Monday, January 17, 2011

So you want to ride the Bolaven Plateau?

Pic taken from En Route

I highly recommend the Bolaven Plateau ride and should you be interested to do the ride, here are some facts and figures that you may find useful.

Getting there

Pakse - This is the base city from which to start the ride.

1. By Air - Pakse has a small international airport with flights from the major cities of Laos like Vientiane and Luang Prabang. We flew in from Siem Reap but I know that Lao Aviation also flies in from Ho Chih Min.

Despite horror stories, I have flown Lao Aviation 4-5 times and found them very satisfactory. However, they are not cheap. Our flight from Siem Reap was about US$220 return. Their online booking system worked for us.

2. By Bus -The nearest Thai city near Pakse is Ubon Rachatani , which has a direct bus connection to Pakse that takes about 2 hours and crosses the border at Chong Mek. Buses also connect from Vientiane though this is a ardous journey of 10 hours.

How many days to loop the BP?

We took 5 days to do the 220km including one rest day. This pace averaged 50km a day and was moderately easy and relax. There are numerous excursions to extend the loop but we chose the Lonely Planet recommended loop.


Laos is still relatively quite cheap compared to western countries. For the 6 days, our expenses were as follows:

Hotels 6 nights - US$85 (could have been cheaper if we didnt splurge at Tad Lo resort.
Food - US$66 for 6 days (lunch, dinner and some breakfasts).
Drink stops - US$3-5 per day

US$30 per day is very generous, at least for our group of 4.

Road conditions

For the most part, the roads are excellent as proven by Wei who took a road bike with 700x23 tires. The part that will be challenging are the small dirt roads that lead to the falls. Usually 1-2km from main road.

Elevation peaks at 1300m at Paksong and doing the loop anti-clockwise is preferred. First day of 50km climbing may be challenging but once this is cleared, its easy all the way. Those who want to do the easy way could hop onto a bus to Paksong from Pakse then your ride will be really a walk in the park.

Please write and Im happy to answer any questions you may have. Certainly one of the best rides I've done.


Sandy said...

interested in traveling this area for just a few days. suggestions where to stay and head to? Coming in from cambodia and will have 5 days to explore this area prior to feb 17th Wat Phu festival in Champasak.
appreciate whatever you can share. thanks. sandy burnett

Oldyonfoldy said...

Many hotels in Pakse, depending on your budget. We wanted something comfortable and opted for the mid price Sang Aroun for US$26. We liked the Green View Guesthouse at Paksong. Its the first guesthouse before town coming from Pakse, maybe 1km. US$15 for a huge room. If you can find Mr Coffee, he sometimes do take guests in. He is from Holland and lives in a wooden style shop house.

Before reaching Paksong, there are 4 maybe 5 waterfalls. We only went to 2 and do note that you can lose track of time. So start early. Sun sets 6pm.

My route of doing it anti-clockwise seems to be the preferred way due to the hills. Suffer for first day, the rest is easy.

Email me at lovethefolddotgmaildotcom if you want me to send you the maps.

All the best Sandy!

Tom said...

I'll be passing by Pakse on my bike in a few days and was considering the same loop, but probably just in 2 days (I do very long and hard days.) Is there anywhere to stay between Lapsong and Tad Lo or would I have to split it into a 50k-ish day and a 150k-ish day?
Thanks, Tom

Oldyonfoldy said...

Tom, it is possible to do 150km a day after Paksong since its 80% downhill but it will be tough. Pakse to Paksong is only 50km but it is a fairly tough ride, at least for me.

I would recommend you try for Tad Lo if you can make Paksong by lunch time. Its an easy 3 hrs downhill only if you are quick (62km). Try to get a room at Seisui Resort which is after the bridge. It is just by the waterfall. A great place to stay for the nite.


Tom said...

Thanks much for the quick response! I just got into Savannakhet from Vietnam and am so enamored of Laos I may ditch plan A and just start riding north to LP. I may base the decision entirely on which way the wind is blowing tomorrow, to be honest. If I do head south the Bolaven remains on my 'must do' list.

Oldyonfoldy said...

Hi Tom. The ride to LP seems to be pretty boring from what I read. Better to bus it, unless you have plenty of time. Bet you've researched this already.

Ride safe.


Tom said...

Yeah, I just biked from Savannakhet to Pakse and it was crushingly dull, though pleasant riding until I encountered the Headwind of Doom. If I do LP I will bus from Pakse or Si Phan Don to Vientiane and start from there.