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Into North Laos - Luang Prabang

LAOS | Friday, 27 April 2007 | Views [1367]

Me and my expert guide - it was his first time.  At the start he kept wanting to paddle left when we should have been paddling right - it's good to be in safe hands.

Me and my expert guide - it was his first time. At the start he kept wanting to paddle left when we should have been paddling right - it's good to be in safe hands.

You know that's it's been a rough plane journey when the 2 girls on your aisle both throw up.  I for one thought it was a great journey.

After the consumerist rash of Vietnam, Laos spreads over me with welcome cool relief.  Wide 'boulevard' roads, light traffic, fantastic wooden houses, lots of trees and lots of Wats.  The moto drivers are there, but they wait until you are right beside them before asking if you want a moto...or marijuana.  Alas you can't have it all, and it seems i cant have the tour i wanted.  I was really looking forward to a days trekking, an overnight stay in a village and a days kayaking.  A cancellation the morning I'm due to go, from lack of numbers is not what i was hoping for.

So i hire a bike and go for a leisurely ride to some waterfalls...32km away, over mountainous roads, in 40C heat.  The tuk-tuk drivers had been trying to put me off - "it's too hot, very hilly, you're not used to the heat".  Well they don't know about mad dogs and Englishmen.  There and back took nearly 4 hours and 7 litres of water on a bike that had only 5 working gears, and the heat from the road felt like it was searing my lungs, but is was fantastic.  It might be dry season, but it was lush green hills, bamboo forests and lots of little traditional villages all the way.  The waterfall park was a series of pools and lakes with swimming areas - the water was fantastically freezing.  The park also had a tiger and a bear sanctuary for animals rescued from poachers :(  I was lucky to arrive just as the bears were about to be fed, they were just like little puppies with their noises and their dancing around - i thought bears could go months without food - they were sure hungry.

The next day i go kayaking on one of the nearby rivers.  It's an unusual group - 5 from Laos, 1 Dutch and of course me.  The Dutch guy is part of an 'odd' couple, not just because he's nearly 2m tall and speaks reasonable English whereas she's about 25cm shorter, from Laos and speaks less English.  They're a nice couple however and we get on well.  I suppose they have a better relationship than some people I've known.  I get on well with the guide too.  He makes me laugh by accidentally falling in and proceeding to wash his hair with shampoo - it's because he's very excited.  As he keeps telling me - "we are having BBQ and beer today".

"So we're stopping for lunch, eating lots of food, drinking lots of beer and then going kayaking again"

"Yes, but don't worry Mr Sane (that's me), there aren't many rapids after lunch"

The beer turns out to be 12 large bottles of beerLao, that we only have 1 small glass to drink it with.  The idea is that on your turn you drink as fast as you can and pass it onto the next.  I like these tours where i go with the locals...

Needless to say it was a great day, beautiful scenery, good exercise and fun company.  Luang Prabang is a great tourist town, and even though it is saturated by tour companies it has a good feel to it.  It is a place that you need to visit sooner, rather than later though... 

Tags: ruins, trekking, wildlife

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