Waterfalls and Market Stalls
Trip Start Sep 28, 2009
92Trip End Apr 22, 2011
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Where I stayed
Silikhan Guest House
The sign above the window of the bus ticket office set the sentiment of the day 'Good Luck to Everybody', are we going to need it? I thought we might when the conductor came around with plastic bags for everyone...a sick bag! What have we let ourselves in for? The journey was actually one of the smoothest so far, nearly all the roads had tarmac and we didn't have too many bends. The bus on the other hand was packed to the hilt, we had to climb over sacks of potatoes and onion to get to our seat. The roof of the bus was full of other produce, boxes, bags, including our rucksacks.
The difference between Thailand and Laos has to be the in flight movie, we started off with what looked like the drivers daughter’s wedding DVD, they looked a lovely couple and there was lots of singing and dancing. What can you top that with....... how about a karaoke DVD in Lao, luckily the whole bus didn’t burst into song (now that would have been a great video to film) but there was a bit of humming from behind us. We blanked most of it out by listening to Radio One’s Chris Moyle’s Podcast on our iPod.
The journey was meant to be 5 hours long, but ironically even though the roads were much better than our other two journeys we had not one but two punctures. The first one was a blow out and our seat was right over the top of it, it looked like Gary’s arse was on fire. The second one was 10 minutes later and the driver had to flag another bus down to get their spare wheel. This made our journey over 7 hours long.
We arrived in Luang PraBang after dark, which is something we always try and avoid if we can. The bus stop was 7km outside of town so we needed to get a tuktuk into town. As usual the driver tried to take us to places he would get kick backs from. They get a bit hard sell and talk at you, trying to get you to look at their guest house. We stuck to our guns and ended up saying take us to the market, where we knew we could get in a guest house of our choosing.
We found a lovely guest house not too expensive, it has hot water and TV (with ESPN so ok for footy). We dropped our bags off and went out to find some food. Luang PraBang is on the Mekong River and is the final port of the slow boat journey which you can take when the river is higher and want to avoid all the bumpy, windy roads. It is very much a tourist spot but it is such a lovely town you can see why everyone wants to come here. There is still a huge French influence here, the style of the houses are all French colonial and as you wander round you could almost imagine you are in some rural French village.
As with most towns there is a market here, but this one has to be the prettiest one we have ever been to and as you know we have been to a few. The sellers are amazing, there is a rainbow of colour spread out across the street. During the day you can see them sitting and sowing bits of material that later become an elephant on a babies bib or a pair of slippers. The stunning bedspreads are all handmade and come in incredible colours and designs.
Having spent three days here already we thought we must actually go a see something, and we heard the waterfall was worth a visit. Waterfalls are not usually a must in the dry season mainly due to the lack of water around but seeing as we had been recommended we thought what the hell. We climbed in the back of a tuk tuk said hi to the two Argentineans guys also going our way and bounced around for 45mins until we got to the gates of the park. It was a impressive entrance and the walk way up to the waterfall gave you the feeling of being in a botanical gardens, only the plant life here is all natural. We got to the top and the waterfall was truly beautiful, we took a few pictures and crossed over a bridge. It wasn’t until you got to the other side that you saw how far up the water was coming down from and how immense the waterfall was. The park had set everything up really well, there were a number of bridges and platforms around so you can get the best photo, but they didn’t spoil the natural look of the area or ruin any photos. All the cascading pools have been kept natural and as you walk down it’s not until the last couple of pools are you aloud to swim in the water.
The water was cold but really refreshing, we climbed in from the side of the bank and it was very deep. You had to be careful swimming around as there were a number of big rocks about shin height under the water. When we got out the air was so warm it felt just like Centre Parcs when you get out the swimming pool there. In fact the setting could have been an attraction at Centre Parcs, it had the look.
After we dried off and got changed we carried on down to the exit, we passed another swimming area that had a big swing rope over it and people were throwing themselves in to what I hope was a much deeper pool. Further down the hill we came to a Bear Sanctuary, which again was really well set up. The bears had a large area with lots of things to climb on, swing in and play with. At the edge of their area were a number of platforms that you could climb up to and watch the bears, without having the fence in the way. The older bears slept a lot, but the younger ones put on a good show.
Food, our favourite subject, and we are now in heaven when it comes to eating. I have already mentioned the baguettes which are a must, but what we have found is a lane of pure ecstasy in the form of food. There is a small alley just before the market starts and it is full of street sellers. Other than the usual food on sticks you can also get the most delicious BBQ fish (on a stick) that you will ever taste. To go with the fish you cross over to the other side of the alley to the vegetable bar, where a lady gives you a bowl and you fill it up with noodles, mixed vegetables, sweet potato, rice, beans, and so much more. She then heats it up while you grab a seat at the communal table and wait for your fish to be heated and delivered as well. A set of chop sticks and a beer Lao and you are chatting to new friends within seconds.
This town has a funny hold on people, there are a lot of tourists here (Falang), but the natural way in Laos is to share, they have no word for mine or yours, you simply just share everything. Food is usually put in the middle of the table and everyone takes from it. One meal (especially at a weekend) can go on for hours. This way of sharing includes the seating areas, it is perfectly natural to go sit at a table that someone else is sitting at. At first it is a bit odd, but you start to get use to it and you quickly find you are chatting and sharing tales with the most unusual people.
We went to a bar called Lao Lao Garden very trendy, lots of fairy lights and had lots of different levels with seating. Gary ordered a beer and sprite for me; the bar staff came over with two shots of green liquid ....on the house. Never one to refuse free stuff we accepted them, sniffed the contents and took a sip. Lao Lao is 50% proof rice whiskey that is green in colour and I am sure if you drank too many would leave you the same colour the next morning. One small glass and it made us both tipsy...... one to be avoided I think. It is not a country to have a long drinking session in, Laos has a curfew set by the government, on all locals and tourists. All bars close at 11.30pm and you have to be indoors by midnight, I’m not sure what happens if you are not back by midnight but I’m sure it’s not good. We have had to confine Ted.
We had a bit of a shopping spree while we were here, the market has so many wonderful things that it was hard to resist. We have been talking about sending Gary’s camera home now it is broken and this led on to a few things we could slip in the box to pack it out. Which in turn lead to us buying a box and filling it with some trinkets for us.....including a bedspread. The cheapest way is to send it by sea, 3-4 months..........let’s hope it get there.
We have had a great time in this town, it has been great not to travel for a bit and now we are past the worst of the roads the journeys should now be a bit easier. Our next stop is a very tourist area called Vang Vieng, home of Tubing.