A Travellerspoint blog

Laos

The journey to Luang Prabang, Laos

sunny 35 °C
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Sean and I got up early on Tuesday morning to catch a mini bus to Chiang Khong; possibly the scariest road journey so far, as our driver carelessly selected songs to play over the speakers on YouTube! In Chiang Khong we crossed the border into Laos, Huay Xai, where we boarded a large slow boat to take a 2-day boat to Luang Prabang.

The scenery on the boat was incredible the whole way, but the boat was a total tourist trap - however this did mean that we were able to meet lots of people and I made a lot of friends very quickly!
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After a long journey, which included 5 hours on the slow boat, we arrived in our stop over destination, Pak Beng. The pumpkin and buffalo curry that I had that night was probably the best Laos meal I had! But it arrived late since the town experiences power cuts frequently, and there were 2 that night!

The following day we had 8 hours on the slow boat, which was tiring, but luckily the scenery stayed beautiful.

Once in Luang Prabang, myself, Sean and some people we'd meet on the boat, headed to Khammany Inn, a very busy backpackers hostel. The night market of Luang Prabang was great, although the phrase 'same, same, but different' can be used to describe almost anything in Laos; menus, shops, tours, hostels... So a lot of the stalls sold similar things. Still, I did buy some generic 'traveller pants' hareem trousers in bright funky designed material! The food in Laos was odd... sort of Thai, but not as nice, not spicy, lots of baguettes and sandwiches (French influence) and at the night market there were a lot of buffet stalls! It was still tasty, but disappointing compared to Thai food.
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The next day the gang and I spent the day wandering around the town. We ate on the river front, but certainly paid for the views not the food!! We continued to the palace museum, former home of the Laos king, before climbing up Way Phu Si for some great views over the town and river.
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That evening we went drinking, but as there is an alcohol curfew in Laos at 11:30, all parties turn to the only place open after this, which in Luang Prabang was the bowling alley!! ... I won of course!
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Taking the piss out of the face I usually pull on photos!!
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The following day the gang headed to Kuang Si waterfall by tuk tuk, an in interesting journey to say the least... I only screamed a couple of times! The waterfall was the most beautiful so far, the water was an eerie green and the view from the top of the falls was well worth the 30 minute tough steep climb.
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The evening ended the same, food, drinks and bowling (which I won... again ;)

Our last day in Luang Prabang we spent exploring the local temple cave and chilling in the town and hostel. A slow boat over to the caves was beautiful and the caves were nice and cool although very small.
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Luang Prabang was very touristy... although you can see why, as it was a beautiful place, especially the waterfalls and river.

Posted by Libbytes 04:31 Archived in Laos Tagged waterfall luang_prabang Comments (0)

Fun in Vang Vieng

sunny 34 °C
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From Luang Prabang, myself, Sean, Janine, Heather and Lody took a mini bus down to Vang Vieng... a very winding route through the mountains and valleys. The journey was tough for me since my seat wasn't properly secured to the ground and I left the floor every time we turned left!! I pinned myself in by pushing against the sides of the van, but it was totally worth it for the views along the way.
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The view from the hotel balcony;
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Evening meal, notice motRobike in the background!!
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The drive into Vang Vieng was spectacular, the road suddenly became flat, but everywhere you looked, limestone karsts covered in jungle rose from the ground.

Vang Vieng is famous for tubing along the river, and so the next day we hired tubes and drove up river to the starting point. There used to be 16 bars soon by the river, allowing people to do a bar crawl in between the tubing. However, there's now only 4 bars which we some how managed to spend all day in! We stayed so late in the final bar we had to drive back as it was too dark and dangerous to tube back!
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The second day here we hired bikes and cycled out to a blue lagoon where there was a tree and rope swings you could jump in off. The lagoon was cold, but in the heat, and especially after the journey there, it was heaven!
After chilling in the lagoon I eventually plucked up the courage to jump in off the highest branch. I climbed up the tree and stood scared on the branch for what seemed like nothing, but apparently was close to 20 minutes!! I started gathering a big crowd of people cheering me on and then... they started counting down from 10! About 30 people all watching, all counting... I had no choice, I had to jump! It was nowhere near as bad as I thought, and I was not very graceful as I watched the video back that Sean took... but the big cheer I got for doing it felt amazing, if not a little embarrassing that I took so long!
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After some food, we hiked up the mountain behind the lagoon to a nice cave. Although we didn't go far as we had no torch and were wearing flip flops!
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The night we went drinking in the local bars and to the only club open after 11:30, which was awful! But still, we stayed until late.

The next day we attempted to go tubing again. I took less money with me in an effort to drink less and hopefully do the full tubing route, and Sean and I left the final bar with enough time to return to the town in the light. Unfortunately (or luckily for her...) We ran in to a very distressed drunk girl who had gotten separated from her friends and was on the river by herself without any phone or money! We did all we could to calm her down and help her, but time was not on our side and it got dark very quickly as we stayed with her to help. The river was shallow enough to stand in comfortably, and mostly didn't rise above the knees and was slow moving, but the girl was very drunk and struggling a lot. We saw lights from the local fishermen and headed towards them. One of them took us to a place we could get back to the road and from there we flagged down a pick-up truck back to the town centre and walked the girl back to her hotel. Both Sean and I were very shaken by the incident. We think she must've had more than alcohol, she was crazy... I don't think she realised how lucky she was that we found her, as there's no way she would've made it back to town without our help...

We took it easy for the rest of the night...

So far travelling I haven't experienced any problems, thefts, danger or injuries (touch wood); I have been very lucky, but also very careful and measured. Seeing that girl made me realise how easy it is to put yourself in danger... I'd like to think that I'd never let myself be in a situation like that.

Posted by Libbytes 07:25 Archived in Laos Tagged tubing blue_lagoon vang_vieng Comments (0)

Being lazy in Vientiane

semi-overcast 34 °C
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Sean and I left for Vientiane by a lovely comfortable bus! A luxury in Laos!! We planned to arrive in Vientiane on Thursday afternoon and go straight to the Vietnam embassy to apply for next day visas. However, unknown to us, the embassy was closed for holidays Thursday-Sunday so we spent more time than we would've liked in the smallest capital city I've ever visited!

The first day we walked around the city, visited temples, monuments and markets, as well as playing a lot of pool! (Or hostel choice was based on the presence of a pool table!) We also stumbled across an amazing Mexican restaurant which sold burritos, quesadillas and... hummus!!!
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French influences were obvious all over Laos, but Vientiane in particular...
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That night we visited the night market along the river and played pool, drank rum, and eventually ended up in a Lao nightclub; where, if Sean hadn't been there, I'd have been the tallest by far!!

The weekend we spent chilling and playing a lot of pool, I don't think I lost a frame at this hostel! We also went back to the Mexican place too many times! I used my incredible research skills to find a local swimming pool at a hotel and we went and paid £1 for a private pool (nobody else was there), apart from the crowd we dragged along with us from the hostel!
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That evening we ate street food looking out over the river and watched the sun set.

On Monday we were finally able to apply for our Vietnamese visa! And we chilled as usual, played pool and walked through the local park to a monument and town hall.
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Our last day in Vientiane was topped off with one final Mexican and a trip to the embassy to pick up our visas. We arranged for an over night bus to take us directly from the embassy to Vietnam's capital, Hanoi. 26 hours..... :O

Laos was beautiful, but I spent all my time here in heavily tourists towns so a feel like I didn't see the real Laos. I plan to return to the south of Laos after Vietnam and Cambodia, so I will try to visit smaller villages then if I can.

Posted by Libbytes 07:06 Archived in Laos Tagged vientiane Comments (0)

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