Exploring the Bolaven Plateau by motorcycle


route-motorcycle-BOLAVEN PLATEAU-backpacking-map

If you want visit the Bolaven Plateau on your own and on a backpacker budget… This post is perfect for you!

Get to the southern city of Pakse From Kong Lor’s cave it was a mini odyssey that lasted about 15 hours. After changing the van twice, we took an old-fashioned bus, which took half an hour at each stop, because to lower the load of the passengers who get off the roof of the bus is not easy, and the luggage is of the most varied … from cans of 20 or 30 kg of paint to 3 tractors in pieces, motorcycles, mattresses … We arrived at Pakse at 4 in the morning burst, with scrapers and with the Guesthouses closed, except for one, where it was to lie down on the bed and sleep like little lambs.

The reason to spend the night in Pakse, like most other travelers, is none other than rent a motorcycle and take a tour of the area called Bolaven Plateau, dotted with impressive waterfalls, pretty villages, tall forests, and coffee fields (possibly the best coffee in Laos, or at least the most famous). We get a pretty shabby map, but enough to know the directions we have to follow and with it we plan a route that will last the next 3 days.


The first stage

It was quite short. After touring a few 90 km, making a few stops to visit villages, including some local festivals with a dance contest, we reached the area of ​​the Tad Lo waterfalls, and there we meet Mama! It has a rustic Guesthouse with bungalows at € 1 per person (imagine how they were for that price) and a restaurant with more than generous portions. But the most amazing is the grandmother, who at dinner comes up to us smoking her super cigarette and begins to tell us a story that we did not understand, but the woman was so funny expelling those puffs of smoke from time to time that we did not resist to have some heartfelt laughs with her.






The second stage

It was much harder than the previous one. We knew that this would be the case, so we had a powerful breakfast with Mama and got on our Honda 100 cc to ride the 200 km they did not expect.

Up to the halfway point it is not complicated at all, they are paved roads not very busy that pass through many villages. But around 12 o’clock in the morning we reached the crossroads indicated on our map and we turned off into the forest. The asphalt gives way to land, and the plain to the mountains. 70 km of dirt tracks await us that sometimes became mud.

Practically isolated from the rest of the world but with very high morale because the landscapes are beautiful. Furthermore, here we almost suddenly meet two of the most impressive waterfalls in Laos, and upon arrival at the town where we finish the stage, another surprise awaits us, a super hotel !!, after 7 hours on the motorcycle it seems to us paradise.

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We check that the motorcycle is perfectly and we are glad that we have not suffered a puncture … apparently … The next day the motorcycle wakes up with the tire flat, a little hole in the chamber has caused the wheel to deflate little by little (a pore) and that during the night you run out of air completely. Bad luck, but good luck to find a workshop next to the hotel that in 10 minutes, and after an instructive repair (and cheap… € 1) leaves us the perfect motorcycle, yes, it is still full of mud. (Okay, have they made us thirteen-fourteen? Damn how naive …)

The third stage

In theory it would be the return to Pakse, but since we had gotten the taste of the motorcycle (now I understand you, cousin Pichili), we decided to go visit the temple of Vat Phu, about 50 km from Pakse. Before, we make two stops to visit the Tad Yuang waterfalls and its beautiful gardens, and the impressive but inaccessible Tad fan, perhaps the one that has disappointed us the most, not because of the waterfall itself, but because there is no way to contemplate it in all its splendor.



We return to Pakse after traveling a total of 420km Almost nightfall (the visit to the ruins of the ancient temple of Vat Phu and the passage through the town of Champasak will be discussed in the next post), we return our travel companion to her little house and enjoy the lunar eclipse that only occurs you can contemplate from this part of the world.


  • Day 1: Pakse – Tad Lo. Total 90 km. After 21 km take the detour to the left towards Salavan.
  • Day 2: Tad Lo – Pakxong. Total 200 km. After 4 km take a detour to the right towards Sekong. 22 km later, following this same direction, take a detour to the left and after 46 km you arrive. Continue towards Attapeu for about 30 km, after which you take the detour to the right towards Pakxong (watch out for it). Dirt road for 71 km and you reach Pakxong.
  • Day 3: Pakxong – Champasak – Pakse. Total 130 km. We leave towards Pakse and 8 km before arriving take the detour to the left towards Ban Muang and 4,000 islands. After 30 km turn right when you find a sign announcing the Vat Phu at 17 km. You reach the coastal town of Ban Muang, where you take a boat for 20,000 km (motorcycle and two people) to the other side of the Mekong. Once in the other port, take the road on the left to Champasak and follow signs to Vat Phu. Although if you want to save the little boat you can go along the new road, by which we return.
  • The turn We did it on the new road on the same side of the Mekong as Champasak (without having to take the boat) that leads directly to Pakse for about 35 km.

Here we leave you the maps that we have made for the occasion, they are not super exact but they can give an idea.

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  • Tad lo: there are 3 free waterfalls in the environment. Here we leave the map of the park.

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  • Tad Faek and Tad Hua Kon: between Sekong and Attapeu. You can turn off a small road to see the first one (for a fee) and continue along it to the main road. 1 km from the reentry in this is the second (free).
  • Katamtock and another whose name we do not know. Section between Ban Lak 52 and Pakxong. First is the unknown on the right side of the road, then on the left side is Katamtock. Both visible only from the road.
  • Tad Yuang and Tad Fane. On the section from Pakxong to Pakse. Both pay (5,000 pax and 3,000 motorcycle). Both are worth paying for.


Transport. How to get to Pakse?

  • From Kong Lor to Pakse You have to change transport several times: first a van that leaves Kong Lor at around 12 or 1. It takes about 45 minutes and reaches the town of Khoun Kham, there you take another van that will take you to Vieng Cam for another 45 minutes. Both cost 25,000 K. All buses going south pass through Vieng Cam, so it’s a matter of waiting and being lucky that one stops soon, and that it is a modern one. We took the one that was already standing, but it was a very old one. We pay for this bus at 90,000 K.
  • Rent the motorcycle in Pakse It’s simple, there are many stores that offer rates of 60,000K per day, and 50,000K if you rent it for 3 or more days. They are the 4-speed semiautomatic, but surely looking for a little more are the automatic ones. We put a total of 75,000K of gasoline for 420 km.

Accommodation. Where to sleep in Pakse and on the Bolaven Plateau?

  • On Pakse We slept the first and last night of the route in the Vilaysing (without bathroom) and in the Lankham. Both for 60,000K a night, better the first than the second.
  • On the route at the Bolaven Plateau: on day 1 we slept in Tad lo at the Guesthouse Mamapaps, for 20,000K per night. The second day we slept in Pakxong at the Vangai hotel for 60,000K (very good!).

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