, however, they were ignorant of the effects of their actions.
The next stop on this marathon tour was the Tad Hang waterfall which was not so large but was a place to get into the water. We were just getting ready to leave the waterfall, when an elephant appeared out of the blue to bathe. Sitting at the water’s edge and looking up made the elephant look like a dinosaur. We soon saw his caretaker who proceeded to scratch his head to help clean her. We followed the elephant to the camp where we found a place to buy them some special fruits for a donation. We also witnessed a blessing of the elephant by the Buddhists.
We spoke to a gentleman from the state of Washington in the. US who managed this area. He told us the reason that we never received our lunch was that one of the young boys was ill and everyone that worked at the restaurant was at the hospital. The staff couldn’t lose face by not taking our orders and did not have the communication skills or proper English to tell us to come back later. As a result, a lot of people spent a long time waiting for food. We just gave up and went to the falls.
Our last stop was a weaving village that also had an operation of cutting and drying sweet potatoes to make noodles. We left for the 4000 island on the Mekong by minivan the next day.