... Rainy Season has officially begun when June is here. I think this year, the rainy season comes quite quickly. It's time to backpacking and get my mountain shoes ready and go out to smell the rain at my accustomed neighboring country. Our destination is still the very same one, "Ban Nong Luang", Pakse, Champasak, the Southern Laos. Not only is it a land of good coffee on Bolaven Plateau, it also has abundant forest and several giant waterfalls. After reviewing Dan Yai-Tad Sue-Tad Kamued, the feedback is unexpectedly good. This makes this year, the trip to Ban Nong Luang is very lively in the Vassa. But this trip, I'll take you to see other beautiful waterfalls, please follow me....
Bangkok - Chong Mek - Ban Nong Luang
...We, 17 people of adventurous campers and the members of "khonbaakpae", gather together and leave on the June 22, 2016 with Lotus Phibun Tour Bus at Mochit Bus Terminal, departing from Bangkok to Chong Mek, Ubon Ratchathani Province at 20.30 p.m. We arrive at the Chong Mek boarder area on the next morning at 6 a.m. Then we have our breakfast at Ploen Tour restaurant and hire someone to transport our luggage to Wang Tao side of Lao PDR while waiting for the immigration office to open.
After the boarder is open, we wait in line to go through Thailand immigration. Then, we go across to Laos under a small tunnel. Also, please do not forget to stamp at Lao immigration as well, otherwise, you will get a huge fine afterwards. While we are waiting to have our passport stamp at Laos, we also need to pay "extra fee" to Lao officials. The fee is varied, some pay 100 THB while some pay 40 THB. I heard that Thailand soil also practices the same. If anyone can't live without social media, you can buy the sim card here. It is 100 THB. I buy the unitel and the seller said I can use it at Ban Nong Luang.... (but once I reach there, the staff has removed the signal pole and install it at one of the influential person's farm so the internet is no longer accessible).
The Song Taew who always pick us up comes take us from Wang Tao and go to Pakse, Pak Chong before stopping us at the entrance to Ban Nong Luang in order to let us buy more camping equipment. The rain has been pouring down the entire way. Wherever we look now, we see the green leaves and trees. There's a monument at the entrance to Ban Nong Luang which has been built for 3 years already. Normally, we just go pass it but today we'd like to make a visit.
A brief history of the monument is that it is an alliance monumental of Vietnam and Lao army who fought alongside each other. It was built to commemorate the heroic soldiers of both nations who have sacrificed and fought to liberate the people of both countries from the US imperialism and other nations' colonialism.
After learning this brief history...now let me take you to Ban Nong Luang village where it is the beginning of Dong Hua Sao National Park of Bolaven Plateau. It is about 10 km from the entrance to the village. Usually it would take about an hour as the road is very bumpy. But this year the Lao authority have improved the road and will pave it next year. Then, it would take about 10 minutes to reach the village.
Our destination is the home stay at head village where it is the center of tourists. Everything stays the same. Nothing has changed much here, houses still keeps their original form even though the development has been flowing in from the tourists who come for trekking or ziplining. We put our trekking stuff on the
modified truck and part of our stuff is left at this home stay as we will stay here at our last night.
Ban Nong Luang - Ban Rai Coffee Camp I
After putting our stuff at the truck, some people walk 7-8 km to our camping area while some are going with the truck and I choose the latter as I want to save up my energy for tomorrow trekking. The road is bumpy with red dirt all along as the rain is pouring. The villagers use this route to harvest the coffee planted along the edge of the forest.
The truck takes about 2 hours to the first camp which is similar times used by the other group walking here. Our first camp place is a wooden house in which nothing is there on the house. It is just the place where coffee collectors use it as a place to hide from the rain. We lay out the ground sheet for the bed. Some people set up the tent and tie the sleeping cradle and one group set up the common camp for cooking. That evening menu is nothing special but enjoying it with people who share the common passion while it's raining is just unexplainable happy.
Camp 2 in the Middle of the Forest - Tad Nang Nee
The next morning when we wake up, the rain is still there. We then eat something and start our 4 km walk journey to our second camp in the middle of jungle. After packing the camp and backpacking stuff, we are trekking again into the jungle in order to see the waterfall at the Bolaven Plateau. We need to walk down as we are now on the highlands. The route is going down towards the last coffee plantation before leading us to the jungle where we need to walk across the streams and countless small and big rocks as well as the tree roots that seem to stumble us down if we don't walk carefully. We don't need to bring much water with us as there's plenty of water along the stream where we walk. If we are tired, we can simply put our legs into the stream and take a break.
Finally we arrive at our second camp. Even though it's only 4 km walk, we spent 2 hours. It's not that tiring but difficult as we have to be careful in every step so it takes time. Once we arrive, we set up the camp and start cooking. Our lunch is a simple menu of Fried Rice-Noodle (Pad See Ew). We set up the camp near the stream so that we can easily use the water as for consuming and showering.
After having lunch, now we walk another kilometer in order reach Tad Nang Nee. However, it's quite a difficult and slippery one kilometer. The waterfall roars from afar and it's predictable that the water tide must be strong. We start to see the water flowing down along with the trees. Yet, we can't find the way down there. At some point, we need to tide the rope in order to get down to a place near this waterfall. Then, we turn right and go down into a very steep and slippery rock. Once we get over the tree, suddenly, we see the elegance and the strong tide of this waterfall in a very near sight. The roar of the waterfall bury all of our voices and the water is spraying all around that we can't take out the camera to capture any shots.
After taking some photos at the top of this waterfall, we try to go down further in order to have the full view of this waterfall as seen in the last two years when I did a survey. However, due to no one has disturb this place and the trees are glowing and covering the area, the staff cut some top part of the trees in order for us to see and we couldn't say no. In fact, we didn't want to see the view in exchange from cutting down part of the trees but this is the staff services as they can't walk down so they have to do it. More importantly, this year we receive lots of rain so the way to the other side is blocked.
Even from below angle at this giant rock after some top part of trees have been cut, we still can't see clearly of where the water is fallen down from the cliff. Still, we need to walk to the slippery rock in the middle of the strong tide stream. Yet, no one wants to leave their lives here as below lies a steep valley. If we were fallen down, our body could get real ugly. Nonetheless, the staff can go onto these rocks easily.
After appreciating the stunning beauty of this waterfall for about an hour, it's time to climb up and back to the camp. I think the way down here is already difficult, going up is more difficult. Even thought it's more tiring going up but it's faster as we take about half an hour to go back to the camp.
Tad Nam Pad - Home Stay at Ban Nong Luang
The third morning we wake up with the sore body from yesterday trekking to Tad Nang Nee. Today our last mission to accomplish is to conquer Tad Nam Pak. At 08.30 a.m. we divide our team into two groups. One is the elder group, about 3-4 people, who go back to Camp 1 at Ban Rai Coffee to wait us. And our second group set off at the back of this camp and trek towards Tad Nang Nee. But today we turn right and go higher up as Tad Nam Pak is the upstream of Tad Nang Nee so it's higher up and the road is more difficult. We walk along big rocks along the way. We need to walk carefully, otherwise our feet could get twisted. While we are walking through bamboo leaves, we also need to be careful as its branches could easily cut us. For those fallen branches, we'd better not to step on it but go over it as it's quite fragile that it could easily break and cut us instead. In short, it's quite exhausting 2 km walk.
While we are walking, we could hear the sound of waterfall all the times. Some times, we could see it over the bamboo branches. Once we step out of bamboo forest, the gate to the giant waterfall is visible in front of us!!!
This stunning beauty is just beyond words. It's difficult to explain how we feel at this moment. The water flows down from the cliff in about 3 layers before flowing down to this giant cliff in front of us at layer 4.
Tad Nam Pak comes from Nam Pak Stream on the highland flowing along the Hua Sao Forest towards the valley and continues to Tad Nang Nee before joining Huai Tuay where it receives massive water from several waterfalls in the Bolaven Plateau. Finally, it flows into Mekong River. Tad Nam Pak is divided into two zones as P'Kan of khonbaakpae website explains. He said it is Nam Pak Tueng and Nam Pha Group. The first zone includes the 3 layers above. We need to walk down from Ban Rai Coffee before the route ends at the third layer and cannot walk further. The second zone was discovered last 2 years from Tad Nang Nee survey trip. We need to walk down from Ban Rai Coffee but take a detour and again walk up to Tad Nam Pak at the fourth layer which in turn is also the most beautiful layer as we can fully see the three layers view from here.
We spend about an hour taking photos at this waterfall and then it's time to say farewell to Tad Nam Pak. The way down is much faster as we are going down which is opposite to Tad Nang Nee where the way back is faster as we needed to climb up? In short, Tad Nang Nee is easier when walking up whereas Tad Nang Nee gets easier when walking down. Anyhow, the sore and the pain from two days trekking get worsen when we walk back from Camp 2 to the village as we have to climb and walk 11 km straight. We leave the camp at 13.00 p.m. and arrive at the village around 18.00 p.m. I was lucky to get a ride from the staff when I reach Camp 1 but it's all tense along the way as the he is the village's motocross driver. He didn't slow down for any hole and that it's slippery from the rain, there's about 2-3 times that we slip out of road.
Farewell Ban Nong Luang
Last night after reaching the village, we had small getting together at the Home Stay and talked about the trip of Tad Kamued-Tad Sue-Tad Taket which is to be held during the Lent in July. We learned from the staff that there's 4 groups are coming which definitely will make it more than hundreds of tourists who will come to see the beauty of Pro Phu Field on Dan Yai as well as the elegance of several waterfalls. Certainly, every group must fairly share the area of living and sleeping at this forest as we are all just visitors and no one own the place. I wish everyone can share and help take care the forest to maintain at its most original as much as possible. I heard the news that certain area of Dan Yai, Pro Phu fields was invading by government officials who were in search for minerals. I was dismayed that we might unable to see the beauty of this place in the future....
It's raining all morning so we miss to do our regular activity while we are here which is to offer the alms to the monks from Wat Pa Kiri Wongkot, the temple of Ban Nong Luang. Neither can we go take photos of Pro Phu Flower ( Caulokaempferia thailandica K. Larsen) that start to blossom at Dan Noi. Instead, we can just take photo of the "Krua Nam Prak" corner (literally means crying kitchen) while we are waiting to go back. It got this name because everyone cries once going into this kitchen due to the smokes form the wood used for cooking. After eating at this Krua Nam Prak, it's time to give our souvenir from Thai friends to the staff (Luk Hab-who help us carry bags while trekking). It is the 10 waterproof bags which we thought it's necessary and useful as this area rains all days and nights during the rainy season.
It's time to say goodbye. The Song Taew comes picks us up on time as booked. Before that, let's take a group photo at our favorite corner for every visit. Then, we say goodbye to the head of the village, his wife and home stay owner before returning safely to our motherland.
Before crossing the boarder, we stop by at a famous noodle shop at Pakse named Pho Maggie. The price is quite heavy. It has both pork and beef and comes in 4 sizes of small, middle, big and special bowl and the price is 60-80-100-120 THB accordingly. Once I see the middle bowl, I can imagine how heavy the special bowl can be as it's quite fully top with both meat and noodle. She also gives us boiled beef as complimentary dish. The vegetables are all there too like bean sprouts, tomatoes and many more. Even though the soup usually is already very tasty, but if you want to have the authentic Pho, I encourage you to put shrimp pasts as well and I'm sure you will enjoy it even more.
Then, we also stop at Amazon cafe at Pakse. I thought they would use Lao coffee but they use Thai coffee. Anyhow, the taste from Thailand side is a bit more concentrated.
My big thanks to:
- P'Kan of web Khonbaakpae, คนแบกเป้, who plans the trip and takes us to Laos annually
- Ai Klao Adventurer (Nueng), the sacrificer of the team, who love to collect all the information of wherever he goes and I also use some of his information and photos to write my review
- Nam, a cat backpacker, the chef of our group who like to travel with his camera but didn't get to capture much shots as he's more concerned on cooking food for us
- Everyone of my co-trip friends
- Trekking teams at Ban Nong Luang
- You can park your private car at Chong Mek with Khun Tim 0896271233 for 100 THB each day.
- The standard bus (Por 1) of Lotus Phibun tour from Bangkok-Chong Mek is 730 THB.
- The "extra fee" at the Lao government officials once we are in Laos is varied from 20-120 THB.
- The luggage cart service from Thai to Song Taew at Laos is 200 THB each trip.
- The fee for hiring a round trip Song Taew to Ban Nong Luang is 5,000 THB.
- If you have to stay online, it is recommend to change Lao sim card for 100 THB. I use the unitel and let the seller set it up and test first, otherwise, it might not work as we might not understand how to set it.
- The contact number of "Tee Head Village Home Stay" at Ban Nong Luang is 030 4904275 (Chan, the wife of head village) and 020 95446224 (Nong Yai) and the country code for Laos is 856.
- You can exchange Lao money at duty free area, one block after the immigration as there's a bank there. I exchanged at Lao Immigration in the rate of 1 THB=230 LAK.
- For the camera, we should put it in a zip lock and silica gel before putting in a waterproof bag or backpack as the weather is very humid. We also need to have a dry cloth to wipe the lens and small handkerchief for our hands and put them in waterproof bag as we will get wet from the rain and the water spraying from waterfall.
- When we sleep in the cradle, we must be careful about the water. The flysheet must be big enough, about 2x3 is a right size as it can prevent the storm a bit. Sleeping in the tent, we must be careful about the direction of water flowing and check the equipment whether there's any damage in advance. From my personal experiences, the wind and rain is quite strong at Dan Yai so there's a chance that we might sleep in water.
- For the trekking, cleat is the best type shoe for this area.
- It is recommended to bring some snacks along as we might not be able to eat on time.
You can follow our previous trips to Laos as below link:
- Dan Yai- Tad Sue - Tad Kamued https://th.readme.me/p/3088
- Surveying Tad Se Kam Po1 https://th.readme.me/p/2957
- Surveying Tad Se Kam Po 2 https://th.readme.me/p/3029
- Surveying Tad Se Kam Po 3 https://th.readme.me/p/3030
Talk to us or ask for our trips at FB : สตั๊ดดอย ร้อยเรื่องราว ( https://www.facebook.com/Kenstylebackpacker)