I'd like to actually walk from village to village on the Bolaven Plateau and stay in villages overnight - has anyone done this, with or without a guide?
Travelfish says there are 273 tribal villages in Sekong - does anyone know if there's an area with small villages clustered 5-10 miles apart, and what it would be like to try to buy food or a homestay in them without a guide?
If I need a local guide, does anyone have a recommendation?
#1 jesseroth has been a member since 25/11/2007. Posts: 10
It's a great idea, but neither Sekong nor anywhere on the Bolaven Plateua is at all geared to travellers wanting to do something like this independently.
If you mean a trek style trip with overnight stops in villages like the kind of thing people can easily do in northern Thailand, then it's going to be quite a bit more challenging in this area.
I'd suggest contacting some of the guesthouses in the area and seeing what kind of response you get -- Kingfisher Ecoodge in Baan Khiet Ngong springs to mind as a good spot to bounce your questions off.
There's a number of challenges you'll face, mainly that you may not be allowed to stay in many villages by the authorities, so you'd definitely need a guide to smooth things over. Food also will be an issue, as most villages will have little in the way of shops, so you'd be buying direct off the villagers.
Less of an issue, but still an issue, is that landmines remain an issue in some of the wilder parts of southern Laos -- so again this reinforces the need for a guide.
Generally speaking, Sekong and Salavan get very, very few independent travellers, so you're best to set it up in a more popular spot - eg Tad Lo, Pakse, or, at a stretch Attapeu.
Another idea, would be to go down to Chamapasak and across to Don Deng - it is possible to do a homestay there, and perhaps from there you'd be able to organise something further into the hinterland.
Hope that helps -- and please report back on how you go -- it would be a very interesting trip.
#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,788
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thank you so much. of course, the difficulty just makes me that much keener to do it. I will definitely let you know how it goes.
#3 jesseroth has been a member since 25/11/2007. Posts: 10
Do you speak Laos? Because if you don't speak Laos, you now have a bridge too far to cross. In the villages of Issan, where I live, English won't cut it. You need someone to translate for you until you can learn the basics. So I would assume that situation is exagerated in rural Laos.
As Somtam states, you should make sure you have permission from the local authorities, because Laos is still a single party communist state, and while it is relatively open, it has it's limits. Running afoul of local authorities in the middle of nowhere would definitely suck a lot.
I think this would be considerably more realistic in Thailand, as you could always find a place to stay ("resorts" are everywhere) and shops to buy food in. It would still be challenging enough.
the original post was in 2007, so i imagine if the OP was going to do it, he'd have done so by now. i suspect it might be a bit easier for the more recent poster going now than it would have been in 2007, but still a challenge. also, the language barrier will be real, but perhaps not impossible. you can use something as simple as a guide book with a language section in the back and point to the words you need (hotel, restaurant, etc. - if there are any), or maps, to help get directions (although map reading skills aren't universal in that part of the world). beer lao is the same in both languages, so at least you are covered there...
It is possible to learn a bit of the Lao language before you go, if you're interested. I spent some learning the basics before I left and posted some links previously in the language section of this forum. I also got a pretty good Lao language book out of the library that came with a CD that I found useful - again, I mentioned the book in the language section somewhere.
I certainly wasn't fluent (far from it!) but just being able to throw a few words around did make a difference at times.
Having made my post above, I do have to disagree a little bit with MM on the NEED to know the language. It's possible to get by around the Plateau (and elsewhere) without it. I came to grief in the middle of nowhere on a motorbike last year. First I needed directions, then later needed to get some repairs done on the motorbike. I was able to convey to the friendly old man the problem with my bike, he managed to convey a cost to repair it and toodled off to get parts for me while I amused the other family members. Bike was fixed (for a measly $3), man was paid - and we all had left with lots of smiles. Yes, it would be been easier/better if I could have actually conversed (I didn't think to learn the words for 'broken motorbike') but we all survived quite happily.
Language helps, but it's not the be all and end all of a successful journey. Attitude is far more important!
"beer lao is the same in both languages, so at least you are covered there..."
This is, of course, a very valid point.
"Language helps, but it's not the be all and end all of a successful journey. Attitude is far more important!"
I guess it would depend on your definition of "Success". I am sure you could get from point A to point B and perhaps find places to sleep that didn't consist of a matt outdoors. You could find food of some type. But given that Issan village food is horrible, I don't want to imagine what Laos village food is like. This problem would made worse by the fact that you can't tell anyone what you would like to have - assuming the villages had "restaraunts" of some sort at all. Furthermore, you wouldn't be able to communicate with anyone, so you wouldn't be able to entertain any sort of diolog, which would be what might make it ostensibly interesting. So could I survive and get out OK? Probably. Would it be a good time? I seriously doubt it.
As Exacto said, this is an old post (good observation). I would love to know if the OP did it and how it turned out.