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May 12, 2007

More Waterfalls and Villages

Puppy Cleaning Pig's Ear


Puppy Cleaning Pig's Ear


After a lazy day in Pakse I set up a tour to go to the Bolavan Plateau to go see the tallest waterfall in Laos at 125 meters, three other waterfalls, a tea and coffee plantation, and a local village.  The tour was through the guesthouse I was staying at and six of us set off in the morning.  Our guide was quite good (again) and funny as well although I don’t think that all of it was on purpose.  The first stop was the tea plantation which was similar to the one I’d visited in Malaysia although the surrounding area and scenery wasn’t as fantastic. It turns out the guide has a couple of acres where he and his wife have started growing tea plants so he was able to share his knowledge and had to repeat it a few times to get everyone to understand.

Tallest Waterfall in Laos (and a pot of gold)Tallest Waterfall in Laos (and a pot of gold)


Tallest Waterfall in Laos (and a pot of gold)


Our second stop was at Tat Fan, the 125 meter waterfall.  As my last write up said the rainy season has begun here and it actually hasn’t been too bad during the daytime, mainly just at evening and overnight.  Still clouds rolled in that day covering the mountain tops and also hiding the waterfall.  Our guide told us we wouldn’t be able to see it when we got there and asked for one person to walk down take a picture to show everyone.  We all ended up going and you could see the fall which didn’t sound to far away, but the clouds were too thick to see the fall.  It was still a neat walk down there through the trees and cloud plus we saw a spider eating a big cicada on the walk back.

Spider Eating a CicadaSpider Eating a Cicada


Spider Eating a Cicada


We went to the coffee plantation next which looked fairly similar to the tea except that the trees are taller.  Laos is apparently known for making really good coffee although most of it goes to Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and France.  Laos is a former colony of France so you still find signs in French and lots of places to buy loaves of french bread (as blessing for me).  From the coffee plantation walked past our guides tea plantations over a very slippery path, crossed a stream and arrived at the second waterfall.  This one was upstream of Tat Fan, but not in the clouds and impressive in its own right.  It had a 45 meter drop in a gorgeous green valley that had a mound in the middle you could walk out into and be surrounded by mist and forest.

Only a 45 meter WaterfallOnly a 45 meter Waterfall


Only a 45 meter Waterfall


  I had to snap a few pictures, but that also meant the camera needed a good drying and lens cleaning when I got out.  I would have guessed the height of the falls even higher and was disappointed we couldn’t see the higher one (I talked to the guide last night and that is the only day it has been hidden this week).

We made our way to the minority village next.  It was a good sized village and is known for a couple of things.  One they make their caskets well before they die and store them under their houses.  Also once someone is buried they leave them in the casket for 15 years then take out the bones, rebury them and reuse the casket.  The caskets were so small it was tough to see how the could get even the small Lao people in them.  All the caskets used to be made from a tree trunk that was hollowed out with a separate lid, but they have started going to concrete ones which are cheaper (and a bit bigger).  The other unique thing in that area in their religion which in Animist believing that all living things have spirits and that they stay around after their death.  They will pray before killing any animal or to their ancestors for a successful hunt and so on.  Once a year they sacrifice a Buffalo to bring good luck for the village.

The village also had a large school which was in session while we were there so we got to watch some of the lessons going on through the windows.  I realized while I was there that it seems like I’m always taking pictures of kids while in the villages, but hardly see any adults.  I figured out there are two reasons for this, one most of the adults are outside the village working in the fields or forest and two each family has 8-12 kids so there are way more children to see than adults.  

Village SchoolVillage School


Village School


Our guide said that they eat sticky rice and chilies for basically every meal, but they must have been doing alright since they had gotten electricity a few years ago and nearly every home had a satellite and tv in it.  They also make large bamboo water pipes here and smoke tobacco from them.  This means men, women, and children.  A couple of the smokers on our tour and the guide tried it and all said it was much stronger than what they are used to.

We had another long drive to the last two waterfalls which were much shorter, but wider than the early one.  Along all of the walks there was so much color from flowers growing everywhere and butterflies passing by.  I left the tour at this point and stayed in a guesthouse for two nights and arranged to meet the tour then to get a ride back to Pakse.  The next morning I went on a 4 hour walk with a guide past the same two waterfalls and onto some new villages.  I didn’t really see anything new, but it was nice going into the village with just two people as the villagers weren’t quite as shy (or fed up) with being on tour.  Also the guide was very friendly with them so he would often stop to chat.  The guide spoke limited english, but pointed out all the food items starting to grow in the fields.  We saw lots of rice, chilies, peanuts, bananas, and even a pumpkin plant.

It was really nice walking like this because it was basically like going on a hike by myself which I hadn’t had the chance to do in a long time since you weren’t talking back and forth all the time.  With less than a week left over here it gave me a chance to reflect on all that I’ve seen and done over here and getting my mind ready to be back in America.  It is still going to be a big shock when I get back, but know that it will seem normal again before I know it.  The rest of the time there I just found some rocks near the river or falls to sit, read, and relax.  Again something I hadn’t done in a while especially in such a quiet and beautiful spot.

Piglets Feeding VideoPiglets Feeding Video


Piglets Feeding Video


I was picked up right on time on Thursday, just as a heavy rain was ending and my guide said that my friends had showed up at the guesthouse that morning.  I knew who he meant since in Luang Prabang Tamzin and Phoebe said they were going to be in Pakse at this time and I’d emailed them letting them know where I was staying.  They weren’t at the guesthouse when I got back, but it isn’t a big town so wondered around and found them eating dinner at the place I wanted to go to anyways.  They’d spent 8 days in Vang Vieng and were recovering from that so we didn’t have too late of a night.  As I said I really had to drag myself away from there as it is an easy to get sucked into.  We saw each other at breakfast and then they were heading south to the 4,000 Islands were I originally entered into Laos the first time.

I wasn’t in a too energetic mood and decided to postpone my day trip to Saturday and went to get a haircut again before I got back.  The first one I got in Cambodia came out well and at $0.75 quite a bargain.  This one was a whole $2, but included a straight-razor shave and couple minute neck and shoulder massage.  All day I kept feeling my face, the smoothest it had been since I was 10 years old.  Tomorrow I will take a bus into Thailand and then the overnight train to Bangkok where I’ll have 24 hours to finish up some souvenir shopping and pack up to head home.  I’m heading to Baltimore first to go to the Preakness horse race for my annual sporting event and meeting the same crowd as went to the baseball games in Boston and NY last year (see earlier posts).  It should be a great time and a good way to ease myself back into life over there.

Bye for now,

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