Earth : Asia : Southeast Asia : Laos : Southern Laos : Bolaven Plateau
Bolaven Plateau is in Southern Laos.
Minimal English is spoken. Usually one fluent English speaker can be found at banks. Even guesthouse are limited in english.
In Pakse, you can rent a motorbike for about $15 for two days. Leave before the sun gets too hot and head towards Tad Lo. Stop for lunch and at other water falls along the way. Once at Tad Lo you can find a place to sleep at any one of the many guesthouses. The next day continue to Pakxong where you can get some coffee and then head back to Pakse.
from Pakse, go to Dao Heung market (~8k Kip by samlor), take bus to Paksong (first 9am, ~20k Kip). After about 1h30, stop at km38 for That Fane / Tham Cham pee crossing (big board advertising the falls). You need to walk about 1 and 1.8km for each one Entrance fee for each fall: 5k Kip From there, walk/hitchhike/catch a bus to km40 for Yuang fall. probably the best of three: hotel and stalls nearby. You can also go just in front of the waterfall to see a permanent rainbow at your feets but be prepared for a shower ! After hitchhike/catch a bus to reach Paksong.
From Paksong, watch the road to catch a transport/bus to Tha Theng (for example Pakse-Attapeu). Be aware that it seems there is no such a bus between 2pm and 4pm. Bus Pakse-Attapeu to Tha Theng costs about 25,000 Kip. Tha Theng bus station is at market level, small hut near the road. If you arrive at Tha Theng after 4pm, it seems there is no transport at all to Ban Beng / Tad Lo except paying a costly motorbike (could be asked for 150,000 Kip ...). In this case, better to take a night there.
From Tha Theng, songthaew to Pakse is about 30k Kip (starting at about 7.30am) and to Ban Beng about 20k Kip (starting at about 8am, about a hour). Between Ban Beng and Tad Lo, test your luck and walk/hitchhike/catch a bus either to Tad Lo or crossing with main road.
At Tad Lo, you could see Tad Hang and Tad Lo waterfalls.
Bus to Pakse are taken from crossing and seems about every one hour during day (~30k Kip, 2h, to southern bus station)
If doing this loop by motorbike it is easy to take in Sekong and Attapue. From Attapue you can make an interesting day trip to Pa-am, formerly part of the Ho Chi Minh trail, where there is a huge surface to air missile left over from the war. Head out of Attapue east on the 18B towards seiseta, after the village and around 15km from Attapue the highway veers to the right and a tarmaced road carries straight on, this is the road you want. Stick on this road for another 15km till you cross a bridge and you will see the missile infront of you. From here you can either head the same way back or take a right at the missle and follow a rough road/track for another 40km up into the mountains and skirting a national park. From the missle it is around 20km till you reach a dam construction project where you need turn right across a huge steel bridge, from here the road gets better and is tarmac for much of the 20km back to the highway. This option makes it a 100km round trip and you rejoin highway 18B much further towards Vietnam but it is a scenic ride back down with great views.
As you head back to Pakse, instead of going back the same way you came, you can take a left turn towards Paksong about halfway between Attapeu and Sekong. This road is currently being totally redone and will soon be a sealed highway but is still passible at the moment. Along this road are two spectacular waterfalls, one of which is the highest in Laos. They are situated close to each other about 3-4km after you cross three bridges in quick succession. The walk to the foot of the highest waterfall is trecherous, takes at least an hour and you get soaking wet from the spray but well worth it. Along this road is a guesthouse, if you want to break up the journey back to Pakse, which is owned by a friendly couple. The man can arrange treks that are rather brilliantly priced at $1 a waterfall, of which there are ten, but you can do as many or as little as you like, most are big and spectacular. The guesthouse is on the left hand side of the road and is 2km down a track, it is signed from the road as 'homestay and treks'.