“I’d say from Vientiane and down to the 4000 islands – you can skip it all!“.
That was the opinion of a girl we met both in northern Laos and again down in the 4000 islands, and it’s the biggest joke I’ve ever heard.
If you don’t step off the highway 13 route, then yes she’s right, there isn’t much to see.
But if you just take a day to explore the Bolaven Plateau you’ll realise that there is so much of Laos that you would have missed if you wouldn’t have taken that step aside to check it out.
Laos is full of ethnic tribe villages and trekking, even down South.
I actually found the village people much more welcoming in the southern parts in ethnic and remote villages than in the north (but that is my own opinion).
The Bolaven Plateau
The Bolaven Plateau is really worth checking out, and now afterwards I wish I would have taken even more time to see it.
There are some great waterfall, and some really nice quiet villages along the Mekong river, as well as many fascinating minority villages where the people live a very different lifestyle and traditions which will blow your mind.
We visited a village known for smoking these gigantic bamboo water pipes (even the kids). The men have up to 4 wives, and when you’re getting close to 50 years old you start carving your own coffin…
So before continuing down to 4000 islands, stop over in Pakse and do some day tours around the area. It’s really worth it!
Another way to see the Bolaven Plateau is to hire a scooter for a day (or more, you might just want to stay the night in one of the villages – there are many guest houses around), so you can go at your own pace.
If you’re keen to see Bolaven Plateau, a great way to do it is to simply base yourself in Pakse and make day trips around the Plateau.
If you decide to do it this way, here are some tips…
Where To Sleep:
Sabaidy 2 is the most popular place, so in high season don’t expect there to be any rooms available (it’s always worth a look though). Rooms cost between 40 000 and 80 000 kip (5 and 10 dollars), and is one of the few guesthouses with WiFi.
Don’t panic if they are full, because there is a great guest house just around the corner from there called Phonesavanh Guesthouse (not the Hotel!), where the rooms and bathrooms are clean and nice. Rooms cost between 40 000 and 55 000 kip.
Where To Find WiFi
At Phonesavanh Guesthouse there is no WiFi unfortunately (not many hotels and guesthouses seemed to have WiFi), but there is a cafe only 3 minutes away that has high speed Wifi and an internet cafe a minute away.
It’s called Katuad Cafe and is situated in the NE corner of Rt13 and 24th street. The food isn’t very impressive, neither is the service (the girls were acting as though they were tipsy!), but they don’t complain if you just order a drink and sit there for the next 3-4 hours using the free wi-fi.
Where To Eat
There is a great local eatery on the corner of Thanon 21 and 24, which is cheaper than the similar ones on the main road and serve better food.
For Indian/Malay food Nazim restaurant served amazing Indian food (cooked by an Indian chef).
Jasmine restaurant is on the first glance very similar, with same dishes at similar prices. But they didn’t taste no way near as good in my opinon, and don’t visit their toilet before eating or you risk losing your appetite.
For Lao food, visit the Lankham Noodle House below the Lankham Hotel, it’s cheap and they serve traditional Lao food – it’s very popular both with locals and backpackers.
The basic baguettes are sold down the main street, but personally I would buy a baguette at a restaurant and ask for a take away – they give you more topping choices
Where To Book Tours
You can also book tours via your guesthouse, but there are also a few travel agencies around town. One is Pakse Travel & Air Service Office, which are a reliable agency with good drivers and guides.
So take your time, experience the real Laos, before moving on either up north to the capital of Laos – Vientiane or down to the chill on Don Det in the 4000 islands.