Southern Laos

Trip Start Jan 22, 2009
Trip End Dec 22, 2009

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Champasak,
Sunday, March 8, 2009

We have been told throughout our trip in SE Asia that Laos is the most relaxing and chill place to visit. So far, this has held true.   After Siem Reap, we made our way closer to the Laos border and stayed in Kratie, Cambodia for a of couple days.  We skipped the organized tours and treks offered and just relaxed.  Our border crossing experience went well. We took a Cambodian mini bus to the border, was dropped off, got our passports stamped and walked into Laos to catch our next mini bus to the 4,000 islands off the Mekong River.  We were jam packed into this minibus (mini van)  with 13 other travelers. We had paid to go all the way to Don Kong (the big island) but the rest of the travelers were all going to Don Det (small island) so the driver told us in order to get to the large island we would have to pay more...of course!  This is pretty typical here. We have learned that you rarely get what you pay for in SE Asia!  So, after the rest of the travelers got off at Don Det, the driver and his friend pulled up on 2 motorbikes and told us to get on.  This is not the easiest way to travel when you have large, heavy back packs, but we managed and made it to Don Kong is one piece. The 4000 islands are beautiful, lined with palm trees and flowers and surrounded by the blue-green waters of the Mekong.  We took a day trip by boat to the small islands of Don Det and Don Kone where we walked the palm tree and bamboo lined dirt paths to a waterfall and had lunch overlooking the beautiful scenery.  We then took a minibus to another waterfall; the longest cascade waterfall in Se Asia. It was a HOT day but well worth it.  The small islands are known to be more beautiful and more appealing and we definitely saw why.  We chose to stay on the big islands because it had internet and we were planning to Skype (video chat) with our friends on Sunday morning, a date we did not want to miss.  Sunday morning came and we did manage to connect with our friends. It was so great to see and hear everyone!  It made us not feel so far away.  Even though it was 10am our time (9pm their time) we cracked open a Lao Beer to cheers with our friends.   We then hopped on a boat and then a bus to Pakse.  The minibus again was way too overcrowded!  This time there were 19 of us in a 12 seater.

We only stayed in Pakse for a day.  The perk of this stay was the Indian restaurants! The food was so good and so very cheap we kept going back for more. You can get a huge meal with Nan (bread), jasmine rice, and a tasty dish for $2.00.   This was also probably the first city we have been to in SE Asia where we were not harassed by vendors or Tuk-Tuk drivers, or children asking for candy or money.  It was refreshing to not have someone in your face at all times of the day.  From Paske we took a bus to Tat Lo, a small town along a tributary of the Mekong river that was surrounded by several smaller villages.  The bus was ancient and run down but the scenery outside our window was beautiful!  During the day we hung out, moseyed around, walked to 2 nearby waterfalls, enjoyed the small town scenery (mostly consisting of bamboo and thatch huts and lots of farm animals) and tried every restaurant in town (5 in total).  It was such a relaxing place to chill and we got a kick out of watching the many cow families, large pigs with their piglets, chickens with their chicks, and dogs pass the Ma and Pa restaurants where we ate.  The cicadae bugs were unreal here too. We had never heard them to be so loud in our lives!  They were a favorite toy among the local village children. One girl sat with us as we played cards at a restaurant and "played" with one. She pulled it's wings off so it wouldn't fly away and giggled as it tickled and clung to her fingers. We also took an elephant adventure ride that took us across the river 3 times, through treacherous terrain, and into a local village.  We expected a trail bound, Como Park pony ride type meander but instead got a thrilling ride that kept our hearts pounding as the elephant tried to maneuver through the narrow paths in the woods and the steep, rocky banks of the river. We had to hold on tight a few times for fear of falling off.  It was great!  We felt a little invasive when trekking through the local village and so, even though there were great photo opportunities, we put our cameras away and just smiled and exchanged "Sabadii" (hello) with the beautiful people.  After our elephant trek, it was time for the elephant's bath so we stayed and watched her bathe in the river with the mountains, waterfall and sunset in the backdrop.  After her bath, Clint followed the elephant's lead and jumped in the river to cool off too.  Shortly after he got out of the river, several locals came with their bathing baskets of soap and shampoo to take their daily baths.  Children came, stripped down to nothing and jumped in, playing "king of the rock" , laughing wildly, and dunking each other under.   It appears that the river is a large part of the Laos culture  (at least in the region) as we have seen many playing, washing clothes, bathing, fishing, and simply hanging out by or in the river.  

We are now back in Pakse and are waiting for our night bus to pick us up to take us to Vientiane(the Capital, 10 hours away).  We then plan to meet Clint's friend and co-worker, Pao (who travels to Laos to visit his family often) at the airport on Saturday.  He had arranged for his cousin to pick him up and asked us to join them in going to a Hmong Village 52 Km north of Vientiane.   We are very excited to meet up with him!
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jaimehughes on

Once again, I am in awe when I view your photos. It reminds me of National Geographic and it makes me so excited when I think that that you are actually there taking these photos! WoW! Wow! and WoW again! Love your journals- your writing is amazing. LOVE U

jaimehughes on

Have a wonderful time in the Hmong Village! Can't wait to hear all about it!

meghanmocha on

fun fun fun!
looks like you guys are having a blast! that is great that you are meeting up with clint's coworker:) it makes the experience so much more meaningful when you know the family. keep on having all that fun! love you both!

mbnilsen on

Cute Elephants!!
Hey guys! How fun. Twila and Ryan and I just read your story and looked through all your pictures. Twila was especially excited about the elephants wondering if the mamma elephant was big enough to watch scary movies and if the little village boy was kate and clint's husband (?)
Love you guys!

jimschoeller on

Elephant poop
Hi Children, Love your blog stories and beautiful pictures. I remember going to the circus when I was a kid and saw the elephant poop. I'll never forget it! Now I'll be going to Thailand in a couple weeks to see you and I'll probably see an elephant poop again. You never know what life will bring you. I bet I'll never forget it! Love You!!!! Pa

meshach on

Sorry I am so late in jumping in on this one. I've been crazy busy and fighting off a nasty cold. Thanks for taking me on a trip with you!


meshach on

Reminds me
Your mention of the Mekong river and the Cicada's reminds me of two great films that were shot in Asia. For the Mekong River: The Lover, and for the Cicada's: Rhapsody in August. The lover is a little weird, since it's morals are of a different time and place, but it is beautifully done. They are both beautiful films.

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