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Back in Laos Again

LAOS | Tuesday, 21 May 2013 | Views [518]

When we were planning this trip we had a sneaking suspicion that Laos would be our favorite country, and boy were we right. So far we have spent a total of six weeks here and have explored from the north to the south and a few places in between. We love the spicy herb-filled food and the friendly laid-back culture. Natural beauty and fascinating history don't hurt either!

We are back in Laos after a short trip to Thailand. We have talked about our time in the north of Laos elsewhere, so here is a recap of what we have done since we left Luang Prabang:
 
First of all, sleeper buses in Laos are not the same as the ones we sampled in Vietnam. In Laos instead of individual berths you get mattresses for two arranged like bunk beds. Each bus ticket buys you only half of a bunk. For me and Geoff it was fine to share, but imagine if you are traveling solo! 
 
In this cozy fashion we arrived in Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. It is also the largest city in the country and one of the only places to find cosmopolitan luxuries like sushi and real cheese. Overall there aren't a lot of things to see and do here, and this combined with the fact that since Songkran (Laos/Thai New Year) the temperature has stayed steadily above 90 degrees means that we don't do much except eat and sit in air conditioned cafes. We do make an excursion to see a local oddity called Buddha Park, which was constructed with truly psychedelic abandon by followers of a holy man named Luang Pou Bounleau Soulitat to create a place to spread his ideas... through sculpture. We spent some time touring the odd site (and slowly melting in the heat) in the company on a young monk named Su who wanted to practice his English.
 
During our time in Vientiane we came to the realization the we had less than a month of our trip remaining. We needed to make some choices about where to spend our time; unfortunately we couldn't do it all! As a result we decided to forgo a few of the larger towns in Laos in favor of the small city of Savannakhet, which we had heard has some good trekking. 
 
Well, the trekking was good, but little else in town warranted the 4 nights we gave it.  It's not Savannakhet's fault really, it's just very spread out and it was way too hot to justify the walk to its few sites. We did like the local dinosaur museum which, despite lack of good signage, was quite interesting. On display were the original bones (dug from several sites in the province) not casts like you typically find in Western museums. We were inches away from an iguanadon fossil!
 
Our trek through the countryside was just a quick overnight affair, but really well run by the unexpectedly professional Eco Guide Unit. Our guide and interpreter Van and our local guide Soda showed us lots of local flora and fauna. Soda especially liked showing off the big creapy crawlies in the jungle, including a small but apparently not dangerous scorpion.
 
Next we head south to Pakse, which turns out to be everything we had hope for in Savannakhet. It's cooler for one thing, but it also is more walkable, is surrounded by verdant green mountains, and has much better food. Alas we are only in Pakse for one night because we plan to spend the rest of our time in Laos in Si Phan Don, the Four Thousand Islands just north of the Cambodian border. These are tropical islands, and I'm happy to report that Geoff is back in a hammock. What a great way to spend our last few days in chilled out Laos!
 
Next up: the greatest hits of Cambodia in under two weeks. Can it be done?
 
-Gillian

Tags: buddha park, capital, dinosaur, food, hot, laos, pakse, savannakhet, vientiane

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