“ Unique accommodation option on Bolaven Plateau, Laos. „
Tad Lo Lodge , Bolaven Plateau Laos
ORGANISING OUR STAY
When we organised our trip to Laos we had a number of places we definitely wanted to see and this was on our list as the lodge has three rescued elephants that you can ride and also see them bathing in the river by the falls.
WE contacted Nick from Selective Asia as we had really been impressed with the deal he got us on our Vietnam trip and we told him what we wanted to do, he did some planning and organising so that we could fit in with flights and then he got back to us with details. We were really pleased with the fact that we could stay here. Selective Asia have a choice of hotels but they are limited in this part of Laos and I believe this is the only one they offer in this area.
THE BOLAVEN PLATEAU
The Bolaven Plateau is the main agricultural area for growing tea, coffee and other crops. It is slightly cooler as it is higher in altitude but not so much that we noticed. On the way to the lodge we did stop at tea and coffee plantations and also a few Ethnic minority villages where they grew coffee and other cash crops.
TAD LO LODGE AND OUR VIP SUITE
When we arrived at the lodge our very tiny guide took us into the main building to check in. This building had definitely seen better days and the ancient Labrador dog greeting us was the most welcoming inhabitant of the place. We did get the keys to our room and our guide explained to us that we had been upgraded to the VIP suite which had air conditioning.
She came across with us to show us our room. The setting of this lodge is just beautiful and walking across to our room we crossed over a small bridge, walked across the grass under huge shady trees and passed a couple of grazing cows.
We arrived at our room, went up the wooden steps with a large balcony to our right and also along the front of the rom. I say room but this was like a small wooden house really. We went into the room and it was pretty big with double bed (mosquito net above) and an ensuite bathroom which was also pretty big but I will describe that later.
In the room we also had some shelves for clothes and a coat rack for hanging clothes on. There was a fridge and two complimentary bottles of water. Not only did we have air conditioning but we also had fans on the wall and on a stand too. The floor was polished wood and the walls painted pale with local paintings on them. It reminded me of houses we had lived in when i was a child in Guyana. Large and minimalist although there was a huge TV but very few channels and none in English! The furnishings were all dark solid wood and the bed was pretty hard but lovely fresh white sheets and a towel flower on the bottom two corners which just showed a bit of care had been taken.
The ensuite bathroom was large and had a basic walk in shower with hot water but not fancy at all., on the outer walls it was painted a dark blue. The basin was glass and sitting on top of a polished wood long shelf and there was a mirror above it as well as a small storage shelf. The toilet was again not fancy but did the job although the roll of paper was on the cistern behind rather than on a holder. All this was tiled floor in a muted sort of sage green and walls tiled in white tiles but painted dark blue above head height. All very cleanbut could in no way be described as luxurious.
We were quite happy with our room but we were then shown that we had the room next door too which was identical in size and had another ensuite bathroom but this room had sofas and ciars and a small table. All of these were that sort of mock leather plastic in a dark blue and a blue flowery plastic cloth was on the coffee table. This was obviously where the VIPs entertained their guests as it has a low unit with a kettle and tea and coffee making stuff as well as another fridge and two more complimentary bottles of water.
We had so much room we could have held a party but although we used the room in the evening to read and write on my laptop. I also made my husband use that bathroom for the toilet!! We locked the connecting door at night and had all our luggage with us in the one room for security.
AROUND THE LODGE
The lodge had obviously seen better days as everything was a bit dated and tired but the setting was absolutely beautiful. How many places can you stay where you can watch elephants walk passed your room to go to bed at night and then again to come and have their bath in the morning?
We sat on our veranda with a cup of tea watching the buffalo and cows grazing, the local people enjoying their picnics and the children and some adults splashing around in the shallow falls. It was a lovely relaxing place and we read and drank our tea and just chilled for a while.
Having enjoyed our tea and sit we decide to go for a walk to explore the lodge grounds and the village below as well as see the falls from above and below. These falls are more like a cascade than a high water fall. They cover some distance and the water is shallow most of the way down the falls. Where the main lodge is built is the flattest part of the falls and there are several large rocks where people can sit and watch the falls or climb down and paddle. This is where the elephants walk into the falls and have their bath as well.
We seemed to go a very complicated way to the village below which meant slipping and slithering down through roots of trees. We found the path coming back so it was much easier. \the village had a few restaurants and hostels as well as a couple of shops and some stalls. There were quite a number of houses along the river and a bridge across the river.
We walked over the bridge but health and safety is obviously not a consideration here as there were planks missing and places where things wobbled rather too much for comfort. You had to look very carefully as to where you were walking and we decided a night walk would not be advisable.
By the time we got back to the lodge we noticed that the elephants were heading down to the river for their evening bath. I sat on a flat rock in the river and had a very good view of their bottoms while my husband was on the higher rocks above and got slightly further away view but of their front ends. It was lovely to watch them sling water over themselves and their mahouts also splashing them. They didn't squirt each other nor did they squirt any of the onlookers; they were obviously very well behaved and trained elephants and greatly appreciative of the fact that they had been rescued from their life of work . They walked so carefully and their eyes looked so sad but I was very jealous of their eyelashes!
The elephants do give rides but were not doing so when we stayed which was disappointing but I am not sure they would have gone very far and I have ridden elephants before. I was pleased to see that they were so well cared for and each elephant had his own mahout; one was a young lad who looked about twelve while the other two were adults.
The morning bath was a much lengthier event. They came passed our room at about 6am and went straight to the river. The mahouts were riding them down and once they were in the river the mahouts gave instructions to the elephants were bent their knees and lowered themselves right down into the river. While they were down the mahouts scrubbed them with their plastic shoes. Once they were completely wet and scrubbed the mahouts then gave more instructions and the elephants brought them over to the rocks where the mahouts walked off the elephants and onto the rocks.
After they had enjoyed the river bathing and drinking for some time instructions were again given and they walked out of the river where the mahouts met them and walked up to their day time area. Here they were each given a huge bunch of bananas each and some hay. They stayed in the sahe of the tress during the day until it was once again time for their evening bath. Not a bad life for a retired elephant I suppose.
The meal was included in our stay here as was breakfast so we didn't feel the need to go down into the village to find food. When it gets dark in the tropics it comes quickly and out in places like this it is very dark. There were a few lights around the paths but we did still take our torches.
WE made our way to the main building for our meal and had planned to have a drink or two before hand but it really was not that inviting. We decided to sit straight at the table. The tables were all out on the balcony and had a good view over the falls. By the way Tad Lo means 'Lo' waterfall as 'Tad 'is waterfall in Laos. The tables were laid with cutlery and glasses as well as some condiments in bottles. It was again not set with any great care and I did give the cutlery a wipe with my clean tissue before using them.
My husband ordered a beer Lao which are the safest option I discovered as most other drinks are not quite what you expect. However I thought I would give their cocktails a try as they were pretty cheap and ordered one with Laolao in it. Laoloa is a sort of local whisky they say but in my view more like a local vodka as it is potent and clear with almost no flavour bar alcohol.The menu arrived and we made our selection. The food was okay and pretty typical Laos food so we had no complaints. I always steer clear of meat when I am anywhere where i might get chewy or grisly bits so I chose river fish which was pretty tasty and not too full of bones. I think we had the usual fruit for dessert.
Service was not exactly first class. We did have to allow for the fact that their English was not great and our Laos was nonexistent but even allowing for that service was lackadaisical and a bite slapdash. However the food was okay and we enjoyed our drinks, husband's Beer Lao and my Laoloa sort of Pina Colada type cocktail.
This was a bit like the basic French style breakfasts we 'enjoyed' in places in Madagascar. My husband accepted the offer of cooked eggs but I declined and stuck to the lovely French bread and jam. We did have some fresh fruit, fruit juice and tea as well but it was a pretty humble offering.
WOULD I RECOMMEND?
I would say you don't come to Tad Lo lodge for a luxurious stay but what you do come for is a charming setting and to experience the joys of watching three elephants bathing in the river. The grounds were beautiful and the room very comfortable indeed. We were of course VIPs and I cannot say what the normal lesser folk had in their rooms but I imagine they were not a lot different but didn't have the suite second room. They may also not have had air conditioning but that I am not certain about.
I loved our night here and look back with very fond memories of the place. The food and the service was not much to write home about but I will forget that in time and remember the lovely experience of elephant bathing in the river for the rest of my life.
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