Wednesday, 3 February 2016

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

Crossing on a narrow bridge requires some good manners and patience
Tractors are a typical mode of transport in Laos
These houses are a common sight in the outskirts of Laos
Village folks at Bolaven Plateau
Kids as young as nine riding on scooters
Development is coming to Laos
Morning view from the balcony
Less volume of water but still as majestic
Breakfast by the Falls
The LTF team
Cows coming down the hills to graze
Saise Resort, good food, good stay
Uttayan Bajiang
Bamboo Bridge
Dipping at Tad Pasuam
Can't get enough of this bridge
Tad Pasuam
Tad Pasuam, view from the Bamboo bridge
Tad Lo
Elephants bathing at Tad Lo is a common sight
Stepping out on a balcony to the sight of a majestic waterfalls is not an everyday event. It is a humbling experience. You start to appreciate life by itself and thank your Creator for this opportunity.

We see Tad Lo in a different light. While yesterday's view was of dusk and night, this morning we see the approach of a new day.

While the Falls is still magnificent, this morning we see smaller walls of water. As explained by Celia, they close the water gates to flood the dams upriver. This inadvertently reduces the mass of water at Tad Lo.

2 couples from the Netherlands were already gearing up to leave Saise. With them are 2 Gudereit SXR touring bikes from Germany. These bikes uses Rohloff hubs which houses 14 gears. No derailleur means not having to worry about it bending during a fall. The Gates carbon drive belt system by Gates Zahnreiman  on the bikes were fascinating. It removes the need for chain, chain rings and sprockets. No chains means not having to worry about lubing the bike.

The 4 riders were escorted by one of the couple's son and his girlfriend on scooter! They ride ahead to recce for hotels and food stops. Sounds like a very safe arrangement.

Celia surprised everyone with her early morning rise. Most days she is willing to miss breakfast but today she don't want to miss watching the elephants bathe by the river.

We crossed the rickety bamboo bridge. Celia did the iconic LTF jump for the camera. She already did that in pitch darkness, by the edge of Falls, the night before.

Again, she invited Claudine to jump. Again Claudine refused. She is making sure she get home in one piece.

Everyone got to Tad Lo Lodge with no sight of elephants bathing. Bush master VT spotted their droppings. In fact, the early risers, Ian and Anne had seen one of them from afar much earlier. VT and Claudine too!

Bath time over or not, Celia went up the lodge. Much later, one came by, perhaps for a second bath, perhaps ordered by Celia! His mahout sat on his back. The gentle giant carefully edged from the rocks to the waters.

They work like a team! He dunked his body with his mahout balanced on his back. Up and down, up and down!

It was more a performance for us than anything else. But we were delighted! Just as quickly, it was all over. His mahout called out in Laos and with that he walked slowly out to the river bank, this time, dunking his bright yellow poop into the river. One, two, three, four....yup, that's about it!

We followed our 47 year old friend. As we moved towards the restaurant, 3 teenaged monks were receiving alms in the form of food from the staff. The food were placed in the big metal pots they carried with them in their arms. Blessings in exchange for food.

There were two elephants at Tad Lo Lodge that day but the mahout kept the smaller one at bay.
We bought bananas at 5000 kips per comb to feed our gentle friend.

When we were done, we gave his mahout a small tip. He shared his secret with us. He learns English from a Laos-English dictionary which he proudly showed us!

This time, we walked out through the main entrance of Tad Lo Lodge to the sight of cows coming down the hill to graze. Alvin and Claudine ran ahead to take photos. Not long after they reached the road, few cars and scooters came by. The commotion and honking confused the poor cows. They started invading Tad Lo Lodge. A man on scooter, probably the herder came looking despaired! Instead, we tried to look innocent and quietly left him in his quandary.

We walked down the hill to many rustic guesthouses. It seems like "hot shower" is most attractive to backpackers here.

We saw some pigs feeding by the roadside.

We came by an old bombshell, now used as a table top altar.

We passed Tad Lo Computer Education Center and school library. They were housed in two separate wooden houses on stilts.

We came back to the river. We spotted a young girl doing laundry under the bridge. She walked away when she noticed us trying to photograph her.

We crossed the long wooden bridge back to Saise. Then we started a celebratory breakfast. 25000 kips for Pad Thai or pork fried rice, 10,000 kips for tea or coffee, 40,000 kips for an American breakfast served with baguette, butter and jam, 2 eggs, 2 puny sausages, fruits, tea or coffee. The food at Saise is always satisfactory.

After breakfast, we headed out to Tad Pasuam. Minutes into our ride, goats crossed our path. Then later, 2 pigs!

We rode along the unruly green bushes and wild daisies.

We crossed 10 bridges in total! We transversed some rivers, while some were just mere streams and one was dry in this winter season.

We passed by some stalls selling papayas. Few farmers were wheeling out their papayas the size of a fully grown man's thigh, for sale.

We passed by tapioca farms. We tailed a pick up truck loaded with tapioca roots near a dusty village. Here the roads are being expanded. Perhaps, development is encroaching as we will witness in our later days in Laos.

We climbed a small slope and passed a rubber plantation.

After crossing our tenth bridge, we turned left into Tad Pasuam. Entrance fee was 10,000 kips per pax, scooter parking 5000 kips per bike. We went down to the river for a dip. The water was cold so it took awhile to actually immerse oneself.

The river was not deep enough to swim. Naturally, after awhile we became cold and had to get out. Colin then realized he lost one of his hearing aid. It must have dropped out when he retrieved his phone to take photos.

We spent almost an half hour combing through the bushes but at the end, we called it off! We can only give thanks that only one was lost and not two!!!

Uttayan Bajiang is an ecological resort located at Tad Pasuam. We walked past stalls selling pan fried nuts cooked in woodfire. The locals called out, "almonds" but they were not, though tasty. 5000 kips for 2 handfuls.

After passing by the stalls, we came upon a sturdy wooden bridge. From here, the breathtaking sights of the Falls begins! Wimol Kijbamrung in his written introduction of Uttayan Bajiang describes how he placed stones to create retaining walls in the Falls. This explains the columns we see by the Falls and along the river.

Crossing the wooden bridge, we came upon the resort's restaurant. It serves a decent fare of fried rice and basil pork with rice priced at 25,000 kips per dish, a can of Coke 6,000 kips, a highly recommended fruit juice blend called Golden Egg priced at 10,000 kips.

While we wait for our food, we tried out the traditional bridge built entirely of bamboo. It creaks at every step and move we make! This bridge runs parallel to the sturdy wooden one and led us back to the stalls selling "almonds"! A tip box was placed at one end, with a note for 1000 kips. Unlike the ugly Trolls that guards the bridges, this one was manned by a young smiley Laotian.

While we were mesmerized by the beauty that is Uttayan Bajiang, it is sad to know Wimol never got to see his finished work. He was struck by malaria induced coma and lost his sight! Such is the tragedies of life.

It would seem that the ride is like a loop. We rode back to the fork road where we had bananas the previous day, only coming back on a different route.

We passed Dao coffee factory.

We came back to the roadside stalls of blacksmiths. The rhythmic sound of hammer hitting on metals pierced the air. Farming tools were displayed for sale.

We came back to the rows of mats woven from mengkuang leaves aka screw pine leaves. These are sold as construction materials, used as walls for houses.

We came back to the stalls selling baskets made from rattan and mengkuang leaves.

We reached Pakse.

A slight congestion on the road, we saw the urban kids on their home run. Most were picked up by utility vehicles. A practical and popular choice of transport in this part of the world!

We dropped off our scooters and were suprised the little boy we met at Tad Lo Lodge with the elephant was there too. His parents were dropping off their scooters too! And so were another young couple! We guess scootering in the Bolaven Plateau is the popular choice of travel, what more no driver's license or proper helmets are required!

We returned to Pakse Hotel to a nice homecoming. Our bags were still there waiting for us!

Alvin arranged for us to meet at the rooftop for a sundowner. We got a beautiful rooftop view of the town and witnessed the passing of the day. However beautiful the day was, Claudine did not let her guard down when the bill came. Many items on the bill defers from what is written on the menu!!!!

We left the rooftop and headed straight for dinner. Just opposite Ms Noy, a few doors away from Friendship supermarket is an Indian restaurant. A pleasant surprise to know the owner is from Malaysia! His fare is similar to the Malaysian mamak stalls! When we left, he bid us, "Terima kasih, selamat jalan!"

While some of us headed back to Pakse Hotel, Celia and Alvin went for a body rub down! Papa Mike was seen carrying a stash of mackerel in chili oil bought from Friendship supermarket, all ready for Day 6, A Test of one's Resolves!!!

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