Andreas was also on this bus (he got more lucky though with a seat from the start) and since places tended to be booked out (due to being close to the Chinese new Year) we booked a twin room together while on the bus, just to make sure to have a place to stay without searching for long after this ordeal of the travel. After the last tuktuk ride from the bus station into the city center we checked in the Lankham Hotel – the oldest hotel in Pakse. The room was ok, but the aircon didn´t work and generally it was a pretty bad value for money. Even with sharing this was my most expensive night in Laos. After we both had a shower we went to the Daolin Restaurant for dinner. We walked around a bit after dinner, but in Pakse everything closes really early and there is absolutely nothing going on. So we went to bed. The next day I moved to a hostel and organized my zip-lining trip with Green Discovery. It is a very very expensive trip ($289) and my information I had when I planned it was about half the price, but I had been looking forward to it for so long and it was one of the main reasons I came to Pakse, so after leaving the shop at first I was walking around thinking, checking my finances and decided that I would regret not doing it and I could afford it if I safe a little more on other stuff. I had another ATM marathon until I found one that worked and went back to the booking office to book the tour for the next day. After I had organized the tour I met Phillip – a German guy who also stayed at the Yummy Backpacker – and we drove on his rented motorbike to Vat Phou in Champasak. This is an UNESCO world heritage site. We had to pay 5000 Kip for parking (like pretty much everywhere) and 50000 Kip entry fee. It is really nice there and we spent a couple of hours exploring the ruins.
On the way back we got lost a bit and had to drive most of the way in the dark (without working light). Phillip was in quite a hurry since he had to make it back in time to catch his bus. We were bombarded by flying insects on that drive, it was just crazy. I was very happy when we finally got back shortly after 7 pm. After returning the bike I quickly went to the Khamxe Guesthouse to make a reservation for after the zip-lining tour. The Yummy hostel was not exactly nice and I didn´t want to stay there again. For one night it was ok though, cheap and very close to the Green Discovery Office, so very convenient. I met with Andreas for dinner. Back at the hostel I packed and got some computer stuff done. Didn´t sleep very well, since 2 out of 3 guys in the room snored like crazy and it was very hot. The next morning I got breakfast at a corner restaurant and then went to Green Discovery. I was on the tour with Claudia and Jodok (a Swiss couple) and our guide Phet. We also had two locals with us who carried our food and ropes and helped with clipping us on the zip-lines and stuff. They hardly spoke English. Green Discovery employs local farmers for this. Most of them have been to school for maximum 4 years and can hardly read or write their own language. We drove about 1h in a van to a village on the Bolaven Plateau.
There we got our gear and water and off we went on foot.
The first bit was on a very dusty road then we head off into the jungle.
About 1.5 hours later we had our lunch break in a little hut next to the Tiger waterfalls.
We had to balance over ropes and climbed up and down a lot to reach that point.After lunch we crossed over a swinging bridge,
walked a little bit more and then finally reached the first zip-lines. It was amazing what they had put up in the middle of the jungle. All these platforms in the trees, the zip-lines and canopy walks and all build without a helicopter. All the wood was carried into the jungle. Unbelievable! The longest zip-line that day was 450m long, the views were amazing – over waterfalls and valleys. We had to abseil from platforms four times as well. It was a lot of fun and took a couple of hours, not using the same zip-line twice.
In case the video doesn´t work, here is the link: https://youtu.be/nXQOYdb3wVU. At about 4 pm we reached the Tree House at the Tad Karmeud waterfalls. Again all the sleeping tree houses, bathroom hut and the kitchen/ common area hut were built by hand and the material for it carried into the jungle. They had western toilets and showers with cold water there. There was even a drinking water supply.
We climbed down to the waterfall and had a shower there. I was very happy that another group was also staying at the tree house since Claudia and Jodok were behaving very couple like and I always felt like the odd one out. We chilled, had dinner, played cards and later zip-lined into our tree house for sleeping.
I shared the room with two German girls since I didn´t want to be with the couple in the same room. The next morning we had to balance over the rope out of the tree house. After breakfast my group took off again at around 9 am. We trekked through the jungle for a bit more than 30 minutes and went zip-lining again, also did quite some canopy walks.
I am afraid of heights and I do things like that to fight it every now and then. I was very happy that I had been to a rope park back home several times before though. Otherwise I wouldn´t have managed some of those canopy walks for sure. Even with the training beforehand it was really tough for me. After that we had to trek another hour in very steep terrain until we reached the Via Ferrata. I also managed that but definitely reached my limits several times. Once or twice I also needed the help of Phet who told me where to put my hand or foot and twice needed to help moving my carabiners. I reached my limits fear and strength wise, but I made it with hardly any help. I am very proud of myself! I was sweating like hell and shaking all over, adrenalin pumping through my veins like crazy. I sometimes had the feeling I would die any minute, but it was a lot of fun anyway and a good feeling to have managed in the end.
At the top of the waterfall we had a break and lunch. A beautiful view and we could even see the tree house we had stayed in the night before.
After the break it was another about 30 minutes walking up very steeply and then 1.5 hours rather flat back to the village where we had started. I was really exhausted when we arrived, but happy! It took another 1.5 hours by van to get back to Pakse. I had a shower and then I took off to try to organize a motorbike to do the Bolaven Motorbike Loop for the next 3 days. There are many places where you can rent, but it was very busy and I couldn´t get one they were all rented out. By the way do avoid Laos Adventure Travel! They try to rip you off big time and I met quite a few people who had problems with them, not getting money back they owed them or tours not going like promised and such. Plus they are very unfriendly and lie and the motorbikes are not exactly great quality. I had the choice to try again early the next morning with a maximum 50% chance of getting a bike or change my plans, skip the loop and book a bus to Don Det. I would need to book the bus very soon though, the next morning would be too late. I went to dinner at an Indian and thought this through. I decided for the bus, since I dodn´t want to risk to be tuck in Pakse for another night. Once I booked that I settled on the terrace of my guesthouse, secured my pictures and talked to a nice English couple (Silver and Tony). They also gave me a bit of their bourbon and coke. Around midnight I went to bed. The next morning I got up at 7:30, had breakfast at the Indian and waited for my pick up. It was about 1 hour late, but then I got transferred by minivan to the big bus and off I was to the island.
Pakse itself is rather boring, but it is a good base for nice tours. The Bolaven Plateau is very beautiful and if I ever come back I will definitely do the motorbike loop. The Tree Top explorer is super expensive, but I can very definitely recommend it. I had seen waterfalls and part of the plateau during the zip-lining trip, so it was not like I had missed out on everything. Champasak is definitely worth a trip as well. Generally I wouldn´t plan too much time in Pakse. For accommodation I would rather look around for a nice guesthouse. Most of them are not online. The Yummy hostel is not nice and the hotels are quite expensive.