BOLAVEN PLATEAU – Coffee, waterfalls and Adventure
ocated between the provinces of Saravane, Champasak, Sekong and Attapeu this fertile land wasn’t farmed intensively until the French began to experiment planting coffee, rubber and bananas in the early 20th century. Nowadays coffee cultivation is a considerable income for many local families. You will see their small plots of land along the road cultivated with coffee and their produce arranged beneath the Lao sunshine on the ground or on large platforms next to their villages.
This area is of interest, mainly because it is populated by different Mon-Khmer ethnic groups like the Laven (Bolaven means “place of the Laven”), Alak, Katu, Ta-oy and Suay among others. The Katu and Alak are known in Laos for their annual water buffalo sacrifice, which usually takes place during the full moon of March, paying homage to the village spirit. Another unique custom of the Katu is the carving of wooden coffins for each member of the household well before an expected death; usually you may see these coffins laying under their rice lofts. A further peculiarity of these ethnic groups is the face tattoos of their women, even if this custom is slowly dying out as the Lao influence increases in the area. Several Katu and Alak villages can be visited along the road from Pakse to Paksong (about 45 km).
The Bolaven Plateau is becoming more and more a sort of “waterfalls road”. You may wish to visit some of them, such as:
– Tat Nyeuang Falls: located at village km 40 (Ban Lak Seesip), a few kilometers before the town of Paksong. This cascade is spectacular and here you can find few stalls selling cold drinks and some nicely located benches where it is possible to relax while looking at the surroundings. A natural pool under the waterfall is perfect for a refreshing swim.
– Tat Fan Falls: located a little before the Tat Nyeuang waterfall, just take the turn-off south on Route 23 at km 38 and follow until it ends and walk down a path to the edge of a small canyon to see the falls which are formed by two parallel streams falling from an height of more than 120 meters into a deep gorge.
– Nongluang Falls: located at about 13 km from Paksong town (just follow the road sign on the right side of route 23). It is a recently open area inside the Dong Hua Sao NBCA and the local villagers, under the name of “The Nature’s Heritage Conservation for Sustainable Development Group”, manage it.
This area is fascinating as you will find yourself immersed in a pristine forest on top of a mountain from where, on clear days, it is possible to see the shining Mekong River. Although walking to the waterfall (which runs through several stages) that is hidden deep in the forest is still a task for healthy people, most probably in the near future a more accommodating path will be built. Along the way you can see big rock formations shaped like a mushroom or, depending by the point of view, like a mythical Naga Head.