Tad Lo waterfall is one of Laos’ finest

Welcoming Visit Laos-China Year 2019, Vientiane Times is publishing a series of feature articles and images promoting the two countries’ collaboration in tourism and hoping to inspire more people, especially from China, to experience the nature, culture, history and hospitality of Laos, the jewel of the Mekong.

There is little wonder that Ban Saenvang, colloquially known as Tad Lo in Saravan province, is fast earning the reputation as Laos’ jewel of the south considering the majesty of its three waterfalls, the beauty of its natural landscape, and proximity to colourful ethnic groups.
I had the chance to stay at Tad Lo Lodge with other media personnel recently as part of a promotional tour organised by the Tourism Marketing Department of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.   
The lodge is just a 10-minute drive on a good road from the provincial capital.  While I went there by minibus, it’s also possible to take public transport, drive your own car or ride on a motorbike.

A view from above the waterfall.

As you travel through the province, you can often see the area’s popular coconuts on sale.  By the time we got to Ban Naxay, the temptation was too much. We stopped at a random stall that was set up in front of a house. A couple of thousand kip later and let me tell you this coconut was the sweetest I’ve ever had.
Everyone slurped away happily as we hit the road onward to Tad Lo. 
Tad Lo Lodge sits right on the river offering clean and comfortable rooms in quiet garden grounds. Parking is ample and secure and a bonus was that there was no entrance fee to the waterfall that day.
Tad Lo waterfall is a powerful cascade that is located about one kilometre downstream from the gentler Tad Hang and about 8 kilometres from Tad Soung which has a drop of over 90 metres.
There is plenty to entertain visitors. Elephants bathe in the river daily and trekking tours allow people to ride through the woods from a comfortable position on top of one of the well trained animals. Some locals sell bananas, sugarcane and bamboo leaves to people who want to feed the elephants and this is an opportunity to see an elephant up close and personal.
You often see ethnic people selling their (usually) organically grown fruit and vegetables on the roads in Saravan. This homegrown produce is often better than anything you can find in the big markets and is cheaper too if you bargain well. Buying their produce can also help entire villages who rely on income from tourism to avoid poverty.
The woods and gardens around Tad Lo Lodge are colourful and relaxing. Insects and wildlife flittered across the blossoming landscape while I spent some lazy time lounging in the grounds. 
The lodge, being a community-based tourism project, is committed to the preservation of biodiversity and sustainable development practices.
A few boys swimming and snorkeling in the natural pool at the bottom of the waterfall captivate me for a while.  They jump, swim and play in and around the pool like it is their own backyard, and in a way I imagine it is. A few other boys sit nearby warming themselves by a fire as they roast some sweet potatoes.  If only life could always be so simple, I think to myself.
One of the boys told me a little later that they gather together at the lodge not just for fun but as a matter of survival.  It is then that I realise that the boys weren’t simply playing as I watched them, they were trying to catch fish for their dinner.
Watching locals, sightseeing in the green forests, swimming in the clear waters of the Tad Lo River and checking out some great sights in incredibly fresh air means Tad Lo really does have something for everyone.
For many, it is enough to sit in a roof top restaurant with a beer or coffee and idle away the hours watching the river.  For those who want more action, there are boundless opportunities in the area for camping, trekking and climbing.
Tad Lo Lodge has standard and deluxe rooms for big families or VIP customers, General Manager Mr Khamhane Vilaysouk said in a statement to media. 
Mr Khamhane pointed out that the lodge employs local people only for its day-to-day running.  He said the business is very conscious that the community should benefit from the beauty of its surroundings and the tourism that it draws.
My trip to Tad Lo was fascinating and I was sorry to have to return home.  I will go back, but next time I will allow more time to get to know the people and the places round about a little better. 

By Phouthong Sivongsa
(Latest Update March 4, 2018)

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