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