No matter where we’re dropped off or what country we’re in, we always seem to find our way onto a motorbike (especially in SE Asia). This time we had a plus one, a fellow Chicagoan we met on the overnight bus opted to join us in an adventure where we had no idea what we were doing.
The Bolaven Plateau is an elevated area between the Mekong river and the Vietnam border in Southern Laos. It lies 1,000 meters above sea level, and was one of the most heavily bombed areas in Laos during the Vietnam War. You can find houses built out of bomb shells and unexploded ordinance if you venture off the well-marked trails. It’s not a huge tourist destination, but offers many waterfalls, beautiful scenery, and a glimpse into the lives of rural Laotians. We couldn’t pass through Laos and miss an opportunity to hop back on two wheels and explore a new area.
Arrive in Pakse after an overnight bus trip from Vientiane, find a motorbike, a place to store our backpacks and start driving, avoid spending any more time in Pakse than was necessary. We had a simple map and a general idea of how far each city was from the next. We were lucky that Brian came along since that ensured we had an extra motorbike in case anything went wrong.
- The motorbike continually stalled and would not reach a speed over 60 km
- It went from sweltering heat to torrential downpour, in about an hour. We luckily found a wonderful Lao family that offered us shelter during the storm
- Plenty of cattle, water buffalo, stray dogs and small children running across the street without warning
If waterfalls, motorbiking and friendly locals interest you, I would recommend a few days driving yourself through the Bolaven plateau. Especially after visiting the more developed cities on the backpacker circuit, the plateau reveals the real Laos you can only know by experiencing it yourself.
I love reading about off the path travel. Such a great experience when you just venture out with only the vaguest of plans! The last time I got on a moped i totally wiped out on some gravel… so I don’t know if i’ll be back on when i’m in SEA this summer. Your article has inspired me though, so maybe I’ll finally rent another one!