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3 day Motorbiking trip around Bolaven Plateau, Laos


In Dec 2016, I visited Laos as part of my four and half month trip to south east Asia. I might not have visited too many places, but I think its time, I start sharing my experiences to people who might want to visit these countries. So here goes 3 days of documenting. ūüôā

The¬†Bolaven Plateau¬†is an elevated region in southern¬†Laos. The plateau’s elevation ranges approximately from 1,000 to 1,350 metres (3,280 to 4,430¬†ft) above¬†sea level. Most of the tourists who travel around this region, tend to rent a motorbike and ride around these hills. And I did the same with my friend M.

We rented an automatic scooter from our guest house(GH) for 100,000 Kip/day. We were staying in Champasak town, so we started out trip from there and ended it back there.

I have shared the riding route I have taken over 3 days with Google maps.

1st Day:

We rode from Champasak to Pakse and then towards Paksong. 12 Km before Paksong, we stopped to check out a water fall called Tad Fane. We couldn’t see any path to go down to the bottom of the waterfall. After sticking around for few minutes, we continued to the next one.

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Tad Fane Waterfall

On the way we could see many coffee plantations though we didn’t stop. Believe it or not, both of us don’t like coffee.

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On and on it goes…

The next stop was at a water fall called Tayicseua. The road in this region is pretty new and curvy. It was lot of fun riding through the ups and downs of the road.

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Tayicseua waterfall

 

By evening we reached the Houa Khon waterfalls. We decided to stay here for the night. Before it got dark, we managed to go see the waterfall and even take a dip in the water. So refreshing after the all day ride!

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Houa Khon waterfalls in the background

The GH we stayed, was on the opposite side of the, more touristy part of the river. There weren’t many other guests, rooms were simple, but cheap(50000/60000 Kip). The food was good, the nights were silent except for the various insect sounds from the forest. To reach this GH, take the road just before(going from Attapeu to Sekong direction) the bridge at Xe Noy. The road was a bit tricky as on Dec 2016, but nothing unmanageable.

2nd Day:

Next day morning we rode to Tad Lo waterfall, a very popular waterfall in this region. We passed through Sekong and Thateng towns on our way. The views weren’t so bad. By this time you have come down to the plains and you could see the mountains on your left side as you ride.

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Lao children going back home after school. The Lao official dress for women reminds me of Dhothi in south India.

On the way, we stopped to take a look at the Captain Hook Home-stay. Yes, the name got our attention and we had to see what was there! The owner has his own coffee plantations and he conducts daily coffee tours there. We didn’t take the tour, but decided to order the lunch there. Though it took some time, the delicious pumpkin soup with sticky rice was the best food we had on the trip.

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The children having fun, breaking the coffee beans @captain hook homestay.

By afternoon we reached Tad Lo. Expect a lot of tourists here depending on the season. The waterfall is a bit far from the village, so we went to see the waterfall first. Fortunately, not too many people go close the falls, so we could lie down on the flat rocks and rest a bit, before we start the hunt for accommodation for the night.

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Tad Lo waterfalls. We could feel the force of this roaring waterfall even from a distance.

Around the main bridge we found a place to stay for 40,000 Kip. Really cheap!

3rd Day:

Today was the last day of our trip. There was no major attractions on the way. And we decided to skip all the miniature waterfalls. We took the route via Laongam, back to Pakse and then to Champasak.

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A view from the road. Create your own roof if there isn’t one already!

Having said all this, if you are planning to do a bike trip in Laos and don’t have too much time, I would suggest you do the Thakhek loop. Its more popular among travelers. I haven’t done it myself, but it seems more fun than Bolaven.

 

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Tips on getting a Visa-On-Arrival(VOA) for Thailand


Thailand is one of the most visited tourist destination in south east Asia. Here I want to share my experience on getting a visa for Thailand.

Generally Indian citizens need a visa to enter Thailand. You can get it in two ways:

  1. Get a visa before leaving India. I haven’t done this. You can visit VFS website to know about this more.
  2. Apply for a Visa-On-Arrival(VOA) when you enter Thailand.

I entered Thailand from Laos(via Nakhon Phanom border point) two times – on Dec 2016 and then again on Feb 2017. Both times I applied for a 15 days(this is the maximum you can get) VOA, and I got it without a problem.

Note that, as of September 2016, the Thailand VOA fee for Indians is 2000 Bhat. Make sure you check the Thai embassy website before planning your trip. Thailand is notorious for their frequent changing in immigration rules.

For getting a VOA you need the following documents:

  1. Photocopy of your passport(sometimes they don’t ask for this).
  2. One passport size photo.
  3. A confirmed flight ticket showing that you leave the country within 15 days of your arrival. Yes, you have to show that you leave by air. This is a must. Even if you plan on to visit another neighboring country by road, you still have to show the flight ticket.
  4. Hotel booking reservations showing that your accommodation in Thailand for the entire duration has been taken care off. Out of the two times I entered Thailand, one time they didn’t ask me about this at all, and another time, I had to simply tell the name of a hotel in Thailand I would be staying. In any case, I suggest you do a dummy booking using www.booking.com¬†without paying any advance and carry a printout with you.

Now documents No 1,2 and 4 are pretty straight forward. But what can you do about the flight ticket, if¬†you don’t want to fly out of Thailand? What I personally did was, to book a flight ticket which had the option to cancel the ticket in 24 hours with full refund.

Orbitz is such a cool website which allows confirmed flight ticket booking with a 24 hour cancellation policy. Here is a sample list of flights from Bangkok to Bangalore on 28th April 2017. Note that, not all the flights can be cancelled. So book any flight with a Free cancel within 24 hours tag, on the day you want to enter Thailand and once you cross the border and get your VOA, just cancel it the same day.

 

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The immigration department doesn’t check (at least not in my case) if you have cancelled your tickets or not.¬†By the end of my 15 day visa, I went¬†back to Laos by road. The Thai immigration didn’t ask me, why I haven’t flown out of the country as I had planned. So all went well. And I would do the same thing again if I have to.

 

Racism in your own country


I did my first backpacking trip last month. I started the trip on May third week and ended it on July first week. It was amazing, with positive and negative experiences. I have read many posts about the positive sides, so I am not going to write about them. This one is about the negative side – about domestic racism in our own country.

It seems to me that backpacking ( I mean travelling , please don’t confuse it with tourism) is a concept which Indians find still hard to digest. Only hotels and restaurant people know about it, ¬†but mostly through interaction with foreign travelers. They have hardly seen Indian travelers.

People know about Indian tourists. Mostly they are the ones who want to take a break from the normal life, comes with a bag full of cash and finds joy in spending it and clicking Facebook profile pictures in front of tourist attractions. Unfortunately these tourists have ¬†a bad name to be noisy and making a mess out of the place. One of my friends who is in the restaurant business, said that he doesn’t like Indian tourists because they are very impatient and keep demanding for fast serving of the food. In general they lack respect for the waiter.

Sadly these feelings have affected their attitude towards Indian travelers too. In many situations I have felt the you are not welcome vibe from many restaurants. This goes the same with guest houses too. When you ask for a room the owners either say that there is no room vacant (when the people who stay there say that a lot of rooms are unoccupied) or say double the usual price. To avoid this, after a while I used to bring a western friend for room hunt.

I think the situation will change once lot more Indian people start traveling. I have hope.