Saturday, January 8, 2011

Riding High to Tad Lo-w

We got up bright and early all rested and refreshed. It was a cold night of probably 14c but the thick blankets did their job. It was a lengthy goodbye as we got our bikes out of the shed and took pics with the Green View owner and family. Our hunt for a suitable breakfast place was rewarded when we saw a group of Americans on the road side drinking coffee.
We have stumbled upon the famous Mr Coffee’s café -where fresh Bolaven coffee was served with local pastries and bananas. He hails from Holland and married a Laotian damsel and now runs a coffee plantation. His little café even has free wi-fi, clean toilets and he is the walking Wikipedia of Paksong.
It was really great to get first hand information on the roads ahead and his advice was to stay on the sealed roads, and forget about the Lonely Planet’s recommended alternative dusty route. A German couple we met later who took the adventurous 50km off road journey to Tad Lo described their cycle trip as "Asmathic". Mr Coffee told us the best news ever, it was going to be downhill all the 62km way, losing 1300m to 400m!

After yesterday’s climb and moving so slowly like a tortoise, we began our ride like hares. It was heavenly to cycle with a slight downhill incline and really making tracks. 25-30kmh seemed to be our normal cruising speed and light weight becomes a liability. My new role as a mule with three panniers finally became fun.
We were really eating the miles and could not believe how fast we covered ground. The roads were excellent with breathtaking scenery. Saw a lone European cyclist struggling up in the opposite direction and felt sorry for him but we had paid our dues.
We glided 40km in 2 hours and arrived at Tha Teng, a small hamlet. Eating noodles for lunch at another non-descript Laos eatery with loud Laotian music across the street was much better than our initial stop. There, they only had water with no ice and served pink chicken that looked like road kill.
At the roundabout, we proceeded straight on to Ban Beng and this turned out to be the ride of our life. The inclines here were steep and both Wei and I hit 60kmh. I had to slow down several times as my eyes started tearing and had trouble seeing. My fully loaded Speed 16 got a bit wobbly at those speeds too and taking the long bends at high speed demanded my utmost concentration. This was where I wished I had a 60t chain ring as it spun out at 40+kmh and ducking into the wind was the only way to go faster.
The T Junction of Ban Beng appeared in no time and we stopped for cold drinks to regroup at a shop with a pool table. Seem to attract many bored houseware salesmen on their packed-to-the-gills mopeds. While they had fun playing pool, a couple of black pigs wandered around in the backyard and naked children watched. Time in a typical Lao village sure stood still.
A quick left and easy 6km flattish ride brought us to Tad Lo. Mr Coffee’s instructions to take the first turn after the bridge where the market was, was spot on. On this short stretch, traffic picked up as it was the main road. We saw a van hit a small puppy and killed it before our very eyes. So tragic as the driver was obviously driving too fast. He tried to stop but failed. Ironically, I saw two dogs mating 10 mins later. The cycle of life I guess? We passed a village with a sign proudly proclaiming itself as a “Crimeless Village”. It was a short 1km ride from the bridge to Tad Lo falls where all the guesthouses clustered.
We settled for Saise Guesthouse and the only 2 spacious rooms left went for US$20 with a priceless view of the waterfall at the balcony. We grabbed it! This was a real blessing as one gets to sleep with the lovely gurgling sounds of rushing water despite numerous power failures. My bed even had a waterfall view. It was a pity that we could only stay for one night here.

What a wonderful place to end 2010 and we celebrated and feasted with a big dinner at Saise’s restaurant enjoying the magnificent waterfalls under the dazzling stars, with complementary candle lighting no thanks to yet another power failure. Our hearts were overflowing with gratitude for this very special day indeed, of our unforgettable ride from high up at Paksong to Tad Lo.
Note - We decided to stay two nights here as it was so beautiful and moved to Tad Lo Lodge the next day. A tad (pun intended) expensive at US$45 but its all about location, location, location as they say. We enjoyed great service too from the cheerful and friendly staff.


Michael Khor said...

Fabulous... and all that food...and coffee...and food :-)


What gorgeous photos. Very well taken. I like the evening shot of the trees n the interior!
Looks like you had a tremendous trip! Thx for sharing!