Jun 27 2013

Tad Lo: A backpacker haven in Laos

Published by at 11:00 pm under Southern Laos


When you think of Laos and its typical backpacker destinations, you often think about such places as Vang Vieng and Don Dhet for partying or Muang Ngoi and Nong Kiaow for relaxing. But it’s a lesser known town in the southern reaches of Laos that we think is currently one of the better backpacker destinations in the country. Welcome to Tad Lo.

Tad Lo - the perfect place to relax in a hammock.

The perfect place to relax in a hammock.

Tad Lo is the name given to the area where a small village is located a few hours bus ride from Pakse on the road to Salavan. It’s a quaint town set on the banks of a river home to numerous waterfalls for which the area is famous. Budget travellers usually come here for a few days hanging out in their bamboo shack, swimming in the river and hiking around the nearby countryside.

What we particularly like about it is that much of the trashiness that you experience in places such as Vang Vieng and Don Dhet just doesn’t exist here, with the crowd being older and less concerned with how many $1 Beerlao’s they can down in a day. Still, the vibe in Tad Lo is sociable and many people do get together at night in restaurants to share stories over a cold beer while they wait the obligatory two hours for their meal to arrive.

A sign pointing out the key features of the Tad Lo area.

Get out of that hammock!

The closest waterfall to town is called Tad Hang. It’s the one that can be seen from the bridge in town and is the most popular swimming spot despite signs advising people not to swim there. It’s a scenic spot only a short walk from where you’ll likely be staying, but care must be taken when the water is flowing fast that you don’t get swept over the edge. The best place to enter the water is reached by crossing the bridge and following the road around the back of the hill where it reaches the bungalows which can be seen from the bridge. At the bungalows you can place your belongings on the side of the river and simply slide into the water.

Tad Hang is the waterfall most people will become familiar with during they stay in the area.

Tad Hang is the waterfall most people will become familiar with during they stay in the area.

Further along the road from the bungalows you come to a car park of sorts and a trail leading through the scrub and along the river bank. Depending on the height of the river, it’s a five-minute scramble across the rocks to the pool at the bottom of Tad Lo — the waterfall after which this area is named. Even in the dry season Tad Lo is incredibly powerful, making the water in the pool swirl around a little bit like a washing machine. It is incredibly refreshing, however, to get into the water and paddle around as the current drags you this way and that before finally giving in and swimming back to a safe spot on the bank of the pool.

Tad Lo is so powerful that it can feel like a washing machine in the pool below.

Tad Lo is so powerful that it can feel like a washing machine in the pool below.

The third notable waterfall in this area is Tad Suong (otherwise known as Tad Soung). It’s by far the tallest in the immediate area and sightseeing rather than swimming is the primary reason for making the 10-click hike from Tad Lo. During the wet season, this waterfall booms over a massive cliff into the valley below but in the dry season it can be reduced to little more than a trickle. But in any season, the views from the top of the waterfall are magnificent. To get to the top, you can walk from your accommodation in Tad Lo, but it’s a long haul. Alternatively, you can ride a bicycle or motorbike to the carpark at the top of the falls, from where it’s a five-minute walk to the vantage points.

The view from the top of Tad Suong is worth hiking for.

The view from the top of Tad Suong is worth hiking for.

Tad Lo really is one of those places that surprises — stunning waterfalls, a chilled out vibe and some cheap and cheerful accommodation. The big question of course is whether it’s always going to be this good …

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