Tad Lo: The Small Village With the Big Waterfalls

 

Tad Lo is a small village located in Salavan province in Laos. It’s a popular stop for those doing a motorbike tour around the Bolaven Plateau. Its call to fame is its namesake waterfalls which seems to drape the whole town in the most stunning way.

Welcome to Tad Lo!

 

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In the distance are the flimsily-built shacks

 

We arrived in Tad Lo hoping to have a relaxing and cozy stay in one of the many bamboo bungalows set along the waterfalls but, here’s the thing, most of them don’t have any basic facilities (hence the ridiculous price of about $5 USD/night): no running water and no electricity except in common areas such as shared bathrooms (insert *grimace* here). They’re just small, flimsily-built shacks with a bed and a mosquito net – seriously, that’s it.

Now I’m in no way a poule de luxe (trophy wife) but the three things I always want/need/expect are a private bathroom (so no dorm hostels for me), cleanliness (taking into consideration different standards around the world) and safety (non-negotiable). The shacks offered one out of three (the one being safety – cleanliness seemed to be optional).

 

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So with my idea of chilling in a shack completely shattered, we searched for another type of accommodation. There were a few hotel/guesthouse type rooms (with water & electricity) but we didn’t think they were worth the price. Other better-equipped and very nice (including complete bathroom) bamboo shacks had no vacancy and the higher-end luxury log cabins were way out of our budget. We realized that everything was more expensive around the waterfalls so we decided to stay in the concrete and character-ridden Chitphanya Guesthouse on the main road. The acceptably clean room (with private bathroom & hot water) was decent and so was the price (about 90,000 kip – I know that sounds expensive but it was only about $10USD/night).

All the accommodations and restaurants (a total of about 4 in the village) are all conveniently located on the same dirt road which leads to the waterfalls. The main road is at the intersection of this hub and is only a 5-minute walk to the waterfalls so we were very happy with the location.

 

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This is the main road where our guesthouse was

 

We had taken a songthaew from Paksong which dropped us off at less than 2 kilometers from the Tad Lo waterfalls. Unless you come across a tuk-tuk (of which there aren’t many) or a friendly motorcyclist willing to take you for a small fee then expect to walk.

 

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We decided to rent a motorbike because we wanted to visit a few surrounding villages and nearby towns. At the time we were in Tad Lo, there was only one place to rent motorbikes so I suggest reserving one as soon as you arrive. If you plan on just hanging around (or doing yoga or reading or doing some blissful farniente) by the waterfalls then you don’t need a motorbike because, as mentioned previously, the village only consists of one dirt road.

If ever you go to Tad Lo, it’s best to arrive before noon especially if you’re on a budget (or picky) as accommodation can fill up quickly. Those arriving later didn’t have as much choice and ended up paying way more than they wanted to or staying in a less-than-desirable room.

There aren’t any convenience stores in Tad Lo village but there are one or two in the main town (where the songthaew or bus will drop you off). There’s also a local market where you can buy some fruits or to just wander around to take in the local atmosphere (because markets are the best place to do exactly that).

 

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Of course the waterfalls are the main attraction and rightly so. Many villagers live around the waterfalls which serve as a sort of lifeline for bathing, washing clothes and cooking. But the villagers aren’t the only ones enjoying the waterfalls. At the end of the day just before sunset you can watch some elephants taking their bath or rather being washed. At first I thought this sounded absolutely adorable and I really wanted to see the elephants take their daily bath but then my heart broke when we encountered one of them chained to a pole weirdly swinging its trunk. It seemed so sad. I could barely look at this poor elephant (and I wanted to tell others to stop taking pictures of it!). That’s when I realized these were captured elephants used to carry tourists who want to indulge themselves just for the sake of entertainment (and possibly bragging rights). My desire to see the elephants bathe quickly deflated and I actually avoided going to the waterfalls at that time.

I don’t mean to preach but please don’t ride elephants. It’s inhumane, unnatural and can potentially cause them a lot of pain and harm. So there – you won’t be seeing any pictures of captured elephants here. I digress.

But here are the stunning multi-tiered Tad Lo waterfalls.

 

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A few foot bridges like these (above and below) were built to cross over the waterfalls making for a wonderful walk taking you all the way to the other side of Tad Lo village (where we saw the chained elephant).

 

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Tad Lo village only consists of a few bamboo houses (complete with satellites no less) and a small Buddhist temple but it’s a nice place to spend a few days in to relax and re-energize. Unfortunately, it was unusually cold (scarf & jacket kind of cold) when we were there in February so we couldn’t enjoy the waterfalls as much as we would’ve liked. But Tad Lo seems to have a hold on some of its visitors. We met an older man who has been going to Tad Lo for years for months at a time.

I understood why. After all, a small village with big waterfalls is quite appealing.

 

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Related posts

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What do you think – is this a place you would like to stay? Or have you been to Tad Lo? 

 

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  • Sandy & Vyjay

    The waterfalls at Tad Lo look quite appealing but I am really touched by your concern for Elephants! It seems to be a nice place to visit with all your guiding on how to find a better accommodation there.

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      It broke my heart when I saw the elephant tied up….. 🙁

  • Fairytale Studios

    The waterfall looks really amazing. Laos has always been in my bucket list.Thanks for sharing.

  • Julie

    The waterfall pictures look so nice,but just like you, I am saddened at how the elephants were treated there. It is really brutal and I dont think I can look at it either. Just a quick question, you mentioned the process of getting a decent accommodation there. Is that possible to make a reservation in advance?

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      Hi Julie! We hadn’t looked online because the WiFi at our previous guesthouse wasn’t very good but I’m sure some of them are available online.

  • Gorgeous waterfalls in a gorgeous setting! Visiting Laos has always been one of our dreams and if everything goes well, we should be there next year.I would love to stay in one of those houses. We totally agree with everything you said about riding elephants being unnatural and inhumane.Love that you included your thoughts on this in your article and I hope it makes people think twice before riding one.

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      Laos has a lot of beautiful natural settings – hope you go soon! 🙂

  • Oi Meira

    Such village also exists in my country. Sometimes we just need to accept what the village offer. I am happy that finally you enjoyed the trip. And you were right the waterfalls are sooooo beautiful. I’ve found the peace only by watching the beauty through your pictures. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • stephaniestraveldiary

    Wonderful photo’s. Laos is a beautiful country.
    x

  • Natalie Tanner

    What a stunning place! I love your description of what you consider important. Cleanliness optional. Lol!! Cracks me up. But when in Rome … right?

  • Abby Castro

    What an interesting village. Those waterfalls are amazing too!

    Abigail of GlobalGirlTravels.com

  • Kathy James

    I haven’t been to Laos yet but I am planning to in the next year. Tad Lo sounds like a lovely place. I love your photo of the Smiling Taxi bike! It really pt a smile on my face. The waterfall looks beautiful too. Thanks for sharing.

  • Promise Chika Maxwell

    Wow, I love the waterfalls, looks beautiful. Bamboo houses, Buddhist temple, waterfalls in an underpopulated place like Tab Lo is just called for anytime, no wonder the tourist you met just keep coming back. I wouldn’t mind trying the shack house out though for a day just for the fun of it. Thanks for the post, was informative.

  • Allison Green

    Wow this looks so beautiful! Really gorgeous waterfalls, they must be so fun to splash around in in that hot SE Asia heat! Thanks for your PSA on riding elephants. It’s important that everyone know how inhumane it is! I had no idea until I did some research leading up to my trip last year.

  • I only set foot on Vientianne, Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng on my trips there. The waterfalls in this tiny village is quite appealing – true! How far is it from any of those 3 cities/towns I’ve mentioned? 🙂 And is it worth it? 🙂

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      Tad Lo is quite far from all those places and as you know travel in Laos can take a long time. The closest city is Pakse which is about 2 hours from Tad Lo.

  • Footloose Dev

    Lovely pictures Lydia. I always wanted to visit Lao, but havent done so yet. I can clearly see in your story how beautiful and strong Laos is as a nation. The waterfalls in your pictures are no less mesmerizing!

  • MelBTravel

    You had me at Waterfalls 🙂 I was in Vietnam last year and I really wanted to head over to Laos but I just ran out of time. Such a shame that as it looks beautiful. I love those bamboo houses and the Buddhist children riding the bikes, what a great capture. How cheap is $5 for a night but like you there are some things I do need when traveling and staying somewhere. Lovely post

  • Raghav

    Tad Lo looks so quaint and rural and from reading your post considering the living arrangements it comes close to being as authentic an experience as possible. I agree with you about the 3 main necessities when deciding on a place to stay and cleanliness and safety is quite high for me too. The Smiling Taxi looks brilliant and hope they are safe too? Ä small village with a big waterfall” such a lovely way to advertise a place right.

  • That waterfall is lovely. And you’re not preaching. I don’t think people realize what it takes to be able to ride an elephant. More people need to point out how harmful it is.

  • Hendrik Hünecke

    I heard a lot already about Laos and must admit that your post & pictures look very promising too!
    Reminds me a lot to many regions in Thailand. I simply love the peaceful atmosphere there, the people there are rich in a “unmaterial way” which is just great.The waterfalls look pretty impressing, I can see you had a great time there. thank you for sharing 🙂