Thursday, 28 January 2016

321 ADVENTURE THRU THAILAND, LAOS AND CAMBODIA (4-16 January 2016), Day 3 - Vroom! Vroom!! Vroom!!!

Tad Fane
Tad Lo
On the bridge to Saise Resort
Evening activities by the river
Recumbent bikes modified for child seating
Pakse Hotel
Selection of automatic and manual bikes
Day 3 - Vroom! Vroom!! Vroom!!!

One of the most common dish in the Indochines is fried pork with garlic. The round eye meat is sliced thin, marinated with pepper and fish sauce and deep fried crisps with garlic. Usually served with rice, this dish is one of Celia's favourites!

Now, when Pakse Hotel served fried pork with garlic as one of it's buffet spread, it got whispers of approval. Especially so from VT and Papa Mike who were determined to hoard for the team and themselves!

The buffet spread is basic. Egg station on the left, bread or baguette on the right. Rice, congee, stir-fried veges, fried pork, puny sausages and processed ham sets the centre spread. Local fruit jams, unsalted butter, local fruits, cereals and few cakes decked another table. Complimentary coffee, tea and juices.

After breakfast, we checked out of the hotel. This time, we took half our luggage. The other half were left with the concierge for our return the next day....but not before proper documentation and photos were taken!

Settling our luggages, we went out in search of scooters to rent.

Out from Pakse Hotel, we passed the money changer located just opposite the hotel. Most of us had paid a visit there. Talk about strategic locations and synergies...hotel, restaurant and money changer, all within sight of each other!

We turned left when we approached our first junction, and came upon a beautiful neo classic building in bright yellow. This is the old post office.

We walked down the street which intersects with the Main Street aka Route 13, then turned right to Ms Noy, a bike rental company. She does not have any bikes for rent that day!!!

Not falling into hopeless despair, Papa Mike and Alvin left us to scout for more bike rentals. Alvin turned right at the first junction and came back empty handed. Papa turned left but came back fruitful. The shop he found had 6 automatic bikes and 1 manual bike available for rent.

To avoid future litigations, Alvin asked everyone to take detailed photos of their bikes. Even passports left with the rental company as collaterals were photographed as a precautionary method.

Anne and Celia were only too happy to be riding pillion behind their partners. Claudine wanted to ride pillion behind VT but he refused to give her a ride. Spunky Barbara wanted her own ride!

Short of 2 more scooters, we hauled everyone back to Ms Noy as there was another rental shop a few doors away.

Whenever on bicycles, Alvin will break all traffic rules. This time on scooter, he was the perfect angel. Not riding against the flow of traffic, he led the team past Ms Noy, went ahead turn left, go straight, "wait..... you left VT and Claudine behind!!!!"

The couple on the automatic scooter were not going fast enough. At the cross junction, they got left behind! They tried to give chase but an automatic ride does not power up fast enough! They searched for the group but finally decided to get back to the familiar post office and wait to be picked up.

After a few futile SOS calls to Alvin and Celia, they came back for their rescue.

Hurray!!! The lost lambs were found!

Another 2 manual Honda Wave scooters were picked up. Standard procedure, standard rates. 50,000 kips for manual bikes, 70,000 kips for automatic bikes. Rates were for 2 days.

Everyone were roaring to go. It's been an hour!!! Our LTF chief even joked he is retiring soon!!!

Vroom! Vroom!! Vrooooo *hic* *cough******

Barbara was still getting a lesson on manual bikes!!!

Supreme Commander, got off his bike, went back and told Colin to switch bikes with Barbara!


Off we went!!!

Within minutes, we made a stop at a petrol kiosk. It seems the bike companies here siphoned all excess petrol from the scooters. All fuel gauge points to the letter "E"!!! Depending on the size of the tanks, we filled up between 20,000 to 25,000 kips worth of fuel.

This time, we actually rode ahead!

We left the town.

We rode past stalls selling baskets and rattan wares.

We rode past Dao Coffee factory.

We came up to a fork road. There were a lot of fruits and food stalls here. We made a stop.

Over at this stop, the Howards tried to buy some bananas but were put off when they were offered a whole tier. Noticing their predicament, Claudine tried to help out. She managed to get a comb at 10,000 kips with hand gestures and simple English.

While the coffee addicts decided to have a coffee break, they soon learnt the way coffee were sold in this part of the world. Tear away a packet of your choice from the train of coffee packets, get your hot water from the stall owner, pay and brew your own cuppa!

Being Gulliver in the land of Liliputians has it's disadvantages. Walking to the table with his coffee, Ian knocked his head against the beam that supports the roof of the stall! Half his coffee went to the ground!

When we were happy with our break, we rode out again. This time the air becomes colder as we ride further away from Pakse! We then realized, the ride has been a gradual slope uphill and we have reached the top of the Bolaven Plateau!!!

We stopped for lunch at Sabaidee Valley. Beautiful roses and hydrangeas decked the resort. Flowers aside, what first caught Papa's attention were the 2 recumbent bikes parked outside.

Nosing around, we found out the French family of 4 and their 2 other friends have been cycling  the past 18 months and has another 5 more months to go! They will clock 10,000 km when they are done! The 2 kids, no more than 8 years old!

We ate generously and were surprised the average cost including drinks is USD 5 per pax. Good food, intermittent wifi, cool weather and beautiful surroundings!

After lunch, we headed up to Tad Fane Resort. It was a short ride from Sabaidee Valley. Entrance fee is 5000 kips per pax, motorcycle parking is 3000 kips. A short 5 minutes walk led to a most beautiful sight. Here, 2 waterfalls converged 120m down the valley. It was breathtakingly gorgeous.

The terrain in the area is rugged. There were no visible paths that led to the falls. Since none of us are Tarzans nor Janes, we soon left Tad Fane.

We did do some swinging just before we left though! We tried out the bamboo hammocks around the resort. Terk though had a hard time getting up!!!

As we rode the bumpy gravel path to the junction, we met out French friends again! Celia was delighted she could take better photos of them! We bid them Bon jour and sped away.

We sped for about 45 minutes.

We passed by unruly green bushes and wild daisies.

We overtook few lorries being loaded with cabbages. It was a throw and catch game.

We crossed 3 streams.

3 pigs crossed our paths....1 black, 1 white and 1 piglet.

A duck quacked as it tried crossing before 9 scooters!!!

Then we saw coffee beans drying on mats.

More pigs!

On quiet roads away from the villages, the roads become less dusty. Houses were mostly built with wood and some uses mats as walls. These mats are woven out of mengkuang leaves, aka screw pine leaves.

When we finally made a stop, Barbara announced she had a wobble. Alvin shared some tips on riding, one of which sounded like it was picked up from Disney Pixar's movie, Cars. "You turn right to go left!" Yes, Doc! We've got it!

Colin and Frank shared a "brotherly" time within everyone's sight! Well....we shall say the dry parched land needed some watering!!!

While he was hung upside down yesterday, Alvin was hauled onto Celia's back today! Another treatment for his back! This prompted Papa Mike and VT to get into a Heavyweight lifting competition. It was a draw between the 2 men!

After the bonding time, we rode again. This time, we rode for almost an hour during which we refueled our scooters. Meanwhile, Papa Mike went off to recce the place.

We finally reached Tad Lo where we will spend the night. Dusk was approaching. It was lovely to see a lot of activities by the wide river. Some villagers were bathing while some were washing by the banks. Wooden houses on stilts spread out along the river.

We stopped at Palamei guesthouse. Papa Mike had prebooked this accomodation for us when the intended abode by the waterfalls were fully booked. Celia who had stayed by the waterfalls on her previous visit was bent on getting a place there. She invited Claudine and VT to do what she termed as "exploring".

They went down a pot holed road, crossed a long wooden bridge and came upon Saise Resort overlooking the most breathtaking waterfalls. Alvin was surprised they had so many rooms available for the night! Either a change of phone numbers or communication breakdown had caused the misunderstanding.

The whole team moved to Saise Resort. We paid 250,000 kips for the presidential suite, large room with princess mosquito net, a coffee table for 4 and a balcony that opens up to the falls! The smaller rooms went for 180,000 kips.

That night, we had a wonderful dinner by the waterfalls under the canopy of a few large trees.
Dinner was 710,000 kip for fried pork ribs, curry beef, ginger chicken, egg omelette and mix vegetables. We finished dinner with tea and coffee.

When some of us decided to move nearer to the falls illuminated by spot lights, VT spotted a leaf bug. KC picked it up and together, they posed for us.

It was yet another starry night!

Our journey to Tad Lo was 120 km. We were ready for bed! But before bed, we met another couple on the rickety bamboo bridge. They had just finished dinner at Tad Lo Lodge and were full of complains about their services.

All of us slept well listening to the gushing water of the falls. Besides, our conscience were clear. We had sent Papa Mike and Frank back to Palamei Resort to settle an amicable sum of 150,000 kips for cancellation of rooms.

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