Trip Start Sep 01, 2008
15Trip End Sep 01, 2009
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After Pakse we caught another bus and boat to Si Phan Don (The Four Thousand Islands) on the Mekong. We stayed on Don Khon for a couple of days first. There we met ‘Papa’, the owner of the hotel we were staying at. Papa was quite a character. I don’t think we ever saw him without a bottle of Lao Lao (home brew whiskey) in his hand. He referred to himself as ‘Papa doctor’ and was insistent that Lao Lao was the cure for anything and everything
Time seems to stand still in Si Phan Don. Everything moved very slowly, including us. We did rent bicycles the one day and cruised around to Tat Somphamit (very dramatic and beautiful waterfalls), and drove along the first and only railway line in all of Laos. Other than that it was all about relaxing. We decided one day that we’d done enough relaxing on Don Khon and that it was time to go and relax over on Don Det (the adjacent island). Relaxing on Don Det was much better. We had hammocks at our guest house there, which makes the world of difference! Actually, that place turned out to be our cheapest accommodation is Asia to date ($2/night). After five days in Si Phan Don we bid farewell to our good friends Roh and Rob as their Laos visa’s had expired and they were leaving for Cambodia. It was so much fun traveling with them!
Before leaving Roh and Rob, we picked their brains for the best places to visit in Laos as they had spent the last two months there. Rob was great. She marked up our LP (Lonely Planet) with all of their favourite spots. So Erin and I hit the road again. This time it was a nine hour bus ride north to Tha Khaek
After Tha Khaek we took a bus to Vientiane, the capital of Laos
Next we headed further North to Luang Prabang. This is a very old and quaint little French colonial town. There are lots of great restaurants, beautiful old Buddhist temples and an amazing night market where the Hmong locals sell all kinds of hand crafted jewellery, textiles, paper lanterns and other trinkets. There is also a street by the market lined with food vendors where you can eat vegetarian buffet for next to nothing (50 cents, I think). From Luang Prabang we chartered a tuk-tuk to take us to Tat Kuang Si, a picture perfect multi-tiered waterfall. We shared the tuk-tuk with some South American guys we met and spent the day swimming and jumping from rope swings into the crystal clear turquoise pools at each different level of the falls.
After a few days in Luang Prabang we headed north again to Nong Khiaw. What a stunning place! We stayed in a bamboo bungalow right on the river with breath taking mountains in the background. We didn’t want to leave Nong Khiaw. There was an amazing Indian restaurant (Dean’s) where we ate nearly every night. We went throw net fishing with one of the locals one day. We hiked up a mountain, which I really liked, and so did Erin……. once we got down to the bottom again…. LoL! Actually, we had to laugh; on the way up, about 2 hours into the trek we reached a clearing from the jungle used for farming. The view was spectacular! Both Erin and I were breathing heavy and drenched with sweat
From Nong Khiaw we took a really nice hour long boat ride further north up the Nam Seuang river to Muang Ngoi Neua. You can only reach Muang Ngoi by boat. It’s a very small Hmong village. It is even quieter than Nong Khiaw, which is hard to believe. We totally lucked out and found a bungalow on the river bank with an amazing view for only $3.50/night. There were two large doors that opened up with a hammock right inside the room. It was heaven! We’d only planned and budgeted on staying a night or two there, but again, didn’t want to leave. So we had quite a laugh trying to spread our money out as thin as possible from one day to the next. Of course, if there are no roads to get to Muang Ngoi, there are definitely no ATM’s. Surprisingly, we managed to stay for four nights and lived quite comfortably for around $9 per day for the two of us
Next we decided to ‘fast-track’ it back down to Vientiane. We stayed for one more night in Luang Prabang, and then took a very long bus ride back to the capital. Roh and Rob had highly recommended that we stay at an Eco Resort in the jungle just on the outskirts of Vientiane. I’m not going to mention the name of the place as the owner (Mike) doesn’t want the entire Laos backpacking community to find out about the place and turn it into another Vang Vieng. What I can say though is that the place was paradise. We spent five nights with Mike at his resort. He bought 10 hectares of land with a river flowing through the middle of it. He built ten (I think) bungalows. There is no power on the resort. All the food is bought fresh from the local markets and everything is recycled. The resort has only been open now for five months and the first day we got there an unexpected group of fifteen people travelling together had found Mike’s business card in Vientiane and called him up to come and stay. That made for a great party the first night! They all left the next day, so for the rest of the time, it was very quite, which was nice. We went on many hikes with Mike through his jungle. He has owned the land for two years now and has a very good understanding of the ecology of the place. He showed us so many different insect, lizard, plant and mushroom species
And that concludes our long overdue Laos blog. What an amazing country! I would recommend anyone go there. It’s a place that you always imagined in your mind that Asia would be before tourism and development hit, like Thailand, 50 years ago (maybe?). Erin and I both agreed that we were so glad that we went to Vietnam first before going to Laos as I don’t think that we would have appreciated Vietnam as much as we did at the time if we’d seen Laos first.