Greetings my blog family!!
This week’s post is being published with a delay and consist much less exciting stories, simply for one reason – I got food/bacteria poisoning and it knocked me down for 4th day now. I won’t go into the vivid descriptions of my frequent toilet visits and vomiting, but let’s just say Laos is not the same “secure” as Vietnam was. I am getting better after buying some local antibiotics and I hope in few days i can rock n roll once again, before Maja changes me for a younger and more resistant person :).
Last week, the road took us approx 1000 km, from Sapa across the border to Laos and our first stop Luang Phabank (A – should be 22 h drive but it end up being 36 h), than to Vang Vieng (B – 7 h bus drive) and to our last stop Vientiane ( C – 4 bus drive), the capital of Laos.
In last week’s post I mentioned that we finished our INTO THE WILD adventure in Vietnam and started the Laos one. We crossed the border with Laos on Sunday 27th of April after taking a bus from Sapa.
We were supposed to arrive to a small town of Dien Bien Phu, where we would change the bus and go further, around 5-6 in the morning. Since the bus was stopping all the time, picking up new people, driver having cigarets breaks… we arrived to this small town at 8 in the morning, 30 min after we were supposed to catch the next bus. After arguing with the driver and discovering that there is no further bus for the next 24 h, we at least manage to get our money back. But what to do next? We got stuck in the middle of nowhere with 2 Argentinians (Emilio and Franco), a French guy (Jean Baptiste – JB) and a happy Finish girl Johanna. We didn’t want to get stuck in this God forsaken city so decided to improvise…
We hired a taxi driver to get us to the Laos border where we wanted to take the next bus to Luang Phabank. After getting our visas we declined the bus driver to go with him, because we thought it was to expensive and decided to wait for the next one. Well eventually at 11 one bus did come but just at the time that all custom workers decided to go on a break – it turned out that the break lasted 2 h (and I was thinking that Spanish are the masters of siesta 🙂 ). At these point I have to mention as well how corrupted they are. At one point, they just came to us saying that they need to measure our body temperature and that it cost 1 $ and that a stamp to our already existing visa costs another 2 $ – clear case of corruption. But what can you do in this case in the middle of nowhere – try to argue and you will see what happens :).
The officers finally came at 13 h back from their nap so we could continue our journey. Nice drive through beautiful landscape of Laos on which we got to know better our 4 other travel companions who are great persons as we discovered. But still our journey didn’t finish at this point. We arrived to another small town at 7 at night and discovered that the bus for Luang Parabang is next morning. No No No we want to go further we decided!!!! We agreed with one taxi driver to take us to Luang Parabang after we have the diner. When we came back from diner to go with him – no sign of him anywhere… damn – so what now!?!?!?
Sitting for a while, teaching local boy some english we noticed one bus stopping and thank God our new english student managed to ask them if they were going to Luang Phabank. YESSSSS it did!!!! So after another 6 h and in total of 36 h of buses we finally arrived to Luang Parabang at 5 in the morning. Than another shock. The hotel are closed from 12 at night until 6 h in the morning!!! So after another 1 h of half sleeping on the street in front of our hotel we finally managed to enter. At this point we were thinking, this city better be worth of all this troubles of getting there or to hell with it. Well it turned out it was 🙂
Luang Prabang is an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its unique, remarkably well-preserved town scape illustrates a key stage in the blending of these two distinct cultural traditions.
We stayed in this lovely town for 4 days and have to say that we enjoyed it a great deal with our 4 new friends. The town itself has a lot to offer. From beautiful walk along the Mekong river, numerous Buddha temples, monks wandering all around, night market, beautiful mountain surroundings, waterfalls…
There are two things I would pointed out about this town;
Night Market – Every evening a kilometre-long stretch of road is closed to vehicle traffic and turned into a walking and shopping street while the market takes place. More than 300 handicraft vendors sell their hand-made products here every night. The market showcases an extensive variety of handicrafts made by local ethnic groups. On display are many types of textiles, exquisite ceramics, antiques, paintings, coffee and tea, quilts, shoes, silver, bags, bamboo lamps of different shades and sizes, and even rare spices. Food and drinks are also available. If you want to taste local food, there is a large variety of Lao food ranging from BBQ chicken and sticky rice to a well stocked vegetarian buffet for you to choose from. We went several times for buffet and for just and 1 eur you get an empty plate that you fill up as much as you can – I definitely recommend it since Laos meat is said to be not the safest choice.
Kuang Si Falls – located about 30 km to the southwest of town. You can either take organized tour with tuck tuck or ride a mountain bike, like we decided to do. Keep in mind that the road goes up and down hill all the time and that it gets to 35 C, so being fit is welcomed and don’t forget your water. The first glimpse you get of these falls is of the lower sections, where the bright turquoise water gently tumbles over small limestone ledges. Impressive yes, but better is to come. As you move further up the falls, you come across people swimming in a large lagoon. Walking further up the hill past more and more impressive falls shaded from the intense sunshine you come to an opening where the main waterfall comes into view. This high waterfall tumbles out of the jungle above with incredible force. At this point it’s possible to get up close to the waterfall for a better look and many choose to have their photo taken in front of it. Picnic areas, change rooms and public toilets are available at Kuang Si, making it a good spot to spend half a day or so. The Asiatic Black Bear Rescue Centre near the front gates is an added bonus.
Since we spend 4 wonderful days with our new 4 wonderful friends we decided to take together the bus to our next stop Vang Vieng.
Once little more than a bus stop on the long journey between Vientiane at the Thai border and the World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang, it has managed to become a destination in its own right. Still not much more than three streets and a bus station, the main attractions are the river, laid back countryside and cave-filled rock formations.
Many who have traveled around South East Asia have heard about tubing, an activity that dominates the town and its visitors. Originally opened up by hedonistic backpackers, the atmosphere of the town itself is peace by day and craziness by night: tourists sprawl out in the pillow-filled restaurants, termed “TV Bars”, watching re-runs of US sitcoms, Friends and Family Guy episodes until the sun goes down, and then party heavily until the early hours.
A couple of kilometers upstream, the pulsating music, drinking games and drug-fuelled debauchery of the increasingly lively riverside “tubing” bars starts at lunch-time.
Spend a few days here – rent a scooter, take a motorcycle tour, go tubing, trekking. Keep in mind that this tranquil setting is also the most dangerous place in Laos for travelers. At least five people have died around here in recent years from river accidents, drug misadventures and while caving. Even though many visitors leave Vang Vieng with nothing more than a hangover, there’s way more to the town.
We stayed in the town 5 days and did all that and I end up with a hangover, food poisoning and my glasses lost in the river… was it worth it!?!?! Hell yeah! You live only once and I had a great time.
Unfortunately at this point we had to say goodbye to our 4 friends, well at least for some time… Johanna, JB, Franco and Emilio thank you for sharing great and bad moments with us. It wouldn’t be the same without you guys. See ya soon somewhere soon!
This delightfully friendly capital, studded with crumbling French mansions, bougainvillea-blooming streets and steaming noodle stalls, is somewhere between a big town and a diminutive city. It’s conveniently compact travellers’ enclave is based around Nam Phu, the Mekong riverside and Setthariat and Samsenthai streets.
Most visitors stay here just for one night and that’s enough. We arrived to Vientiane on Monday after a 4 h drive from Vang Vieng, Right afterwards took a 7 km walk around the town. The lonely planet recommended route took us through different temples, Royal Palace, food and textile markets and some small more atmospheric streets. The part of the town we enjoyed the most was the riverside. We took another few km walk along Mekong while enjoying the sunset. At night the east bank of the river filled up with plenty of food stalls serving traditional lao food (not so easy to find in the tourist district).
Next morning we took a bus ride to Buddha Park located 25 km outside of the city. The park is full of concrete Buddhist and Hindu sculptures that are a monument to one eccentric man’s quite bizarre ambition. Xieng Khuan (official name of the Buddha Park) was designed and build in 1958 by Luang Pu (Venerable Grandfather) Bunleua Sulilat, a yogi-priest-shaman who merged Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, mythology and iconography and tried to create a new movement.
The sculptures at Xieng Khuan include statues of Shiva, Vishnu, Arjuna, Avalokiteshvara, Buddha and numerous other deities. The large pumpkin-shaped concrete monument in the grounds has three levels joined by interior stairways. The levels are said to represent hell, earth and heaven, and lead to the roof and panoramic views of the park.
In our opinion Buddha Park is definitely not a must but if you have a little bit more time and have already seen everything around Vientiane it’s a nice short trip that will keep you entertained for a while.
After visiting the park we still decided to enjoy a bit the riverside and were getting ready for another 10 h bus ride south to Pakse.
Ok my dear family, that would be it for this week. I hope that next week with less crankiness and better stomach, I can tell you more about our new adventures.
Although I said, not too much happened, I still manage to write a few lines. Did you really believe that we are bored? Even with diarrhea shit happens! Literally 🙂
Until next post !!!
Kisses to all,
Maja & Andrej