Laos: Luang Prabang, Longboats & Lovely Landscapes

Trip Start Apr 09, 2010
Trip End Sep 07, 2010

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Where I stayed
Baan Tamila, Chiang Kong, Thailand
Pany Guesthouse, Vang Vieng

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Friday, April 30, 2010

After leaving behind Chaing Mai which we loved we headed to the Thai border crossing with Laos on the Mekong River, Chaing Khong. We caught a hot and extremely uncomfortable bus to the border through an almighty storm with bolts of lightening striking the sky every other minute, but found ourselves staying in a lovely traditional river bungalow overlooking the Mekong where they cooked us a gorgeous Massaman Curry to order even though the kitchen was long closed. After a good night sleep, we along with probably every other backpacker with our guide book headed across the river through immigration and on to a slow boat to take us on a cruise down the Mekong to Luang Prabang, with an overnight stop in Pak Beng.

We were lucky enough the first day to have some comfy seats to sit and watch the stunning scenery pass by, though rather less fortunately this placed us in close enough proximity to listen to the 18 year old 'gap yah' Brits talk about drugs and pretty unsuccessfully strum bob marley tunes on their guitars which apparently are essential if you are to be a true traveller...  I guess that means we aren't. We were invaded (literally through windows and the roof) by the hardest salesmen I have ever met around lunch time, a group of 9 year olds on their lunch break, and we ended up with two large BeerLaos that we didn't even know we wanted, scarily impressive stuff.

The overnight stay in Pakbeng was nice enough, Laos food seems to have very little spice in it which was unexpected after ridiculously hot Thailand. We were off on the boat in morning, an hour late thanks to guitar boy, and had a less comfy day on the floor of the slow boat - but it was still a laugh as we met up with the British girls we met in Chaing Mai on our trek back on the boat. We arrived in a very French inspired Luang Prabang which instantly won us over with its lush greenery and well kept streets and calm vibe on the river.

Our four days spent in Luang Prabang were filled with copious amounts of happily wondering around the night markets and shops and silver wear, James bought me a beautiful silver and topaz necklace and he bought a catapult and another bracelet to add to the collection. We are both becoming expert hagglers, admittedly James really has the nack. We climbed to the top of Phousi Wat and spent a lot of time in a bar aptly named Utopia overlooking the Mekong with roll out beds and gorgeous food and cocktails. We commandeered a tuk-tuk with Maddie who we met in Sukhothai and the British Girls and looked at some slightly underwhelming Buddha caves but also an absolutely beautiful waterfall and bear sanctuary where we swam (though not with the bears.) On our last night we had a few drinks in the lively bars, which unfortunately all close at 11pm, but then found ourselves dancing away in an all Laos club 'Dao fa' listening to the black eyed peas in German and a creepy version of happy birthday and about a foot taller than everybody else there... it was awesome!

With hangovers, and for three of the girls a nasty bout of food poisoning we all caught a minibus to Vang Vieng which entailed scaling a mountain and the windiest journey of our lives. Vang Vieng was very tourist driven, but basically successful because it is the place to go 'tubing' which we were keen to do and move on fairly quickly. However after our first night we were struck with the same bug the girls had had and in the midst of a black out with no fan we both suffered a double ended attack. This knocked us out for another two days, in which we stayed in with air con and the discovery channel and no food, so by the fourth day we had overstayed in Vang Vieng but we were far better informed about umbrella manufacturing, lobster fishing and all things Bear Grylls. We were definitely ready to go tubing and it totally lived up to its awesome reputation. We basically floated in a giant rubber ring down a river from bar to bar with buckets and free shots and with giant trapezes and swings into the river, we even had a go at mud volleyball in knee deep hot mud! So much fun and we only came away with one injury on Jens knee (a success after having seen the wounded tubers walking round Vang Vieng in the previous days.) The trip down the river was so fun we lost track of time and had a rush by tuk-tuk back to the tube station by 6pm for the deadline. A wicked end to the week and to our time in the Northern half of Laos, we will return after Vietnam to the south.

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