Laos rhymes with cow

Trip Start Jun 26, 2003
Trip End Sep 03, 2003

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Sunday, February 15, 2004

Crossing into Laos from Thailand, I was struck down with some kind of illness. Heat stroke? Or some more exotic disease that we scared ourselves by reading about in our trusty LP? I still don't know. Vascillating between boiling hot and freezing cold (it was 40 degrees out), we holed up in a hotel in Houxai. The town was a shithole, and kudos to Chris for not losing his marbles spending a few days there doing nothing and having no one for company except sick, grumpy me...

We caught a speedboat down the Mekong to Luang Prabang, a white-knuckle journey with our bums squeezed onto impossible small bench seats. By the end of the 6 hour journey our legs and bums were dead and we had been burnt bright red down the front only, despite having fruitlessly tried to protect ourselves with hats and sarongs. We did not warm to Luang Prabang, which is meant to be Laos' 'sparkling jewel' and a famous UNESCO world heritage site. I was still sick, we had yet to adjust to the stifling heat and humidity, and there was nothing to do. Except leave.

The bus trip outta there was one in a million: squeezed up the back of an ex-Japanese school bus with two other farang (foreigners) and a lot of luggage, we quickly realised this was going to be the most hellish ride we had ever faced. The luggage was a precariously balanced tower and stuff kept sliding forward and hitting the other farang on the head. The seats were tiny and we were cramped. The man in front of me was chain smoking. More people and luggage were being loaded - there were people sitting on plastic stools in the aisle. The bus was careening wildly down steep descents and taking hairpin turns at high speed. We realised why no foreigner travels on the Laos public buses, and decided that in the future we, too, would opt for the only slightly more expensive airconditioned tourist buses. At one stop, a lady headed for the market boarded - and so did her large woven baskets of produce. They were loaded into the aisle next to us, and soon ants were crawling over Chris's arms. To get out of our seats, we had to climb over the seats in front and walk over sacks of rice that were blocking the aisle further down... There were some highlights of the 6 hour trip though: the scenery in the mountainous route at sundown was truly stunning...

Our next stop was Vang Vieng, which is a backpackers paradise. We got stuck there for many days doing absolutely nothing and loving every second of it. Check out an article I wrote for more insight into this little gem of a town: The Scene

Leaving Vang Vieng was hard, but we escaped eventually (via air conditioned luxury buses).
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