Motorbiking the Bolaven Plateau, Laos

Do you love waterfalls? Do you love cheap accommodation and noodle soup? Do you love the wind in your hair as you stare at gorgeous scenery all around you? Well, then the Bolaven Pleateau loop is for you! Featuring some impressively well-paved and maintained roads, the loop can be done in one or three days, depending on your timetable and confidence on a motorbike.

The three-day loop (which can be done in two, if you feel like putting in the driving time – we did) consists of about 300 km (186 miles) and offers the best waterfalls around, as well as world-famous coffee.

The following is the best way to go about taking on the Bolaven Plateau loop:

* The first step is to get to Pakse where you can rent a motorbike. For the most part, there isn’t much to do in this town, so plan to get a good night’s rest (or in my case, talk a local into taking you to an all-Lao nightclub and dance ‘til the wee hours of the morning), and head out bright and early the following AM.

* Most who take the loop don’t bring their entire packs with them. Pack an overnight bag and leave the rest at your guesthouse. Longkam Hotel, where many people end up renting their bikes, will gladly keep your packs locked away while you’re on your trip, usually for free. Any reputable guest house will do, though.

* Find a bike you’re comfortable with. Most of the bikes on offer are semi-automatic motorbikes and are perfectly suitable to the well-paved roads. You will also see dirt bikes available for more than double the cost of a standard motorbike. Most of the roads are surprisingly well-maintained, which will come as a shock to anyone who has attempted to drive around any other part of Laos, so a dirt bike is really not necessary, and is recommended only for those with lots of moto experience.

The typical cost for a semi-automatic moto is 65,000 kip/day, and goes down to 50,000/day if you plan on renting the bike for 3 days as opposed to one. Some would suggest taking the bike to a mechanic to check it out prior to hitting the road. We didn’t do this and had no issues, but it may be prudent to be safe rather than sorry.

* Get a map (very important step!) and talk to the guesthouse about the places to hit on the way out. There are tons of waterfalls in the area and all are worth checking out.

* Make your way to the first waterfall, Tat Pasuam. Some simply do a one-day drive to this waterfall, swim at the top, and head back to Pakse. This is too bad, as the small (and very cheap!) town of Tat Lo has additional waterfalls and is more than worth an overnight stay.

* The next day, make your way to Sekong, a small town where you’re likely to encounter few to no other foreigners, and will be rewarded with truly awesome waterfall viewing on your way back to Pakse via Paksong:

Tat Cham Pee:

 

Tat Fane:

 

Tat Yuang:

 

Tat Chmapay :


* Finally, head back to Pakse, return your bike, and get another night of rest (or take a sleeper bus) before heading out of Pakse and onward to your next destination.

Kristin Addis is a former investment banker who quit her job, sold all of her belongings, and bid the life she knew goodbye in favor of a life of travel. She plans nothing, and simply lets things fall into place. She also writes Be My Travel Muse and is currently exploring SE-Asia. 

I had the pleasure of meeting her in Keystone, USA and quite enjoy her blog, I’m sure you will too.

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17 Comments

  1. crazy sexy fun traveler

    December 11, 2012 at 9:38 am

    Wow, such a lovely place! I would so go to visit the waterfalls, especially on a motorbike.

  2. Matthew Karsten

    December 11, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Thats a lot o’ waterfalls! I know what I’ll be doing when I get over to Laos now…

  3. Dean

    December 11, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Cool! I’m heading back to Laos next year and want to explore the south of the country as I never made it there last time. Will definitely try to do something like this. It looks beautiful.

    • Kristin of BeMyTravelMuse

      December 11, 2012 at 5:17 pm

      Most people skip the south which I think is a crying shame! There’s also the Thakek motorbiking loop just north of Pakse if you’re very confident on a motorbike – much worse roads and even fewer tourists but I hear it’s pretty cool! 4000 Islands is also pretty awesome and relaxed. It’s just on the border with Cambodia

  4. Lilian

    December 11, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Wow this looks amazing. Definately want to do this whenever I get to Laos (hopefully next year!) :)Though I’m not sure how good I would be on a motorbike!

    • Kristin of BeMyTravelMuse

      December 11, 2012 at 5:20 pm

      A friend drove and I rode on the back, but just last week I drove for myself for the first time and it’s MUCH more fun being the driver!

      • Rob

        December 11, 2012 at 6:24 pm

        Did you bail at all? I nearly drove through a cafe patio on my first turn, whoops.

        • Kristin of BeMyTravelMuse

          December 12, 2012 at 6:49 am

          Actually, no. I did great on it. Got confident enough on day two to drive 2 hours each way through a windy canyon to a cave. Was awesome! Can’t wait to get back on one.

  5. Lena

    December 11, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Wow! Love it! Now that we have practice riding a motorbike across other parts of SE Asia, I am adding this to our list. We can’t wait to see Laos – nice photography!

    • Kristin of BeMyTravelMuse

      December 12, 2012 at 6:50 am

      Thank you! If you’ve already got some experience the Bolaven Plateau will be a piece of cake.

  6. Caroline @ Traveling 9 to 5

    December 12, 2012 at 10:16 am

    We did the same Bolaven Plateau trip and it was definitely a highlight of the year. We met some amazing people along the way and got to experience beautiful waterfalls! Your photos are fabulous!

    • Kristin of BeMyTravelMuse

      December 14, 2012 at 11:19 pm

      Was a highlight of my trip so far as well! My favorite part (other than the incredible waterfalls) was some locals handing us bananas as we drove by. Drive-by banana gifting! Amazing! Thanks for the compliment :)

  7. budget jan

    January 1, 2013 at 4:19 am

    This trip sounds amazing, and the photos say it all. Lao people are lovely – drive by bananas!

  8. Another idiot abroad

    March 17, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    I’ve just rode from Hanoi to Saigon on the Ho Chi Minh highway.
    Currently in Don Det, itching to get back on a bike and explore again.
    It’s the best way to see a country I think. You get to have experiences and see things you wouldn’t on an organised trip.
    So much more fun too, blasting round jungles!
    After reading about your trip, I’ve made my mind up to go do a visa run this week, head back to pakse and go do the loop!
    Your pictures are what made my mind up! Looks awesome!

    • Rob

      March 18, 2013 at 6:15 pm

      Glad you enjoyed the blogs and good call on the extension; it’s a cool place and who knows when you will be back again?!

      Safe travels!

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