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 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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