Our final destination was southern Laos, in just a few days we covered the Bolivean plateau, the most famous Khmer temple in Laos and had a nice relaxing stay on one of the 4000 islands close to the Mekong falls. Unfortunately we were delayed so that our visit to the Bolivean plateau was cut quite short. We only visited two of the water falls on the border of the plateau and didn’t really get to see the tense fauna of the plateau itself. Circling the entire plateau takes about 200km. If you consider that we’d taken over 8 hours to cover this distance just a week ago, it is not surprising that we didn’t have time to do this after we arrived at 2pm.
After our short visit to the plateau we stayed a night in Pakxe. From the first impression I got that this town has little to offer and, I must admit, we didn’t really give it a second chance. We stayed in the hotel that night and left early the next morning to visit Wat Phu. I thought I’d seen the last of Pakxe, but I would be very very wrong. Pakxe has the only bridge for about a 100 miles around (yes I made that number up, but there are VERY few bridges over the Mekong), so whenever we needed to switch the side of the river, we had to return Pakxe. This would happen 2-3 times. We first stopped in Wat Phu, a lovely temple currently under reconstruction. There are two buildings, supposedly one for women and one for the men, but nothing definitive is known. From there a lovely, lovely stair case leads up to the older temple at the foot of the mountain where there is a sacred spring and supposedly a crocodile-altar to sacrifice virgins (not so lovely).
From there we returned to Pakxe to cross the river and drive down to the landing place next to the island we’d be staying on. A 30 minute drive with a very authentic boat brought us to the main island where we would stay the night. and watch a very lovely sunset The next morning we could walk down to the Mekong falls. On the way we saw the local railway. Who would have thought that an island barely 3km long would have its own railway system, or at least had had. There are a few informational posters telling you the history behind the railway, which was used to transfer heavy military steam boats over the Mekong falls for the French and was abandoned shortly after the end of the canonicalization era. The falls themselves are not as impressive as one would expect, while the Mekong is a strong and water-rich current it is split into several smaller side arms between the different islands. Of course each of those side arms remains more massive than most rivers I know, it still doesn’t quite compare to the mental image I had made my myself and the falls themselves are more like rapids. It is still very impressive to see the water masses tumble down the rapids, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a water fall.