Arrived in Paksé at the more respectable time of 6:30am, where we took a taxi to our hotel not too far from the town. First morning, Alana broke her sandals, so back to the hotel to put on flip flops. Then on a mission to find some scooters.
It's funny because when you first get somewhere, you need an "adjusting" time. Everything seems quite bland until you get to see and do things, get to know the streets and hangouts and sights and meet people. Then everything seems to become such fun and you end up wanting to stay longer!
Motto now is when you get somewhere, don't judge it by the first morning!
Paksé is not a particularly touristy town. It's relatively small but endearing because of those 2 things. There are 2 humongous Buddhas (in different places): one right at the top of a huge hill, overlooking the whole town and the river, and one at the end of a dirt track, leading up to which there was a stone Buddha carving village.
In this temple at the end of the dirt track, is where Alana went straight to pray on her knees in front of the Buddha and everyone else in the temple. One of the monks approached her and tied a mustard coloured bracelet around her wrist while chanting and praying. I could only imagine what he might have said! No one else in the family got one, only Alana.
Life is slow and easy here. The big highlight here is hiring out motorbikes for a few days to do the "Loop" on the Bolaven Plateau. This was one of our favourite places so far. It is where coffee and tea is grown. Very rural, a few houses along the road side. An empty primary school here and there, children waving and shouting sabaidee as we drove past. We decided to do the abridged version but to take our time doing it. We spent 3 nights out there! We had left our big rucksacks at the rental company and just took the bare necessities for a couple of days. A real adventure. Stopped at a village to sleep called Tad Lo which has a few waterfalls around it and elephant rides. There were only 2 elephants and they were left to roam free, in fact when the kids went to go on a ride, one of them had got lost! How do you go about losing an elephant? We stayed in a little bungalow next to a river. Cost only 5€ per night. The houses here are either wooden or bamboo and on stilts. Underneath people work or go to sleep in hammocks. There are pigs and chickens running free everywhere, as well as dogs and cats. No cars on the road, just a few motorbikes and bicycles. Heaven for the kids!
We felt really free here too and could stop off wherever we wanted. It was nice and cool. Bit too cold at night! But welcome after the heat in Paksé. One of the many waterfalls we visited we could swim in and even walk all the way behind it! The water was pretty cold though. We were sorry to give back our motorbikes at the end of the 6 days as we had got quite attached to them strangely enough.
When we returned to the town, we spent 2 nights in a guesthouse on the Sedone River. Apparently this guesthouse is a real hippie hang out. We saw people just sitting outside their bedrooms all day long, drinking, smoking, meeting new people etc... one guy said he had been here for one week already! The longest we have stayed anywhere yet has been 3 nights in one hotel. Anyhow, each to their own I suppose.
Hester got in touch with one of the Egis teams who are working on a large rehabilitation (design and construction supervision) project. One of the components of the project is to rehabilitate the Sedone river bank, right where our guesthouse was!! It was great to meet the team and we were all invited out to dinner that night on the terrace of their hotel. It was fun the kids being there and I think Gerry (Team Leader) and Sam (Solid Waste Management) appreciated it too as it made a change from their usual guests! Alana even proposed her excellent massage services and gave Gerry a shoulder massage while he was tucking into his Pad Thai noodles! So Hester at last met her experts. A great experience.
And it was time to move on again...this time to the 4000 islands, where the Mekong meets Cambodia.