Backpacking Senior Citizen Style through Laos (#1)
Trip Start Oct 20, 2010
14Trip End Feb 07, 2011
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Where I stayed
Sabadiy 2 Guest House,
Haysok Guest House
In Laos and Malaysia, we have stayed at a few "backpackers" lodging to get a taste of the young people's experience. Sabadiy 2 Guest House in Pakse is highly recommended by backpackers- no A/C ,no shoes allowed indoor, no flash toilet (flash with water in a barrel, it works)
Laos is a landlocked country with gentle people who talks in sing song voice. 95% of the people follow Buddhism and donate rice and vegetables to local monks every morning. It is also a underdeveloped country with beautiful scenery. Every single travel book, however, warn us about Laos infamous buses. They cramped people in tight seats, pile luggage high on the top and stop along the ways to pick up more passengers. The road throughout the mountainous country are winding and in general not very good. Comparing with the luxury buses we enjoyed throughout Malaysia, Laos transportation was quite a different story.
We decided to take tours with Green Discovery (not the cheapest ones) mainly because we like their philosophy about preserving local environment and culture while encouraging tourism. We started with a 3 day tours through Mekong river region. We took our first of many long tail boat rides, cursing down the beautiful river and visited Wat Phou Ngoy temple (a smaller version of Angkor Wat)
Another boat ride took us to the Thousand Island area where we stayed at Don Khone – a one street town. We arrived amidst a festival and dragon boat race on the island. There were sports, music and carnivals in the evening. We watched a game sort of like volley ball except the players kick the ball with an incredible acrobatic flip over the net. Laos dance were done by men and women facing each other in circles with lots of hand gestures but never touch each other
After crossing back to mainland, we visited the waterfall Khone Phapheng. This fall on the west and the Liphi fall we saw the day before on the east basically block all boat traffic on Mekong river. Early French explorers had to build a rail to portage the boat (cut in half and put on wheels which was pull by local Laos to the other side of island and then put it back together). Ray was impress with how solid the French Pier built 100 years ago.
We flew to Vientiane, the capital of Laos and stayed at Haysok Guest House – a Chinese owned hotel by with some imposing teak wood furniture. We spent the evening visiting the famous That Luang Stupa – the gold gilded icon that is Laos national treasure. Unfortunately the light was getting dim and I wasn’t able to get a good picture to truly reflex its beauty.
We headed for a 2 day orchid trekking with a French tour guide Lulu. She moved to Laos 9 years ago to work on an orchid farm with her brother. We met a local husband and wife guides at the village of Ban Hatkhai and started our trip with a 45 minutes long tail boat ride down on the beautiful and tranquil Nam Mang river. We saw many herds of water buffalos foraging foods in the wild by themselves and soaked in the river all day long. Villagers usually put out salt licks to lure them home. We also saw hundreds of butterfly that congregated on sand bars. When they fly, they look like graffiti floating through the air
The orchid trek we took is inside a national park where we walked through dense bamboo grooves and evergreen forests. Along the way, we saw many wild orchids but only a few with small blooms. The best time to see orchid bloom actually is September and October. We made it to the top plateau with a grand view where we saw Mekong river and Thailand far away. At this time, Lulu and the guides pulled out picnic table cloth and laid out a magnificent lunch - banana leaf wrapped roast pork and a huge omelet, two kinds of spicy sauce and sticky rice. The food tasted good but unfortunately we were under attack by ants and gnats. It was too bad we couldn’t spend more time enjoying this lunch which they put in a lot of effort to it.
We spent the night at one of the villager’s home. Their traditional Laos house was built on stilts. The downstairs is for storage, the bedrooms are upstairs. We slept in the big room living area on a mat with mosquitoes nets over it. We took cold showers in an outhouse which doesn’t have any lights but the bathroom is clean and the cool water feels good. The dinner was cooked in a kitchen over open fires. We were served in another open platform which also is the gathering place for family and friends
We slept well and awaken by roaster croaking, gecko clicking, bird chirping and then suddenly a radio blasting that disrupted the peaceful morning. We ate a great breakfast and set out for 2nd day trekking. In this area we saw more blooming orchids. A short walk after lunch landed us at this beautiful Pha Xay waterfalls. The water cascading down several layers of rocks into a gorgeous pool. The water is so clean and inviting so we jumped right in. I swimming over to the waterfalls and let the water fall down on my back. What an exhilarating experience. We said goodbye to Lulu and promise to recommend her to anyone who is interested in orchid in Laos to contact her at Laurence.Lovera@yahoo.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.