Posts Tagged ‘Laos’
April 15th, 2010
In a few short hours we will be on a plane to Africa, leaving Southeast Asia to our memories. We had such a fantastic time here. It’s about as far away as you can get from home for us. There are many different religions, languages and customs. All this makes for exciting travels, and was for the most part (excluding Sumatra) relaxing and easy. Before leaving, there are just a few random things we wanted to reflect on. For those of you lucky enough to have visited this part of the world, I’m sure you will be able to relate.
Our last destination in Laos was the capital, Vientiane, where we were meeting our friend Rachel for a short visit. We took the bus from Vang Vieng (which left on Laos time, meaning about an hour late) and arrived in the city at dusk. Vientiane is a small capital, with a population of just over 200,000 people. Still, it felt pretty big after some of the smaller places we’d been recently.
We hopped in a tuk-tuk from the bus station and went in search of Rachel’s guesthouse. When we found it, she was waiting for us with refreshingly cold Beer Lao at the ready. It was so great to see a friendly face from back home! We only had one day to hang out before Rachel had to carry on to Bangladesh, so we made the most of it.
THE thing to do in Laos, on the backpacker circuit, is tubing in Vang Vieng. It’s not just backpackers making their way here, it has become a Euro/Aussie spring break destination as well. It’s a freakish sort of adult fantasy land with bikinis, booze, adrenaline and breathtaking scenery. As odd as it felt to find this party vibe in the middle of rural Laos, we couldn’t miss out and allowed ourselves to have a fantastic time of it.
The idea is to gently float down the Nam Song river, stopping in at riverside bars along the way to become completely inebriated on buckets of alcohol and beer whilst enjoying and/or injuring yourself on the multitude of slides, swings and ziplines into the water.
One of the things that makes Vang Vieng a destination for so many travelers (besides tubing — more on that later) is the landscape that surrounds it. In nearly every direction, huge limestone karsts, or cliffs, soar upwards in sheer masses. And as it that weren’t enough on its own, the karsts are full of caves and clear, cool springs. We had to get up close, so we rented a motorbike in Vang Vieng and headed west on a bumpy gravel road that stretched towards the karsts through the rural countryside.
Luang Prabang is a city tucked in between the Mekong River and the Nam Khan river, surrounded by forested mountains and full of temples. Our first morning there, we woke up feeling fresh and recovered from our two day boat journey, and eased ourselves out into the city. This was our first true destination in Laos, and we were excited.
After a marathon, week-long journey north from Sumatra, we finally arrived at the Laos border in Northern Thailand. We covered almost 3000 kilometers in just over 7 days, on a bee-line up through Malaysia and Thailand. Our goal: to reach the border and have about 10 days to wander south through Laos towards the capital, Vientiane, where we’ll be meeting our friend Rachel. We crossed the border from Chiang Khong, Thailand, to Huay Xai, Laos, and were all set to begin an exciting new leg of our journey.
Our first destination in Laos was Luang Prabang, an ancient city built on the Mekong River, and a Unesco World Heritage site. We opted for the true “slow travel” option to get there: a two day boat trip from Huay Xai down the Mekong River. We were excited and happy to slow our pace down a bit, after the string of bus and train trips we’d recently been on.