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Laos part two.....the south

LAOS | Thursday, 26 July 2012 | Views [1392] | Comments [1]

Laos part 2

Over the past ten days we have spent seven on a motor bike. First we completed three days on the thaket loop then another 5 at Champasak and the Bolaven Plateau. This form of travel really suits Paul and I.
You have so much flexibility as to where you go, more contact with villagers who all insist on yelling out Sabaidee (hello) as you pass through, the children waving and smiling, some people openly stare in surprise at the farang passing through on their bike. As soon as you wave or greet them with Sabaidee their faces break into the widest grins, all white teeth and happiness.
 A simple greeting is all they are looking for and when delivered you feel as though there is still hope for the world. Language barriers dissolve, cultural divides disappear just two people politely acknowledging each other.
The laotions are polite and honest. You never feel threatened or as though you are being ripped off. This is a general statement as of coarse there will always be someone looking to profit but it does not seem a general pastime like some Asian countries and they never ever harrass you. If you say no tuk tuk it's not a problem. If you look at a room and are not sure - it's not a problem. They don't take things personally. If you show them respect they treat you the same in return.
There is very little shopping here. You don't miss it either. You just get by with what you have and make do just like they do.
It is the karst mountains, caves and waterfalls that have enchanted and inspired us down in the south. Not to mention the mighty Mekong which we have been following now since near Shangrila in China. This river is the lifeblood of so much of Asia but with roads in Laos slowly improving the tradititonal boat trips will soon be a thing of the past. So glad we have had the chance to spend so many days observing life along these mighty 
At the moment we are on Don Det in an area called 4000 islands, where the Mekong separates around all the islands creating a really lovely environment. They are even cheeky enough to have a beach - well it's water with a sandy bottom even if the water is red/brown. They say you lower your blood pressure whilst travelling through Laos, well after 6 weeks we are having trouble finding a pulse. The most stressful part of the day is where to watch the sunset or whether to have another beer. Don Det has a bit of a bad rep as there are many bars that sell happy everything's. 
It is really hard to say no to Laotians. We were simply walking along a lane at sunset when we stopped to watch 3 little girls dancing. A lovely encounter exchanging names and dance moves led to the little girls following us on our walk. Amir, Gep and Kep are 4 and 5 year olds without a care in the world. We bought them each a drink (around $1 for 4 drinks - Mum had also turned up) they disappeared for a while and then returned all wet and shiny after their bath in the river.
The girls took our hands and directed us to a lively hut where we were ensconced as guests of honor and fed and served beer Lao all night. It is very rude to turn down a beer here and they expect a cheers after every sip so needless to say we had a mighty fine night playing charades to communicate, learning to dance Laos style. We never learnt what the celebration was for but we thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality and comraderie.
Just a few nights later sitting watching the Mekong a group of health workers invited us again to share a beer at sunset. Many cheers later lots of English practice déjà vu again.
Paul's bit -  I'm lying in my hammock overlooking the Mekong. Today is our last day in Laos as we make our way south into Cambodia on our next leg. 
We have been staying on the island of Don Det for the last 5 nights in a rustic riverfront bungalow with hammocks. There are hammocks everywhere in this place. People just chill out. We managed to get a bit of exercise with a kayak tour for one day, plus a bit of cycling thrown in. Other than that we have done bugger all. A perfect way to finish our Laos adventure.
The highlight of the last couple of weeks has been our time on the bike, doing the Thakhek loop and the Bolaven Plateau trip. The first takes you to this amazing underground river called Kong Lor. This cave will definitely be world famous within a few years. You travel for 7.5 km through this natural wonder in a motorized long boat built for four. The current is really strong as the driver navigates around stalagmites and waterfalls coming through the cave roof. We have small headlights as our only source of light. When you get to the opening at the end it's like entering some kind of Jurassic park. From here you turn around and go back through the cave to the start. The trip cost about $12 well worth it!  We set out from Pakse to start our Bolaven Plateau loop. It takes us 4 days to complete ( 600km) Riding through villages and stopping to say hello to the locals. This makes the trip worthwhile. Always a smile.The weather is cooler up here, and we get to drink lots of famous Bolaven coffee and eats heaps of peanuts. Went to a local market and bought a kilo bag of peanuts for $2to last us for the next week or so. Waterfalls everywhere. big ones, little ones, fat ones, skinny ones ! The recent rain made some of the dirt roads a bit tricky. Lots of mud, Leeanne walking through sections, and me riding/pushing the bike through thick boggy mud. Good fun. We tried to ride through a giant pothole full of water only to be swallowed by the monster. The bike went under and I had trouble getting it started again, until a local came through on his bike. He fell victim to the hole as well. He managed to get both our bikes going.
It took a while. All along he had his rifle strapped across his chest. As we both lean over the bikes and fiddle with the engine I keep a close watch on where the gun is pointing. It was loaded and ready for sure! We say goodbye and off we go not knowing what obstacle is ahead. 
I say goodbye and thank you to Laos, and I reckon we will be back again some day. From the rugged mountains and roads of the north, through the jungles and plains of central Laos, down to the southern reaches of the mighty Mekong where the river splits into many branches to create the 4000 islands,
I feel we have had a pretty good taste of Laos. Even with its poverty and slow development, it's not hard to appreciate the people and there carefree attitude to life. I feel relaxed.

Tags: bolaven plateau, don det, kong lor cave, laos, mekong, thaket loop

Comments

1

loved this last blog.. it sounds so fantastic... looks like you two are having hte time of your lives.. so envious.. all good here.. party went well... i am home today looks like moo has done the tendins in her ankle??? we are waiting on ph call as darcy auditioned for a nutra grain add last week and got down to the last 4 and they will take two... its so nerve racking..lol... im off to melb tomorrow for the trade show.. so not looking forwrd to the cold.... spolke to your mum the other week and of course ryan.. all is well.. spoke to shell last night shes in port mac.. its a bugger im not here this week... well keep travelling be safe and big kisses to you both.. cant wait to see you in Oct.. xxx yeh xxx

  niki hale Jul 31, 2012 10:04 AM

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