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Rural Laos May 2008

Si Phan Don - Tadlo

We returned to our floating bungalow before the electriciy 'curfew'. I lay on the wooden platform by the window and watched the darkness of the Mekong River flowing beneath our room. I was woken by a male voice singing at about 4 or 5 o’clock at dawn. It reminded me of a song that a fisherman sings going out fishing in an old Chinese film. It must be the local fisherman going out for the early catch. I dozed back to sleep until sun shone through the open window and the cockerel announced the beginning of the day.

I looked out of the window and saw women washing their clothing by the river nearby. The surface of the river was beginning to break into waves caused by the long wooden boats in the rising sun. If I had more time I would sit by the window or outside platform to watch this rural daily life unfolding. Unfortunately we had to move on to Tadlo that day. We left by boat back to the mainland and began our car journey to Tadlo.

We made several stops on the way. First we stopped at Wat Phou King Keo. This temple is high up on the hill with about 90 steps up to the temple. Once on the top there is a bird's-eye view of the surrounding area of islands and river. Our guide, Det, told us (half-way up the steps) that if preferred we could drive up and walk down later. It was too late. We walked up and down as well.

The second stop was to visit Wat Tomo. This is a ruin with only a few remains of stone and bricks scattered around the forest. This temple built for a lady has a beautiful history but after the centuries of decay there is little evidence of its former glory and mystery.

We returned onto the main road and drove on toward the Bolaven Plateau. This is the area for many tea and coffee plantations. We visited the Ongya tea plantation. Remarkably the couple who own this plantation recognised us from our first visit over 2 years ago. Mr and Mrs. Ongya are now quite well-known tea and coffee planters selling their teas and coffees in other countries abroad. Mr. Ongya is ninety years old and credits his long life and health to drinking his tea. It was nice to have met them again.

Before we arrived at Tadlo we also visited local villages of Katu and Alak. In Alak village there is a village shop by the roadside selling woven textile products made by the local women. Each woman will only take a percentage of the sale price and the rest will go to the benefit of the village. We saw one woman doing the weaving by her house with a few children happily sitting behind her. She may have been their mother or grandmother. The children were laughing and talking amongst themselves (3 boys and one girl). I laughed with them and felt so happy by just looking at them.

The road leading to Tadlo is a dirt road but with greenery on both sides all the way with workers and villagers walking along the road or returning home from a day's work in the fields or forest. This is a sight that we no longer see in our modern world.

We arrived Tadlo and checked in at the Tadlo Lodge. This lodge is still the best in the area. Our room looked out to the river but there are rooms along the path by the waterfall with stunning view of the water. There are 2 to 3 rooms built over the waterfall. These rooms may be cooler and noisier at night but have a very dramatic view of the water running past. We have advised the owner, Souriya Vincent, to provide warm blankets in the room for guests especially in the winter season when the temperature can be cool at night by the waterfall.

The fun show in the afternoon happens around 4:30 when the elephants take their bath in the river. The two elephants belonging to the lodge take their daily bath after their trekking with guests. The mahouts ride the elephants into the water and wash them. They sit on top of the elephants head and tell them to kneel or lay down in the water while they wash their backs. This is not a circus show but a happy bath time for the giants. The lodge provides 2-hour elephant treks daily into the jungle.

The Tadlo Lodge in managed by two brothers who are the younger brothers of Sanya Vincent who runs Auberge de Plain de Jars mountain lodge. Their French father built these 2 lodges for the family in the early years and they are now run by the 3 brothers. They were telling us how their father planted all the trees around the Plain de Jars mountain lodge and also how Souriya and his father came to Tadlo to build the first lodge in the area. It is a lovely and touching family story. Despite new lodges nearby we are continuing to use the Tadlo Lodge for our tours in this area. Souriya told us that they are renovating most of the rooms especially by the waterfall with a drinking and sitting area to enjoy the stunning natural beauty.

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Wat Phou King Keo
Wat Phou King Keo
Lao Children
Lao Children
Tadlo Falls
Tadlo Falls
Elephant bathtime
Elephant bathtime
Tadlo Falls
Tadlo Falls
Tadlo Falls
Tadlo Falls