On the Bolaven Plateau, savor a Lao coffee paradise

Largely populated by the Laven tribe, who are thought to number about 30,000, the Bolaven Plateau is dotted with numerous small villages. Traditional houses are suspended on stilts and built with bamboo walls and roofs made from dried grass or leaves, although more modern ones may have tin roofs.
Daniel Allen Photography
(CNN) — From Colombia to Kenya, many of the world's coffee-growing regions are amongst the most idyllic places on Earth.
A bucolic tableland in southern Laos, the Bolaven Plateau is no exception.
It sits on the bottom of a crater from a giant, extinct volcano in the northeast of Champasak Province in southwestern Laos.
Close to the Thai, Cambodian and Vietnamese borders, with an altitude of 1,000 to 1,300 meters, the area has a relatively cool climate and high rainfall.
The plateau is also the source of several major rivers and home to some incredibly scenic waterfalls.
It's earned a burgeoning reputation not only for the quality of the coffee beans the area produces, but also for its stunning scenery and vibrant ethnic cultures -- making the plateau one of the best road trip destinations in Southeast Asia.
Endowed with a temperate climate, regular rainfall and high soil fertility, the Bolaven Plateau is a coffee grower's utopia.
The French, looking for a way to make this corner of their empire profitable, first introduced coffee here from Vietnam in the early 20th century.
Today, despite the ravages of war and economic deprivation throughout Laos, the Bolaven landscape is still covered with plantations.
Even those who have no interest in coffee will revel in the plateau's verdant jungles, plunging waterfalls and pristine mountain backdrops.

When to go

There's no right or wrong time to visit the Bolaven Plateau.
The local waterfalls are more spectacular between July and October, which is the rainy season, whereas those visiting between October and February can observe and even participate in the local coffee harvest.
One of the best ways to get around is to rent a bicycle, scooter or motorbike in Pakse, follow a two or three-day circular itinerary, and spend the nights in local guesthouses or hotels.