Day 6 – In Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang has a lovely feel to the place, with historical sites, monks and a nice tourist touch that is not too overdone. Probably one of the better places I have had the pleasure to visit.

Luang Prabang – 19Jun’08. Call it my innate desire to be on the highest point of every area I end up in. Early morning at 5.30am, I woke up to solo climb the 350 steps up Mt Phousi, a hill atop which sits Wat Tham Phousi, and where I can catch a panoramic view of the town. The other reason to wake up early is to see the procession of monks walk along the main street in a line, with the locals offering food like rice, which will be the monks meal for the day.

I was out at 6am, but apparently that wasn’t enough. =( Caught only the tail end of the procession. So I just went up my 350 steps to get some morning air.
Natural imprint in rock. There's like 2 in Laos.Steps. Meh, can't be exactly 350. Since you can come down the other side of the hill.
Here’s a 360 birds-eye view. The trip up is 20,000 kip. I was too early so there was no ticket collector dude there. But on the way down, gave up my 20,000.
And lastly, here’s a shot of me on top, lousy lighting courtesy of the dawn’s lack of light. There were two Americans up at the summit who helped take the shot. They had the same idea, but didn’t get there earlier, cos the were stopped by locals to join and (sic) “feed the monks”.
Summit the Red
Since we now have till evening before the bus leaves, decided to follow the half day tour up to Pak Ou Caves by slow boat. Since we dropped the 7hrs +7hrs slow boat journey, this 2h return trip should make up for the experience. And glad we did to, trip was boring as heck. I didn’t bring a book (so much travelling I finished 2 novels while sitting in buses) or breakfast, since we had set off at 8am.Row, row, row your (slow) boatToo many tourists. GahIts actually a scene off Indiana Jones' new film.
Other random happenings. On the slow boat ride, the speedboat passed by us. That thing blitzed past us, with its contents in motorcycle helmets and lifejackets. I read on Wikitravel that these boats reach Huay Xai in 7 hrs, but has a dubious safety aspect. Can understand why after seeing one.
The entire slow boat was full of tourists. This trip is becoming way too touristy, not the backpacker chic travellers i was expecting, but rather camera toting Hawaiian shirted uncles. I attribute this to the easy accessibility and promotion as a Heritage site. Similarly, Vang Vieng which lies smack in between the capital Vientiane and Luang Prabang, would be well visited. Remind me that for my next trip, I will that the road that is off the beaten track. Then, I’ll follow the side-trails off that track. =)
This Japanese guy on the slowboat struck up a conversation with me because I looked Japanese. Huh? K, didn’t mentioned this earlier, but at least 2 Thais said I looked Thai, the Laotian kayak guide said I looked like a local. By now, I’m not quite sure what I am.
With the evening came our public bus ride to Huay Xai. The difference between this ride and previous is that we are not taking the chartered minivans, where we sit in comfort with fellow tourists. This bus ride we shared with locals. There were other travellers as well, not many, the Korean couple, a trio of ?English? guys and 2 Japs. The bus station was a prelude. No need for air-con, it was cool winding up and down the hilly terrain On the bus ride, we suffered through Laos karaoke DVDs, they were ok, but when you play them ad nauseum for 4hrs, it kinda grates on you. Stopped for pee breaks in the middle of nowhere; everyone got off and peed by the road, even the females. Stopped for dinner at one of the villages, with a lot of “I dare you eat them” food (I stuck to sweet corn). There were also hill tribe families (could be Akha) that boarded and sat on plastic stools on the middle aisle. Maybe they weren’t paying the full fair or something, but preference went to the rest for the proper seats. One incident had the cute rosy cheeked hill tribe girl board the bus, spit on the aisle before moving to the back of the bus. Hahaha!
They were watching a kickboxing match on TV.Goddamn karaoke.... Argggghhhh. Please stop already!!no kidding, this is the gas station!

Day 4 – Of Kayak & tubes.

Vang Vieng is another Pai like backpacker paradise located between Vientiane and Luang Prabhang. Recently however it is also becoming very touristy with “eco-adventure” companies setting up. Check out the countryside for the scenery, caves and other natural sights.

Day 4- 17Jun08. Eco trekking. For 90000 kip per pax it was a really good deal . The group that day were the two lao guides, a korean young couple, a pair of korean ladies (one with socks and sandals) and one english guy. First off we went on the kayak downriver. This was the open top banana boat type kayak .the river itself was grade 1 or 2, probably 2 because i managed to somehow capsize as soon as we start. First stop was Elephant Cave nothing much to see here. We trekked in for a further 10 minutes before reaching the tubing cave . Now this bit’s probably one of the highlights so far. I had to get on one of those tubings like yesterday except instead of downstream we had to enter a water cave. headlamps on pulling on a rope, it was pretty neat. Some parts of the cave the ceiling was like 15 cm above my head. A claustrophobic’s nightmare. Then far in. We got off the tube there was land and we crawled on all fours. No photos here of course. ceiling became higher up twice more before we were stopped by high water level which meant we couldn’t go further unless we swim. Not a good idea when you are inside an underground cave. So we sat around a bit. Wiped mud on faces for luck. And switched off our lamps to see how utterly dark it is. not too long though. That’s when the water snakes come in. Umm ok…

Muddy muddy

 Ninjas vs pirates. Ninjas will win.

Had lunch there, with a baguette and fried rice courtesy of our guides and the local bbq cooking squad stationed there. While eating, I fed pieces of baguettes to the animals there. Played “ducks and chickens” to see who gets to the baguettes first. Ducks won hands down. Cos 1. They can go in water. 2. Ducks swallow their bread whole. While chickens hold bread pieces in their mouth and fight each other for them . 3. Ducks are cuter.

Vid of the previous group coming out of the cave. I was the idiotic voice asking “Was it good?” Hah
Next was further downstream along the Nam Song. Managed to capsize once more before we made a stop at one of the many establishments along the banks. We were the only ones there. But then. They switch on the speakers to max , played mr tambourine man and some bob marley. Woohoo! Instant happening pit stop. people tubing downstream were beckoned and pulled ashore in for some music and friendly lao beer. stuff to do there: pool (with a really bad conditioned table), slingshot (i hit the empty coke can once), a flying fox like swing thing where you drop into the water (which I didn’t have the balls to try). Instead I played a team game of petanque. With two ang moh guys. We had no idea how its played till this other chap came along and taught us the rules. Here’s how it goes. We formed two teams and mine won. We were down 7-4 and came back to win 7-10. By this time the two korean aunties were getting pretty bored so we set off home.
Two capsizes and still da bomb.
Dinner was at this place where the menu at the front was in lao cos kris wanted an authentic experience. Which was rubbish cos there’s probably more tourists than locals in the central two road stretch. Anyway the “authentic” menu inside had english breakfast and fries. Go figure. After dinner tried to get online in one of the cafes but the interwebz suck. Kris went off for massage 2 while I chilled for a bit and tried the lao coffee at one of the open air eateries. More shops showing friends and family guy. started to rain so we found shelter at another joint where kris finally had his laobeer. Me? I gorged myself sick on those pancake crepe things that go for 10000 kip sold every street corner by push cart vendors. Banana chocolate egg pancake with condensed milk topping. Really bad idea. That’s about all.
Next up: Luang Prabhang, Monks, 15 hr bus rides

Day 3 – Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng is another Pai like backpacker paradise located between Vientiane and Luang Prabhang. Recently however it is also becoming very touristy with “eco-adventure” companies setting up. Check out the countryside for the scenery, caves and other natural sights.

Laos – 16Jun’09
As I’m writing this, it is day 5 on the 6 hour van ride to luang prabhang. Certainly more leg room compared to…
Day 3. We set off to vang vieng early morning on a sardine packed van and I got the short end of the straw : the crap seat with engine under my feet hence absolutely no leg room for 4 hours.
Man these limestone rock structures are nice. Climber’s paradise. Scenery’s fantastic but the damn road winds up and down the valley incessantly. The only breaks were the infrequent stops as we wait for herds of cows to get off the road.
Reached vang vieng, here’s a vid of the town area.

Had Phad Lao for lunch before going tubing down the river. Just sit inside tube at let the river carry you shiok! Except when I ran into stray branches after drifting too near to the bank. Dinner was at nokeo restaurant, where I went Mythbuster and found out just how sticky lao sticky rice is. Conclusion: very sticky. Like spiderman sticky, sticks to my plastic bag held at 90 degrees. Later that night went for a traditionally lao massage. pretty mild but still came out feeling stretched. Less acrobatics than thai and certainly less painful than the chinese sinsehs.


Day 2 – Sabaidee Laos

Sala Kae Koo is a park with gigantic concrete structures with Buddhist and Hindu influences. There is a similar park on the Laos side of the border, but the sculptor and his followers fled into Thailand after Laos’ political unrest during that time and created this second park. 

Nong Khai is a simple little border town. Head towards the shops along the riverfront and the indoor market where you have hardware stores, general wares shops.

Vientiane, even though it is the capital of Laos, retains its charm. French architectural buildings and signs line the streets. The highlight is the Patuxay which is a miniature Arc de Trompe. This unfinished monument is found in the middle of a park, where the locals relax and have picnics.The park itself is in the middle of a roundabout. The entire city is clean, and you even have joggers in the evening.

Vientiane – 15Jun’08
Woke up late by half hour. Still managed to take the 11 baht per pax 56 km train ride to Nong Khai, the border town between Laos and Thailand. Tuk tuk driver didn’t understand where we wanted to go. Here in Udon Thani, fewer tourists, so signs are all in Thai, and locals don’t speak english too well. Neways, after a hand gesture mimicking a constipated train and a “chugga-chugga-chugga” he got us to the railway. Reached Nong Kai at 9+. While everyone else made a beeline for the Friendship bridge, we went to this sculpture attraction on the outskirts of Nong Khai. Sala Kaew Koo, tall stone statues (25m high!) of Hindu and Buddhist influence. Went back to town, dropped at the Tha Sadet day market, which is a mish mash stretch of stalls that the locals frequent right by the Mekong. Had lunch before crossing into Laos via the Friendship bridge, and off to Vientiane.

Vientiane has more tourists, besides the angmoh backpacker types, also had groups of asian tourists who’s origin countries i cant place. Could be Thai, dind’t sound Chinese, dunno where theyre from. After dunking our stuff at this 50 000 kip joint (basic amenities, staying here tonight, SHOULD have picked somewhere nicer), went down to the Patuxay Arch, which is a bit like the Arc de Triumph in France. This Vientiane version is unfinished, and the immediate area around it made into a park. But for 3000 kip, we climbed to the top and got an birds eye view of the city. Oh yeah, before Patuxay, visited the local day market, walked around, bought some “hey ive been to lao!” type t-shirts. Dinner was at this indian food place, Nazim or something. Pretty ok, but ex. But then again, Vientiane is the capital and a tourist hub, compared to the quiet Udon Thani.


These posts sound kinda sucky, without the pics and vids to back them up. Tomorrow will be off to Vang Vieng, where the supposed highlight is tubing down the Mekong. cheers.