At the village where I asked for directions, a kind local teenager advised that a shortcut through the hills can bring me back to my original route and that brought my hopes up alot. As I trekked through the hidden trail, the boy caught up and offered to guide me out to the temples route
. As we ventured deeper into the hills, I realised without him I would be completely lost as the trails were all well hidden and for some parts we had to open up new trails! At some point, we were clinging off the face of a cliff, whimsically marked by rusty barbwire fences. After a toiling hour, we arrived at a golden stupa atop a hill, overlooking the Mekong towards Luang Prabang. It took me another 2 hours to trek back reversed route to Ban Xieng Maen. Along the way were three local wats, some closed to travellers and another hilltop buddha statue which looked pretty isolated from the beaten track. What was most enjoyable was the walk through Xieng Maen village on my way back to the pier. The kitchens were starting to cook, the sleeping dogs basking under the sun and the kids made as much noise as they could playing ball games. The one thing that caught my attention was the presence of big old rusty satellite dishes precariously sticking out the corners of the houses.
Dinner was a really tasty bbq mekong river fish on bamboo sticks and greasy pork strips that screamed heart attack! There was another pub crawl area behind Phu Si hill so I checked it out on foot. Drank my beers and had a Laotian tour guide took me to a locals only open air bar/restaurant 20 mins away from city centre. More food and beers! Unfortunately I do not know the name of this place, it was not on my map but from what I figured that rich elite local kids frequent this joint. If you are looking for this place, you can recognise it by their blasting thai pop music.
A late start at 1030am for brunch and headed straight to the pier, crossing the Mekong river for a longer than expected hike at Ban Xieng Maen. Completely missed the entry (it was actually properly signaged) to Wat Xieng Maen route, I trekked up north for 1 hour before arriving at a local village to be told Wat Xieng Maen was located where I first started, near the pier. It was not that entirely wasted though, at least I enjoyed the peaceful trail set amidst tall hills and wide open rice fields. The hidden reward was seeing the local villager cleaning the carcasses of a lean dog and small piglet in a stream watched anxiously by giggling toddlers. I assumed they were going to cook the canine - it was thoroughly scrubbed.