The first four days of our motorbike tour through Laos were smooth riding. No bad weather, no flat tires, no getting lost. Our biggest difficulty was finding somewhere to eat along the way, which wasn’t a problem we had anticipated thanks to the abundance of roadside food stalls. Apparently, however, most of the ones in southern Laos aren’t used to serving white people. We knew there would be a language barrier, but we figured that a little sign language would get us by. Nope. No matter how much we pointed to pots of noodle soup or made eating gestures, on more occasions that not we got blank stares or giggles in response. But eventually we’d find someone who would ladle us up a bowl, and all would be well again.
Unfortunately, part two of the trip, a planned two-day circuit around the Bolaven Plateau was not all sunshine and blue skies…literally. Things actually began to darken at the end of day four as we made our way back to Pakse to overnight before continuing on. A light intermittent drizzle turned into driving rain when we were about 8 km from the hotel. The rain was hard and it stung as we drove carefully and not nearly as quickly as we would have liked. For the rest of the night it would rain in one form or another.
But when we awoke in the morning, there was no precipitation. The skies, however, were grey without even a hint of blue. It wasn’t exactly promising, but we had plans to drive halfway around the loop to see waterfalls and tea and coffee plantations, stopping for the night at a waterfall lodge where we’d celebrate our anniversary. So off we went. For the first 35 kilometers, up until we stopped at the first of the loop’s waterfalls, the heavy clouds hung onto their rain. But then they opened.
And boy did the rain come down. It was enough to make any sane person throw in the towel. We should have just turned the bike back toward Pakse, found a nice hotel in town, and made the best of it. But we’re not sane, or at least we don’t learn our lesson very well. Despite rainy, messy days never turning out well, we still maintain some odd belief that it can’t really be that bad, that just maybe there’s a blue sky just around the corner.
Thus when the rain broke we hopped back on the bike and continued toward kilometer 89, the location of the Tad Lo waterfall. Unfortunately the break was no longer than a TV-timeout. So swathed in ponchos we pushed on. At least there was a lodge in our future.
What’s that they say though? Something about when it rains, it pours? I think they’re on to something. Wet and tired we pulled up at the lodge ready for a hot shower, a hot lunch, and a room with a nice view. On first sight, it looked like we might be in luck. The grounds of the lodge were lovely, though I have to say the waterfall didn’t knock my socks off. Rainy season = muddy season, and the waterfall was just a spewing mess to me. The guidebook had said that you could swim in it; it seemed to me that the best you could do was drown in it. Yet that wasn’t a dealbreaker. What was, however, was the fact that every single room in the resort had twin beds. It boggled my mind, but there was not even one double bed in the entire place. Who builds a lodge with only twin beds?
Anyhow, a double bed wasn’t about to fall from the sky, so we went in look of another accomodation option. Our choices were not great, mainly dingy backpacker digs that looked like they might be washed away if the rains kept up. We found an inbetweener though that wasn’t quite what we had in mind but would do. And so we settled in. There was nothing to do but watch it rain…and rain…and rain. We did manage to sneak out once to go back to the lodge to at least enjoy a decent dinner (the food was good, the service horrible).
In the end it wasn’t the anniversary we imagined, but it was certainly memorable. The next day didn’t prove any better, so instead of completing the loop (a task we deemed impossible after seeing the connector road, which was a mud pit), we just turned the bike around and drove the 89 km back to Pakse as quickly as was safely possible. The Bolaven Plateau, supposedly a beautiful place, might just be best left to the dry season. No matter what you might think, riding a motorbike in driving rain is really not that fun.