Leaving Luang Prabang
Trip Start Jan 2003
200Trip End Dec 2003
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In five weeks in India we didn't get on first name terms with more than 3 other travellers. Less than 2 weeks in Laos and we're friendly enough with 8 people to exchange e-mail addresses and hopefully meet up again with in the future. Facts like this could well prejudice our impressions of countries but it also gives an insight into the types of travellers you find in each. Where India did score highly was with the locals we met but Laos has not disappointed on that front either. The guest house where we've been staying is run by a 22 year lod girl called Danoy who has to be one of the most friendly people in the world (as well as being one of a very limited amount of people able to make decent jokes in a second language). Her family (we've met sisters, brothers, the mother and grandmother) have also been affable and even the lady who comes round selling Danoy her dinner, despite not speaking English and my Lao not extending beyond 'hello' and 'thank you', also has the air of friendliness. The dinner lady (I know that doesn't quite sound right) makes the most gorgeous sausages in the world as well as an interesting dish of pig brain in banana leaf. After our second day of complimenting her on the sausages, through an interpreter we ascertained that she used to cook for the Lao Royal family.
Luang Prabang as a city has surprised me. Despite being the second city in the country (and the capital before Vientiane), there really is not a great deal to do. There are a few temples, a museum, a small market and the waterfall but that appears to be it. On the face of it, that makes Luang Prabang sound unappealing but in reality it is part of its charm. People aren't running about saying they've got to see that or they must do this, everyone just relaxes. We've managed to spend 5 nights here without any problem but the general ambience and the laid back atmosphere certainly make it more difficult to leave. However, leave we must, and tomorrow we're getting on a boat for the 2 day long trip up the Mekong river to the northern border with Thailand.
A recollection of the last couple of days reveals us as under-achievers. In addition to re-visiting the waterfalls (it really was great), we've only managed to climb a large hill to visit a temple. The view from the temple all over the Luang Prabang area was......I'm not going to describe it because I have run out of positive adjectives for the scenery in Laos.
Day 49 - The Slowboat
Sitting aboard the (not as slow as expected) slowbaoat to the North west border of Laos, there's not a lot more to do than read, write, eat and moan. I'm moaning because 8-9 hours/day for consecutive days on a hard wooden seat with less legroom than the back of any car I've ever travelled in and headroom suitable only for those less than 4 foot, is simply unpleasant - despite the views!!
The other options were flying (too expensive), the bus (that should read 4 buses zig-zagging across unpaved roads) or the speedboat (6 hours along the same stretch of river as us). The speedboat, not even taking into account the rumours of 1 in 4 journeys ending up with a crash, must be dangerous - they're the only thing that anyone uses seat belts or crash helmets for!!!