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Tubing, waterfalls and Elephants oh my!

LAOS | Tuesday, 7 February 2012 | Views [447]

Laos has been a nice change of pace. The entire country seems much more relaxed then Vietnam, and much quieter. People don't blare their horn every half second here!

Our first stop in Laos was Vientiane. After arriving in Vientiane, we ventured out for a quick bite before hiring a Tuk Tuk and heading to the Buddah Park. Gree Papaya salad is one of Laos' specialties and it is delicious, although extremely spicey most of the time!

Only 3 of the remaining 5 choose to go go to the Buddah Park, and it was a very interesting trip out there. Think of the worst road you can for pot holes. No multiply that by 100000; that was the condition of 75% of the 1 hour drive out to the Buddah Park. Not only did it feel like we were on a rollercoaster, but unfortunately our Tuk Tuk ended up with a flat tire. We pulled over at a mini garage while the driver attempted to fill the tire with air. Our trip ended up being approx 1.5 hours, and we were already trying to rush to make it to the Buddah Park before it closed.

We finally made it, and it was definately worth the trip. You would think by this point I would be sick of Buddah statues and images, but the park was so serene. It was filled with both Buddist and Hindu statues. Buddahs, shivas, and demons all in one location.

The return trip in the Tuk Tuk was just as interesting. Our driver eventually gave up, and called his mate to come pick us up. After arriving back at the hotel, we went across the street for a much needed massage! two of us opted for the Traditional Laos masssage, as it was only 3500kip (approx $7.50). It felt more like a full body, chiropractic appointment than a massage.

Noon the next day we began our 4 hour journey to Vang Vieng after having a fantastic (but a splurg) breakfast at a coffee shop called JoMas (Aunt Shell, the owners are from Cranbrook, BC and I chatted with another couple from Cranbrook over breakfast!). The road to Vang Vieng was just as bumpy as it was to the Buddah Park, but windy. Reading was not an option as it made me motion sick, so instead I attemped to doze whenever I wasn't thrown a foot off by seat.

Vang Vieng is notorious for it's drug/party scene. It's major attraction is river tubing, where you stop every few meters at riverside bars to enjoy, a beer, bucket or other. Having read about the tubing, we were all determined to participate, regardless of the cool, drizzly day. I of course stuck with canned beer, as rumour indicate other substances could easily find there way into your drink. As the trip ended up being more expensive then anticipated, we also had very little cash for drinks and needed to keep a small fund for the tuk tuk ride back to town. The next day, we made the 8 hour drive to the former capital Luang Prabang.

I am currently writing this blog entry from our river boat as we leave Luang Prabang and hope to post it tonight, so long as an internet connection is available in Pak Beng (they were only hooked up with electricity 2 years ago). Luang Prabang was my favourite spot in Laos. The small city was quant with a fantastic market and cheap food. Last night we were able to fill a plate fo 10000kip (about $1.25!).

Yesterday, our entire group booked a tour that involved elephant riding in the morning, and a trip to the famous Kuang Sii Waterfalls in the afternoon. Elephant riding was amazing, although I often felt like I would fall out of the basket as they went down a hill. The afternoon at the water fall was fantastic! After a long hot morning, it was nice to get into the pools along the river and cool off. We enjoyed the pools so much, we nearly missed the main attraction... the waterfall. We had to hike back up the hill to see it before we left.

And now, I am on a slow boat, heading down the Mekong River to Thailand. We will stay in Pak Beng tonight, and reboard the boat tomorrow morning. Laos has been very scenic. Undistrubed forests and mountains everywhere. Unfortunately, Laos is a poor country, and has started selling lumbar to China. Hopefully the majority of the forests will remain.

I will try to post one more time before I begin my volunteer on the 14th. It's hard to believe there is only 5 more days left in my tour and that I have been gone for nearly 1 month already!

PS There was no internet connection in Pak Beng so I'm posting this from Chiang
Hong Thailand. We cross the border late this afternoon. The two day slow boat trip was very scenic and beautiful. Small villages dotted the banks of the Mekong River, with mountains and jungle in the background. We frequently saw the local people out fishing, or cows roaming. It was nice to sit back and relax for a bit. We spent most of the trip naping, reading, chatting or playing cards. Since we had to leave so early both days (6am) it was incredibly cold and we bundled ourselves in blankets.

Tomorrow morning we head to Chiang Mai, which I'm really looking forward to. I'm hoping to do a cooking course in the evening and maybe go ziplining the morning after before we catch a night train back to Bangkok.

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