Pakse and Beyond to the Falls

Pakse: transport of hub of southern Laos. We were back and we were staying a night at a guesthouse on the Se Don, just a couple of blocks from where it blends with the Mekong.

Highlight of the morning: having the most excellent coffee at Delta Coffee (they grow their own) and being serenaded by four French cyclists travelling the world. They’d recently toured South America and had some tunes from there for us. It was a small but enthusiastic audience: a few Westerners and some locals.

French cyclists serenading customers at Delta Coffee, Pakse, Laos
French Cyclists Rocking Delta Coffee

We walked around the older part of Pakse but it was getting darn hot so we retreated back to our guesthouse, not to emerge again until sunset.

sunset over the Se Dong, Pakse, Laos
Sunset From Guesthouse Sala

The next day we went back to Delta Coffee for one of their delicious coffees (you wouldn’t believe how many places serve Nescafe, because that’s what they think the tourists want). From there we caught a motorcycle rickshaw to the bus station (poor bike was really straining!).

southern bus terminal, Pakse, Laos
Cow Grazing at Terminal

As it turned out our bus was canceled due to breakdown so we spent a couple of hours hanging out at the station, which had some entertainment value.

When our bus did roll it was the Slowest Ever. I figure it was averaging 30kph. But the scenery was nice and despite the threat of rain only a few drops materialized, one of which can be discerned on the bus window in the photo below. We were entering coffee country, the Bolaven Plateau.

highway from Pakse to Tad Lo, Laos
The Slow Bus Road

We stayed at the Sypaseuth Guesthouse, located just downriver from Tad Hang (Tad = waterfalls) in the village of Kieng Than Lei. Our first night we sstayed in a bungalow back off the river  but when we saw the ones overhanging the riverbank we put in a request and got one the next day.

view from guesthouse deck, Kieng Than Lei, Laos
View Downstream

From our deck we could watch the village children at their favourite activity: rafting in the shallow river. We could also see locals fishing and the various animals grazing along the riverfront.

kids playing on the river at Kieng Than Lei, Laos
Kids Rafting on River

We were next to the bridge crossing the river and close to Tad Hang. One day we spent an hour or two swimming around the falls. An Australian fellow pointed out some really deep potholes right in the falls, into which one could plunge and lounge.

Tad Hang, waterfalls, Laos
Looking Upstream

On our second day we checked out Tadlo Lodge which had elephant trekking. When we arrived the mahout and vet were applying medicine to two of the three elephants. They’d sustained belly cuts while trekking so the trekking was cut back. We decided to pass on the trekking but did enjoy watching the elephants get their treatments and a bit of a workout.

elephant and mahout at Tadlo Lodge, Laos
Elephant and Mahout

We walked up to Tad Lo, about 20 minutes away. There we watched local kids prance around the top of the falls and sometimes clamber down the falls and dive into the pool below.

Tad Lo waterfalls, Laos
Tad Lo

Next day we decided to walk further and find Tad Suong. Along the way we walked through coffee plantations.

coffee beans on bush, Laos
Coffee Bush

And got lost several times. But by following the most beaten path we eventually found the falls. To get close to the falls we followed two youngsters over the boulder field below the falls. But the water was controlled and they only released the major stream at night.

Tad Suong, Laos
Tad Suong

We had to content ourselves with the small steam and the plume it created in the breeze.

Tad Suong, Laos
Spray at Tad Suong

Soon after I took the photo below Sue, while standing still, lost her footing in the slime below the falls and took a harsh fall herself. She hit her head and disjointed her pinky. By the time I got to her she’d got her finger back in place and upon investigation we found no blood on her head. But she was dazed and hurt.

base of Tad Suong Falls, Laos
Sue, Before the Fall

Meanwhile one of the youngsters was sliding down the slime and into the pool below.

We were led to the foot of the falls by two local kids from the nearby village. As it turned out they thought they were pro guides and when I reached for my wallet upon our return to offer them a tip they demanded payment. Thus ensued a rather comical bartering. They started high, I went low, they went a bit lower, I a bit higher, they went higher, I said “Hey, no fair!”. Eventually we agreed on a price and we advised them that in future they should let people know that they were going to charge them for their services.

waterfall mafia, Tad Suong, Laos
The Guides

Next day we decided to rent a motorbike. Now, for those who don’t know me, I don’t actually have a motorcycle license and my only experience is on -50cc scooters. But I read up on the ‘net and felt ready. However, when we talked to the rental guy he said “I’m worried!”. After some more talk and my demoing my skills he agreed to rent us a bike. And I agreed to go slow and watch out for cows (actually the goats were the worst: they bounce out).

the rented motorcycle, Sinouk Lodge, Laos
Kelly with Rented Motorcycle

We did a day long tour of waterfalls in the vicinity. First of all the 120m high Tad Fane. We only got as close as a viewing platform but we talked to a French couple who were going on a trek to the top of the falls, which sounded like an adventure.

Tad Fane, Laos
Tad Fane

Nearby we stopped at Tad Yuang. Here I could get closer to the top of the falls. Much to Sue’s concern…

at the top of Tad Yuang, Laos
Careful Kelly!

But I wanted to get a shot looking down the waterfalls to the pool below.

looking down at Tad Yuang, Laos
Looking Down

We then walked down a path to the bottom of the falls.

Tad Yuang, Laos
Looking Across

Where we went for a refreshing swim, getting right under the intense spray.

Tad Yuang, Laos: in the water
Looking Up

We thought we’d continue renting the bike and our explorations but that night, over dinner at Mama’s, we talked to another traveler who had gone on some of the roads we were thinking of taking. Apparently there was a lot of construction and rough roads with deep dust and dirt. He’d spilled and showed us his injuries. We decided that we weren’t ready for that adventure yet.

We loved staying where we were. It was the most mellow place we’d been yet. The guesthouse was wonderful and, just down the road, Mama’s served ‘Big Food for Little Kip’. We met lots of great people there, some who’d been there for weeks, soaking up the easy lifestyle. But we decided to move on and head north into the karst landscape.


  1. Long time ago :o) but I think it took 2 – 3 hours, one way at a leisurely walk. We were there and back easily within the day; despite Sue falling and injuring her finger at Tad Suoang.

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