With an area of 10,000 sq km and a height of up to 800m, this seemingly endless plateau rises above the surrounding land like an upturned plate. The Bolaven Province has countless waterfalls, coffee plantations, elephant sanctuaries and unique villages of the ethnic minorities that offer a unique, educational and interesting opportunity for travelers to go off the beaten track.
For the average backpacker or traveler this area would be visited because of the Tad Lo Waterfalls, which seems to attract the majority of tourist and would be the number one attraction in the Plateau, and hence many visit for just one day from Pakse. However, for those travelers who have come to really explore and discover Laos you have to opportunity to take your time and travel through the region town by town in particularly on 2 wheels. There are 2 routes that seem to be the most popular through this region. You can start from Pakse-Tadlo-Paksong-Pakse, which covers around 170 km and a larger loop of the area which follows Pakse-Tadlo-Thateng -Sekong -Paksong-Pakse and runs approximately 320km. Either way you will give yourself the chance to explore a region which is one of the least visited in the country and the most challenging yet the most rewarding in some aspects.
You will find that not many of the locals here speak English so the challenge is in itself to learn a few local phrases to get by. Outside of the waterfalls you will not see so many fellow travelers, which means that you can visit the countless natural attractions that dot the routes and enjoy what nature has gifted this beautiful region. The landscape is beautiful with endless coffee plantations and rice fields giving you breathtaking views and there is an array of flora and fauna with cool mountains regions to escape the heat of the lowlands.
Travelling along the route you will encounter curious school children waving and shouting ‘Hello’ to get your attention and smile. Cows, chicken and pigs walk freely across and along the roads without a care in the world, so little is the traffic here that there is little danger of them being run over.
There are many villages also that dot the route, some are more visited by tourist than others and you can see this by the number of souvenir shops you encounter and the level of English of the locals in each village. The roads can be dusty, but perfectly good to ride on, and the region is underdeveloped compared to most of the country but this is the reason which makes this place particularly attractive!
Travelling around this region is particularly cheap, there are plenty of restaurants and guest houses along the route so it can be done quite easily and without a guide. Travelling without a guide will allow you to discover the natural beauty and the friendly nature of the locals for yourself and if you have the time to do it then it is highly recommend. However, having a guide can also be a benefit especially if you do not have so much time and would like to see the best of the area, in which case you’ll most likely be travelling from waterfall to waterfall stopping off at various coffee shops to taste the variety of beans grown in the area, but then you will not get to enjoy the whole beauty of this area
All in all this is a beautiful and charming region of Laos, and one that should be discovered by going outside of the standard tourist route of waterfalls and coffee plantations. Just grab yourself on 2 wheels and head out into the distance!