Le beau pays du Laos

Trip Start Sep 02, 2007
Trip End Sep 01, 2008

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Where I stayed
Sipadith Guest House, Luang Prabang
Soukchaleun Guest House, Vientiane

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Sunday, February 24, 2008

We have just had a great two weeks in Laos, the first communist country we've been to! (Along side the Laos flags you see flying there is always a red hammer and sickle flag flying too). It also marked the half way point of our travels in terms of time, we now have less time left than we've had, a bit sad really.

As we were in the north of Thailand we decided to travel by boat up the Mekong river to the major town of Luang Prabang in Laos. You travel on what's called a 'slow boat' and it really is! It takes two days on the river from the border point, a place called Huoay Xai where you pass under a sign stating "Gate to Indo China" which summoned up images of romantic travel in the pre WW2 colonial days. However, for us, we were on a boat with a hundred other tourists.

Anyway, seeing Laos from the river really did fulfill our expectations of what South East Asia would look like. Lush green jungle, wooded hills, small villages consisting of wooden huts on stilts, locals on the river banks fishing and washing and many ornate Bhuddist temples. The two day river trip wasn't all that comfortable, but well worth it for the views and relaxing time. We met up with the two English girls, Laura and Tam again which was funny as we had said goodbye when in Chang Mai!

Luang Prabang had a distinct French feel to it, not surprising since Laos was once a French colony. There were several French restaurants and one evening we treated ourselves to a gourmet meal. The street vendors also made good food and one night we ate at the local market - BBQ'd fish and meat. We spent a day walking around the town by the river, exploring the old streets with their French style buildings alongside the ancient temples.

We took a shared Tuk-Tuk (motorbike taxi) to Kouang Si, a waterfall 32km from LP. It has pools which you can swim in but we chose a wet and cold day so didn't fancy getting colder and wetter. It was very pretty, like the tropical waterfalls you see on nature programs. We also visited the Pak Ou caves which took two hours by boat to get to. They were smaller than we expected but filled with Buddha statues.

Our next stop was in Vang Vieng where we went 'tubing'. This involves getting into a large tractor inner tube and floating 3 miles down the Nam Song river. Most people go to Vang Vieng for tubing or rock climbing. It was a really hot sunny day when we went and the river was busy. Along the route are makeshift bars - wooden huts basically, where you can stop and get a drink or two. We didn't try it but they also specialised in 'happy' pizzas and shakes (the happy part being an added ingredient)! On the river you had to dodge people falling from the sky having thrown themselves from the rope swings. It was great fun and there was a real party atmosphere. The scenery was stunning - huge limestone cliffs lining one side of the river. The town of Vang Vieng is small and there's not a lot else to do, the Lonely Planet book warned that the cafes and restautants continuously play 'Friends' episodes and not a lot else. Acutally it was quite relaxing to sit and watch. The room we stayed in was the cheapest we've found so far - 3 pounds a night.

Now we are in the capital, Vientiane having spent several days here in the relaxed atmosphere of the city. We have been to the top of Laos' version of the Arc de Triumph called the Patouxai, seen the sacred golden stupa of Phat Luang, enjoyed the cafe's, been bowling! and even found a Roti maker, so that's Sarah's pancake addiction sorted.

For us, Laos has been a good adventure with the right mix of culture and comfort.
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