Are the expensive hotels worth it?

Trip Start Jan 01, 2011
Trip End Mar 21, 2011

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Khammouan,
Sunday, January 30, 2011

We woke up after a very cold night in the guesthouse on Saturday with still no power. This turned out to not be too big of a hassle. It just meant that we would have to shower in the evening instead of the morning. We were still able to have breakfast at the guesthouse and it was some of the best rice porridge/soup that we have had to date.

Late morning, we started our journey to Thakhek. On the way we stopped at some of the holiest Buddhist caves in Laos. The guides had never been there, so it was an adventure for all. The guides thought the options to go into the cave were either up the stairs or on a boat, so we decided to take a boat. There were 5 of us that took the boat and it was the most stressful thing we have done this entire trip. Turns out that the boat takes you into a cave to see the formations and then you still have to walk up the stairs to see the Buddha cave.

The boat ride was a nightmare. With all of us in the boat, the top was right at the water's edge. On top of that, the boat was very unstable and we had to all stay extremely still in order to not tip over. My personal favourites were: 1. when we had to navigate around stalactite and try not to get hit or to tip over the boat and 2. when on the way back on the already tense ride, we saw a bat flying around the cave. Let’s just say we were all relieved once we got back to shore.

We then headed up to the cave that we came to see. The ladies had to wear the traditional Lao skirt, which I think was very unflattering. We climbed a set of stairs past a monkey which seemed like someone’s pet and then ducked into the cave where several Buddha had been discovered.

After the caves, we made our way to Thakhek, which doesn’t have much going for it. We all splurged for a really nice hotel (US$26 a night!) and for this one, it was worth it. The shower was amazing – it was hot (not just lukewarm) and had excellent pressure (but didn’t feel like needles). The bed and pillows were pretty quality as well.

In the early evening, we met up again and went to the Mekong River banks to watch the blazing red sun set over Thailand and then had a dinner of some of the best fried pork that we have had.

The next day, Sunday, was a travel day to Tad Lo. This journey took us truly off the beaten track. Most tourists just travel the north down to Vientiane and end there. On the 7 hour bus trip, which included a 2 hour stretch of red gravel road, we didn’t see any other tourists. This was a great opportunity to see rural Laos at its least touched. We stopped at a local market where they were selling such items as frogs, squirrels, various types of birds, honey and fruits and vegetables.  For lunch we stopped at a roadside town and had whole chickens BBQ on a stick and sticky rice. The chickens don’t have much meat on them here!

On the gravel road, the bus got a flat tire, but luckily, there was a spare and it was quickly changed. As it was being changed, us ladies went off to use the "bush" toilet. As one girl was finishing up, a motorcycle with 2 guys drove by and yelled Sabaidee, which is hello in Lao. They didn’t realize what was going on until they passed by and then they started laughing!

When we finally reached Tad Lo, the accommodations turned out to be a pain. The first room we got was just not acceptable. I can’t handle no screens and openings in the floor of a hut.  As well, it was super far away. We came back to go and look at the A/C room which was $12 more. This turned out to be even further away than the other one. However, it was at least somewhere where we could sleep for the night. Apparently, the other rooms in town were even sketchier, so we stayed.

For dinner, we walked into town to find duck blood salad and roasted goat. Jeff ate the goat, which was really chewy, but we passed on the duck blood salad. Neither appealed to me, so it was a dinner of sticky rice!
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