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Laos: Lazy Luang Prabang

LAOS | Tuesday, 22 November 2005 | Views [864]

After two days on a rickety old boat that my father would have loved, we have made it into Laos and to the sleepy town of Luang Prabang.

Here's the news from the last few days...........

The night of the 18th saw us enjoy our last day in Chiang Mai. The four of us were looking forward to some good food and perhaps a beer or two, followed by an early night due to the bus ride the next day. This was not to be because we had the good luck of bumping into Tanya and Wolfgang (loving that name)! We had a great time in the rooftop bar in CM, swopping stories about what we had been up to the last few days, and where we were heading too.

So waking up and preparing for check out after only 4 hours sleep didn't see the day start too well! We got to the bus station, and after saying goodbye to Barry and Elle (perhaps the best travel buddies ever? - see you on the beaches at Christmas time) we boarded the bus for the 7 hour trip to the boarder town of Chiang Kong. I'm sure the bus was at least 20 years old, and they had managed to cram so many seats into it, leaving only the smallest amount of leg room. The Lonely Planet recommends travelling on these buses in order to "experience real Thailand", but I wasn't too sure about this after wedging myself into the seat and then trying to adjust to the ever rising temperature. So, after 7 hours, with no battery left on my ipod, and after the driver expertly hitting every pothole on the road, a very weary Dan got off the bus and straight into a guesthouse with Kari - who slept like a baby for the entire journey!  

The guesthouse was on the Mekong river and was very scenic. We soon started chatting with the people who followed us from the bus into the guesthouse, and soon there we 10 of us chatting about what we have done and where we were hoping to go. In fact, we all seemed to gel so much that the 10 of us have continued to travel together, and are milling around together now in Laos. Having such a big group has its advantages sometimes - we can book a hotel out in one swoop, giving us some great bargaining leverage on prices.

The lady who owned the guesthouse was a great source of information and she filled us in about the crossing into Laos and even drove us to the boat for the border. Lao immigration was fairly straight forward and we passed through with no problems to take the slow boat down the Mekong river to Luang, a trip taking two days.

And so to the boat ride. The boat was perhaps the noisest, dirtyest, coffin like floating vessel I have ever been on! We were sat away from the engine, which was a god send, but we were near the front. The boat had no windows, so often we got soaked when the Mekong decided to jump into the boat! The ride was uncomfortable due to the toddler seats, but it was such an amazing experience. The Lao people on the boat we so friendly and kind, trying to practise their English, offering us some food and filling us in about what we were looking at.

And so after two days on the Mekong, we pulled in at the sleepy town of Luang Prabang. to quote the first page of Lonely PLanet......."The pictures do not lie, Luang Prabang is stunning", and, even though this is only my first morning here, I tend to agree. Perched on the Mekong, the town is a mixture of Lao and French colonial buildings, with a small volume of traffic and welcoming atmosphere. Last night, after checking into our hotel ($2.50 a night) we took a stroll through the market, where I saw some really weird things, from Cobra wine in bottles to traditional clothes worn by the Lao people. After a few drinks in a really unique bar which had little bonfires lighting the way, it was off to bed.

I do feel as if I have stepped back in time here. There is no rush, the streets are lit by candle at night, and everywhere closes at about 11pm. There are signs in restaurants telling visitors about the Lao psyche - "please be quiet because Lao people go to bed early, and get up very early", and that sort of thing. Lao is my kind of place, and I think I am going to enjoy my next few days wandering around.

So, as I'm done with Thailand for the next few weeks, I thought I'd tell you about the highlights, which are;

  1. The people. Many people say that the people of such and such a country are so friendly and welcoming. Well, this is definitely true of Thailand. From the policemen offering a lady some beer to console her after she lost her bag, to the children who smile and wave at you as they whizz past on their bikes all made for a very welcoming experience.
  2. The food - goddamn the food was amazing!

Well, time to get exploring. My cash reserves have taken a bit of a huge hit over the last few days, so I am thinking about taking it easy for a while, instead of doing all the trekking, elephant riding and what not.

I'll check in with you soon.........

Tags: Adventures

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