Leg 12 – Doing the “Southern Swing” on the Bolaven Plateau

Starting in Pakse (Pakxe) I spent 4 days doing the “Southern Swing”. Pakse – Tat Lo, Tat Lo – Sekong, Sekong – Paksong and Paksong – Champasak (or back to Pakse). I did the trip in April 2010.

You will see some of the finest waterfalls in Laos, coffee plants and you will go through thick forest.

Pakse – Tat Lo, 93km


Phou Sawan waterfall is quite nice, but not as big as Tat Lo. It is possible to feed an elephant (you have to buy the feed). There were plenty of local visitors. It is an easy 2 km of the highway. There is a nice restaurant.

Tat Lo is fun! You can go swimming in the waterfall with the locals. I enjoyed myself immensely! There are some guesthouses at Tat Lo. I stayed at the one on the waterfall and it was a reasonable 50.000Kip for a bungalow with attached hot shower.

There is slow and expensive internet at a guesthouse at the waterfall.

As a side note: It seems that there is not much water in Tat Lo before noon (the river is dammed).

Tat Lo – Sekong, 75km


Thateng, 25km from Tat Lo, has at least 2 guesthouses and a big market. I don’t think there is anything to see in Thateng, but it is possible to stay there.

There is not much to see on this stretch, and Sekong is not an interesting town. The market in town is quite big and you can buy some quite interesting wildlife for dinner.

I stayed at Sackda Guesthouse (clean, nice and 50.000kip for a double with attached shower); it is positioned about 300m north of the market opposite the UXO office. There are plenty other guesthouses.

Sekong – Paksong, 102km


This is not for the faint of heart! You will have to climb to 1300m (from 100m) on a gravel road. It is hard riding!

You will pass trough deep jungle and see some nice waterfalls. You will arrive at the plateau and se lots of coffee plants.

Take the nice paved road from Sekong towards Attapeu and turn right in the town of Ban Bengkhua Kham. The new road is unpaved from the start. Reset your computer (or similar). After about 16km you will come to the first waterfall, look for it on your right. Another way of finding it is to look for 3 bridges close together; the first waterfall is about 4km after the last bridge.

Important: after Ban Bengkhua Kham you will not be able to buy water for at least 25km (25km up a mountain on a dirt road, that is) I could not buy water for 40km, but it might have something to do with the Laos New Year (I did the trip during this time). Bring plenty of water!

The first waterfall is nice but far away and not really that interesting. After the first waterfall, continue for about 1.3km. There should be a road/large path going left, take this path for about 50m and you will see Nam Tok Katamtok (there was a tiny sign saying “Sekatam Waterfall” when I visited).

There are a couple of well marked waterfalls more, but I did not go.

The map says that the road is paved 15 km from Paksong. It probably is, but it is best to keep to the dirt at the side of the road; that is how bad the road is!

Paksong has a few guesthouses and restaurants. There was at least one high class hotel. I stayed at a reasonable place on the left side of the road when entering the town (60.000Kip – attached hot shower). Just remember to check the room before accepting. My room was not clean (the linen was not washed); demand new lined!

It gets cold in the night in Paksong 🙂

Paksong – Champasac, 78km


From Paksong it is 1300m downhill on a nice paved road. You just have to get the bike started and let gravity do its thing.

When entering Ban Lak 38 you can will see a sign for Tat Fan (one of the biggest waterfalls in Laos) on your left. You should definitely go! Its 5000kip and only 1km each way. You can’t swim at Tat Fan, but there is a waterfall before (east of) Tat Fan where swimming is possible (Tat Young?). There is accommodation at Tat Fan but it is very expensive (30US$ for the cheapest). Check the price before you go (‘Tad Fane Resort’).

When you hit the junction hw13/hw23 you can either go south to The 4000 Islands, north to Savannakhet/Vientiane or vest to Pakse. I wanted to see the Wat Phu Champasak and went south. About 25 km south of the junction there is a paved road going right; there is a sign to the Wat Phu Champasak.  After 5km on this road you will reach the Mekong River. Here you can cross the river with your bike for 10.000kip (person+bike) (I had no hassles any of the ways) I would suggest not arriving to late (at least not after sunset), I don’t know when the long tail boat drivers close up for the night.

On the other side of the river, go left for about 2 km and you are in Champasak. There are plenty of guesthouses and restaurants in this city and even Internet is available. Electricity is available 24/7 but was gone for 12 hours when I was there.

Wat Phu Champasak is 10km south of Champasak. Wat Phu Champasak looks a lot like the temples at Angkor but was erected a long time before the ones at Angkor.

The entrance fee is 40.000Kip.

1 comment to Leg 12 – Doing the “Southern Swing” on the Bolaven Plateau

  • khlim

    Hi John

    I am planning to cycle the Bolaven loop anticlockvise of the loop you did in Dec2018. Starting from Ubon Ratchathani Thailand.

    I tried to search the route from Paksong to Ban Bengkhua Kham, it seem google map coudn’t map this route for me.

    Need to know is it passable?


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