Tad Lo is a tiny town in southern Laos that can be reached by bus from Pakse. It is also a popular spot on the motorbike loop around the Bolaven plateau. The nature in this area is incredible and in season there are many waterfalls. Tad Lo actually has three waterfalls, but the furthest one is about 10km away. However, you can cross some fields and take a shortcut like the locals do. My guesthouse owner recommended a guide. I was just planning to visit the first two falls today and perhaps take a guide tomorrow.
The first waterfall, Tad Hang, was right on the main street. You could see it from the bridge. Then you can walk through a resort to get onto a path that leads to the actual Tad Lo waterfall. The waterfalls are beautiful, even though it is dry season, but the best part is perhaps what happens around the waterfalls. Right behind Tad Lo is a small village, where people are still very dependent on the river. There were men making some sort of baskets along the shore. There were kids playing, adults bathing and clothes being washed. Close to the river were some vegetable patches and behind it were the typical houses on stilts. Underneath them were people in hammocks. An old man sat in a door opening, smoking something that resembled a cigar, but clearly had big green leaves rolled up. Kids were playing with tires. The best thing was that everyone was friendly! As soon as they saw you, kids would wave and shout Sabai Dee or Bye Bye. The adults would say Sabai Dee more quietly, but with a big smile on their face. In the village I also met two French people who asked if I was going to Tad Soung. I decided to join them on their adventure and we walked out of the village and into the fields.
There were of course no signs in the fields, so we walked the wrong way a lot of times. At times we’d run into locals and ask which way we would need to go. Two out of three times it meant going back. After a while we lost the track. The path simply stopped. We kept going across the rice fields. I couldn’t help but think: “Should we worry about unexploded bombs here?” The rice fields were dry, with waterbuffalo’s trying to find some good leftovers in the stalks. Occasionally there was an old shed or tiny house in the middle of the fields. We didn’t see anyone until we hit a stream. The man was obviously surprised to see falang out here. “Sabai Dee.” I said carefully. “Tad Soung?” He pointed across a little bridge and on we went. We even found another trail there. After a while we saw a village, which was split in two by a proper road. It was shocking, coming from the fields into civilization.
The village was still very traditional, with a ceremonial building in the center, and many houses in a circle around it. People were waving at us and the local kids saw a business opportunity. As soon as we found the path towards the waterfall, a group of young boys started walking along with us. When we stopped in the middle of a field of vegetables, one of the boys said ‘this way’. I guess we’d attracted some guides. It was getting quite late; the landscape was glowing orange. We soon discovered that the normally massive waterfall had diminished to a small trickle during the dry season. Instead of climbing all the way up to the top, we decided to check out the rock face from the boulders that would be covered by a river in the rainy season. There were some small pools and one of the boys jumped in from one of the rocks. The French guy soon followed. After a quick splash and a look around, we headed back.
We crossed the proper road and got a bit confused right away. We were fairly certain we’d come from a small path, but when some villagers came down it, they pointed in the other direction. We assumed they would know and thus followed the slightly wider road, that soon narrowed. This path ended after a while as well and we had to guess what was the right way to walk. Eventually we saw a point we recognized and indeed it was a much shorter way back to the first village. The village was even livelier than before. A young man was washing his motorbike, a young girl and older woman were using the same puddle of water for other things. They started a conversation. “How old are you? And you? And you?” There was some confusion over the translation but eventually, with the help of fingers, they all got it. We didn’t get any marriage proposals, so I guess we were all too old and continued through the village. The river was still busy. People were using the last light to take a bath or finish some tasks. We were back in Tad Lo town before darkness.