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I need a freaking nap.

It’s hot. Africa hot. Not quite Sudan in the summer hot, but enough to make a nap during the middle of the day a restless experience. Ever since coming down from the highlands I have been relying solely on the ten hours of sleep I get a night. That is just not quite enough if you are searching for napping Zen.

Once again I was at the crossroads of one of Laos’ great marketing campaigns, the “loop”. Basically they are just circuitous route that can be done in a day or up to a week. This not only promotes a longer stay, but encompasses the additional income for the locales as these loops usually require hiring a moto-driver, renting a scooter or motorcycle, and overnight stays in some of the more remote areas.

The loop that I was doing is named the “Southern swing” which skirted around the Bolaven Plateau. The Bolaven Plateau is basically a run of table top mountains rising from the heated plains of Southern Laos. Being over 1000M high, the climate is cool and ideal for growing coffee and of course taking naps.

The ride itself wasn’t overly spectacular as it was pretty much the same atmosphere as my every day commutes. Had I been bussing it, this would have made for an exceptional experience as getting off the main route and having the flexibility as you drove through some of the more remote villages would have been remarkably refreshing. For me it was a bunch of under 100km days which allowed for some quality down time. As I was traveling camera less, I have very little to offer in the way of photo descriptions. I will throw out a few of my memorable moments of each of the destinations as it will at least help me to remember them.

My first destination was the backpacker heavy location of Tad Lo. The draw for Tad lo is waterfalls. I got a really cool hut which was built in the center of a little moat which had fish that splashed around all night. The waterfalls were multi-tiered with swimming pools formed below each tier and enough water for a strong shower massage. What made them unique is that the water is controlled upstream and just after nightfall the gates are opened and the area receives four times as much water flow and it turns into a major water fall.

The next stop was the Vietnamese crossroad of Sekong. The town itself was pretty uninspiring so I found a more upscale style hotel that was right next to the river and just above a ferry crossing. At first I really clicked with the place as it was quiet, rooms big, and there was a great balcony area overlooking the busy ferry crossing. Things changed when nightfall came and the screeching sounds of the karaoke bar behind the hotel kicked in and it definitely turned into a “I am getting the hell out of here” when after the bar closed all the bar girls and their friends came over to the hotel and partied right outside my door.

Attapeu was a bit out of the way but being the most remote it had the least amount of other loopers. It quickly became my favorite as I got a great deal on an airconditioned room with cable tv, it was another Vietnamese styled town with great food, and the river life was exceptional. In the evening I took a drive along the river and came upon a sort of park area. The place was extremely scenic and it was so much so that I had to join the locals for an evening swim. The area was unique in that grass had grown down along the bank right to the waters edge. I just waded out into the cool waters and watched as the local villagers came down to water their buffaloes, do laundry, bathe, and play. Whole families would come down and have an evening of water frolicking. At sunset the skies turned gold and the water looked like it was crystallized. It was a fantastic place and I ended up staying for a couple of nights.

The final destination, Paksong, was actually the only one of the places on the actual plateau. The best experience was the windy dirt road that climbed through the hillside passing through remote villages, waterfalls, and rivers. It was refreshing as the temperature must have dropped around ten degrees. When I got to the top it actually became cloudy and the temperature felt somewhat cold. It was chilly enough that once I got checked into the hotel I figured it was a good time to test one of the areas specialties, coffee. Supposedly the area produces some of the worlds best coffee beans. Although I have heard that in the Middle East, South America, Africa, etc. I still had to give it a try. I am not a coffee drinker so I really couldn’t tell what is good or not. I am able to gauge how I like the taste by how sugary it is. With a mix of about 4/5 coffee and 1/5 sweetened condensed milk, it was not bad. Perhaps a bit bittery where the sugar didn’t overwhelm it, but enough of a cocoa flavor to make it pretty good tasting.

In regards to the napping, with the exception of Paksong, all the rest were located at the base of the Plateaus which was no altitude different than along the Mekong river. Although most of the places were along the river, the heat during the day was still there and with heat no comfortable nap. On the top however I did have a profound experience. The town itself is pretty much your usual one road wonder so I decided to take a ride to the local market. After walking around a bit the clouds quickly descended and these harsh looking black rain clouds came over. Once the first few drops started descending I knew it was time to take shelter. Just outside the market was an old football pitch with a dilapidated covered wood grandstand. I was one of the first to take shelter under the covering. When the skies opened up, swarms of people headed for the really only shelter available. Usually these evening rains dump and run so most people were content with just waiting it out. It was pretty relaxing just sitting there listening to the rain come down, the cool breeze and the chattering people. It started making me drowsy so I leaned against one of the posts and closed my eyes. It was fine at first but leaning against that hard post was a bit uncomfortable. I turned and lied back on the wooden platform. The next thing I remember I am waking up feeling like I just came out of a coma. I look around and the platform that had about a hundred people was totally empty. The clouds had cleared and the rain had stopped. What a nap. I wonder if I snored.



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