My hand were shaking with fear and excitement. I was actually going to do it. It may not seem so scary or difficult but to me, who had never driven a scooter in my life, riding around for two days in Laos felt like one of the biggest adventures of my life. This is how it all started; me, my blue/red/white automatic Scoopy (so French isn’t it?) and my pink helmet were about to hit the road and chase the waterfalls.
After a small ride around the area to get the gist, we left Pakse at around 9.30am and drove anti-clockwise to Tad Lo where we spent the night. The first day was rather chilled as there were very few viewpoints. Only endless roads made for your mind to relax and wander off from time to time. We stopped at Tad Passam to check out the first waterfall of the trip and visited a local village.
After another few hours driving, and in strong need of coffee, we stopped at the now famous and self-titled organic coffee plantation and textile factory Mr. Vieng in Katu Textile Village. The owner and his family received us with a large smile, a delicious cup of coffee and a perfect English. After treating us to some homegrown roasted peanuts, Mr Vieng narrated the story of his four years old organic plantation and the difficulties of doing such business. Because he doesn’t use chemicals in his fields, he cannot grow as much coffee as other places which makes it difficult to export his harvest. With his legendary and welcoming smile, he didn’t forget to warn us about the uncertain future of his organic plantation because as he said : “if people coming, no chemicals. If not, chemicals”. Now you are warned as well so don’t forget to drop by if you have the chance.
We arrived in Tad Lo village at around 4pm and discovered the loveliest French guesthouse where they were serving French liquors and cheeses. Talk about a dream coming true. Tipsy as we were, we lost track of time and forgot to go to the local waterfall to watch the sunset. “Next time”, we kept saying.
We left for our second and last day on the Pakse loop at around 10am – I actually would recommend to leave an hour earlier – and stopped in Tad Sound for one of the largest and less touristy waterfalls. A bunch of kids acted as our guides and led the way through the bush and the mud.
Once arrived in Paksong for lunch time, a torrential rain decided to settle right on top of our heads. Unfortunately for us, the rain left fog behind and we weren’t able to have a real view of Tad Fan, which was meant to be one of the most impressive waterfall of the loop. However, the spooky ambiance enabled us to experience this viewpoint from a totally different perspective. The sound of the water crashing down the bottom felt a lot more powerful and mysterious in a way.
To finish, we visited the majestic Tad Yuang and watched some people get really wet in the little hut and down the bottom of the path.
By the end of the two days, I couldn’t even remember the feeling of being scared to ride. I felt free, like I could do anything. While I was on my bike, I noticed the similarities between driving and meditating in the soothing effects they have for the mind. Meditation is a focusing exercise for the mind. It’s about letting go of any attachements and focusing on the present moment. When the mind wanders off, we must bring our attention back to the breath and the instant. Without even trying to do so while I was riding, my focus was naturally driven to one specific thing: the road. If my mind was starting to get agitated with thoughts, my attention would automatically go back to the road. Is there such a thing as ‘passive meditation’? If so, this is definitely what it was to me.