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A Dream Come True Finally I am off on a dream trip that I dreamt of for many, many years. I flew from London Heathrow on 2 October 2008 to Delhi I will continue my journey to explore many places for the next 8 months:) And years to come......

Laos

LAOS | Saturday, 31 January 2009 | Views [637]

I arrived in Laos on the evening of 14th January and as soon as I crossed the Mekong River to Huay Xai in Laos, I felt I loved this place, so peaceful and layed back. I then took a boat cruising down the Mekong river for 2 days to Luang Prubang, having an overnight stay in a village on the way. The journey down the Mekong was wonderful, stopping at many villages on the riverside, picking people up on the way, or dropping food etc off. The scenery was wonderful. However it was extremely cold escpecially in the mornings and evenings, so the second day on the river I put as many layers on as I could. We arrived in Luang Prubang in the evening two days later.

Luang Prubang 

What a lovely place, lots of old beautiful French colonial buildings all over the town, there were little cafe's, restaurnats and shops with beautiful Laos craft dotted around town. I shared a room with a German girl I met on the boat. I spent four days here, just meandering around, visiting temples, some beautiful waterfalls with turquois water where I swam. One day I rented a bike and cycled outside the main town and passed little villages. Everyone are so friendly and smiley, everyone including the little children saying Sabadee (hello) everywhere smiling at you. I could easily have stayed here longer, the only draw back was the cold mornings and evenings so I decided to continued south and passed Vientienne, the capital of Laos, I only stayed one night as I was returning here later on my journey. The following day I took an early local bus to a place called Na Hin, the purpose was to visit some caves.

Na Hin/ Kong Lo

I caught a 6am local bus to Na Him which was an pleasant experience, I realised how much nicer it is to travel on the local buses with no tourists, feels much more adventures. No one spoke any English but I think they understood where I was going, this was confirmed later when they dropped me off in the right place 5 hours later. It is always a bit worrying catching buses with no tourists and only locals who don't speak English. You always wondering wheather you are on the right bus but I have learnt not to worry about this too much, if I come to the wrong place I got plenty of time to find the right place so it is not the end of the world. In fact I find myself worry much less since I started to travel. Anyway back to the bus journey, one can't be in a rush in Laos as the bus stops everywhere for all sorts of reasons, dropping, or picking up all sorts of parcels or people wherever someone is waving the bus down. They also stop everywhere where women are selling food on the roadside, and then there is a bus load of women selling anything from whole BBQ chickens and other meat, sticky rice, fruits and all sorts of other produce. The women sitting next to me on the bus gave me a fruit looking like a turnip, I was watching how people were eating this and copied and it tasted really nice, so now I am hooked on this fruit which apparently is called Yam Bean.

I arrived in Nam Him which was a tiny little village on a dusty road and found a very basic guesthouse, but clean. I didn't see any tourists which actually felt very refreshing. However, in the evening I went and had dinner in a different guesthouse where I bumped into Gina, an American women similair age to me who I ended up having dinner with, we got on so well and travelling to similair countries but she seems to be everywhere about a week ahead of me except in Sydney where both of us will be there for one day at the same time so hopefully we will meet.

Kong Lo

I  then continued to Kong Lo caves that are 7.5 km long, I travelled with a boat through these caves, coming out of the cave was amazing as it was such a beautiful lush scenery and I suppose having travelled in these dark caves for an hour, the light was even more welcoming. In the afternoon I arrived to this Lao family where I was spending the night in a homestay. This has been one of the highlights of my whole trip and it had a huge effect on me, I had to control my tears saying goodbye to Nouam (the women in the house) in the morning as she had made me feel so welcomed. It was so interesting seeing how a traditional Lao family lived, very primative but still comfortable. The kitchen was a big open room, with an open fire where Nouam cooked, she also had her weaving set up in the kitchen and also the washing facilities were there. You basically just wash, brush your teeth etc pooring the water throught a hole in the floor, the squatting toilet is outside. I had a walk around the village with all the friendly smiley faces, women carrying their babies everywhere, children playing, puppies playing, little pigglets running around, chickens with their little chicks, women carrying water from the river, people washing down by the river etc. All the houses are built on stilts, there are some beautiful vegetable gardens growing along the river, it was just so idyllic. When I got back Nouam had cooked a lovely meal that we sat on the floor eating but it was strange as they don't eat with their guests but still sitting and watching me. Also as they spoke no English at all there were a lot of smiling faces and attempts to speak. However I had decided to take a guide with me so that I could find out a bit more about this village life which was useful, so I found out some basic things about the village and the family I stayed with. After dinner the family held a traditional Lao ceremony for me called Baci, This is a ritual where guardian spirits are bound to the guest of honour with strings tied around the wrists and they wished me good luck in my travels, good fortunes etc, this felt very special to me. The next morning I had to leave very early to catch my bus to Tha Khaek so Nouam was up at 5am cooking breakfast for me, I had an omellette, sticky rice and a really nice eggplant dish, a bit early for this kind of breakfast, but it still tasted wonderful. When you live in these villages, or the country side in Laos you wake up naturally with the light and the sounds of cockerel in the morning.

Lao Tao

I continued to a place called Lao Tao which was a lovely little picturesque village next to some beautiful waterfalls. I stayed in a basic bamboo hut with shared bathroom, but again clean. I met Tom a German guy at the guesthouse and we decided to do a hike the day after bringing a guide with us that Tom had met, the guide was an 80 years old man called Hat, a very fit and excentric character that made us laugh alot. We had a fun day walking through 3 ethnic minority villages, it really felt like some of these people had not come across tourists before as some, especially the children seemed very shy, while others loved it and wanted to be photographed and saying sabadee all the time with smiley faces. Throughtout the day we heard the word falang, which means foreigner, you hear the Lao people calling you this all the time. I then continued down to Champasak

Champasak

Again not much to see here except for Wat Phu Champasak wich I visited. It is an archaelogical site and was added to the Wrold Heritage list about 8 years ago. It was a very peaceful place and the causeway leading up to three different levels of the site is lined with frangipani trees, which have flowers that smell divine. I then headed down to my last destination in Southern Laos which was part of the Four Thousand islands on the Mekong river.

Don Det/ Don Khon

 I stayed at Don Det in a lovely little wooden hut right on the river, with hammocks, it was the most relaxing place. There is no electricity on the island, so for 4 hours every evening electricity is received by generators, the nights are very dark and quite because of this, with beautiful starry skies. I spent 3 nights here which was so relaxing. One day I rented a bicycle and cycled around Don Det and another island called Don Khon which is linked with an old railway bridge. Otherwise the days was spent reading, doing a bit of walking, eating and drinking. Life can be hard sometimes:-)

Vientienne

I have now spent 2 days in Vientienne and seen the sights here, the Capital is relative small and it is easy to walk to all the sights.It is an extremely layed back city.  In the evenings it is really nice to sit in one of the restaurants by the Mekong river and eat freshly BBQ fish and watch the sun set.

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