Minori-Tea Report

Trip Start Jul 16, 2012
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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Champasak,
Saturday, April 27, 2013

So after our mammoth journey from Kong Lor we arrived in Pakse which is the third biggest city in Laos and much like the others it was so small and quiet and again pretty much a one street town. There is not much to see or do in Pakse, it is just the town that people pass through to get to the 4000 islands which is exactly where we were headed but we decided to stay for a day to see the Bolevan Plateau.

Our first stop in Pakse was the local market to get Tim some new flip flops and to put a smile back on his moody face, as you can see from the photo, mission accomplished!

The Bolevan Plateau at 1000meters above sea level is the home to many ethnic tribes, is the principle coffee and tea growing region and has some truly stunning waterfalls. Thankfully we managed to get ourselves booked on a minibus tour to see it all.

The Bolevan Plateau certainly didn't disappoint us at all, we saw coffee and tea plantations, amazing waterfalls and saw the villages and people from local tribes.

One of the most interesting villages we saw was the Ka Tu tribes, unfortunately one of the beliefs of this tribe is that if they are photographed it is bad luck as their image has been captured so we were not able to take any photos in the village.  This tribe is known for its annual water buffalo sacrifice which had happened just weeks before we visited.  The spiritual house in the centre of the village was adorned with the horns of all the buffalos that had been sacrificed over the years and the ropes from the recent victims were still tied to wooden poles alongside the spiritual house.

Thankfully we also visited the Alak Nge tribe who are also very interesting.  Our visit was slightly hindered by a tropical rain storm which left our mini bus stuck in the bright red mud and then left us both slipping and sliding through the village with filthy feet and flip flops sticking in the mud.  The villagers like to live together so there can be up to 65 people living in the same house. Also it is tradition that the villagers build their coffins before they die so these are built and then stored in an outhouse or underneath their home.  This village was amazing with children as young as 8 happily smoking a bong and playing with a machete.  If this was happening in the Western world they would have ASBO’s slapped on them without hesitation but here in their world it is totally normal. This village was definitely worth getting dirty feet for!

The tour took us to three amazing waterfalls of every shape and size, but the Tad Fan twin chute waterfall which is 120 meters high was by far the most impressive.

At the Phasuam waterfall  there is a living museum with examples of all the different tribal houses which the local ethnic minorities live in, the best part about this museum is that some of the local tribes actually come here as part of the exhibition.  They sit outside the houses, selling their handicrafts to enable visitors who don’t want to go deep into the countryside see how the minority tribes live.  We were very lucky to have some tribal people who have their ears stretched and faces tattooed.  Their ears were originally stretched as this is how they showed their wealth. The larger their ear lobes and the more gold and jewels were worn the more wealthy the person.  Nowadays the tradition continues but plastic jewellery is worn. The people told us that they are very happy to come to the museum as they receive free meals for attending and they certainly looked happy, you have to wonder what is in their pipes and bongs?!

En-route back to Pakse one of the members of the group who just happened to be a Marco Pierre White lookalike asked the driver to pull over in a machete village, in this village along the main road into Pakse, in true Asian tradition every road side stall was making and selling exactly the same machetes.  Marco was very keen to have his own machete presumable for chopping his Michelin starred onions so the stall holder set about showing us how they are made.  The red hot metal was basically hammered and shaped at the side of the road and plunged into cold water and sharpened.  A lot of work went into each machete yet they were selling them for 2 each. Boy do they need to sell a lot of machetes to make a living.

In Pakse both Tim and I developed colds, probably from all the dusty bus journeys and so we made our way to the local pharmacy to try to get some medication. Seemingly cold medicine is the hardest thing to describe through charades but thankfully after a good ten minutes of fake coughing, sneezing and nose blowing we left with a bag full of goodies.  We were so proud of our haul and when I woke up with a sore throat I wondered across the room to get my newly acquired throat sweets only to find them being devoured by ants!  Rather than squealing and throwing them in the bin like a normal person, I carried them calmly to the sink, washed off the ants, ate one and resealed them for later.  Boy my standards have dropped!

Our last night in Pakse and who do we meet up with other than Sharon. Just starting her travels through Laos, we had time for dinner and a few drinks to pass on some advice and hotel recommendations.  It was after dinner when the restaurant basically packed away all the chairs around us and gave us the bill at 10pm did we realise what a sleepy town Pakse was.  Thankfully we managed to find one bar that was still open and willing to serve us so we could have one last farewell drink together, thank goodness for the Panda Bar!

We have pretty much seen as much as we care to see of Pakse so it is onwards to the 4000 Islands, Si Phan Don.  These islands are basically sand bars in the Mekong River and are known for being the traveller mecca where lying around in a hammock is basically the only activity on offer, bliss!
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