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Last week in Laos

LAOS | Thursday, 20 December 2012 | Views [1284]

4th December 2012

We head to Vientiane in a mini-bus, which the hotel has arranged for us.  The young man on reception, has told us that the bus will drop us by his friends guest house in the capital. This will be useful, as we have not booked a room. Needless to say, he lied! (they all lie, all of the time). The bus drops us in a back street. We get the Lonely Planet out and head for the centre. Finding a room in the capital, is proving more difficult than we thought. In the end, I sit at a café with the rucksacks, while Matt goes in search of a room (that we can afford).  It takes him about 30 minutes to find one, it is way more expensive, than what we have been paying, but, I guess we are in the capital, so it will be more expensive. We get a windowless room in the Souphaphone Guest House for 170.000 kip.

We soon realise that although we are in the capital, there is not a awful lot to do here. We have done our share of temples, so decide to walk to the Laos equivalent of the 'Arc de Triomphe' the 'Patuxai'.  For 3000 kip, you can climb to the top and have really nice views over the city. (God it's hot!)  We have decided that one full day here is enough for us, so make so enquiries about the bus to Tha Khek. We are heading to Pakse, where we will cross the border into Vietnam, but want to  break the journey up.  Our hotel is quoting 140,000 kip, we ask around other ticket sellers and get a ticket for 100,000 kip, (a saving of 3.20p each.  It's funny, at home 3.20p doesn't seem much, but here it's a supper, or even 2!)

The 7 hour journey is pretty average, a crap bus, honking horns, people sitting in the isle on plastic stools, the usual!  I have pre-booked a room, so when we arrive at the bus station, we ask a tuk-tuk driver to take us to the hotel. We know it isn't right in the town centre, but where he takes us is way out.  I get out to confirm we are at the correct hotel, before we pay him and let him go.  The people on reception look at me like I am mad, when I say I have a room booked through Agoda. They look at us blankly and shake their heads, not speaking a word of English.  There is no sign of a computer behind reception, so we figure that we are not in the correct place, but no-one has a clue of where we should go next. We end up in a fairly grotty, but popular back-packer place, as everywhere in town is full. We decide to move on again tomorrow to Savannakhet, a 3 hour bus journey away.   We find a nice room in Leena's Guest House.  There is not a lot to do here either, but it is on the Mekong and does have some character, as far as the buildings go.  We find a nice restaurant in an old neglected plaza and have a very grown-up lunch, - bruschetta, tortilla and a large glass of red wine, (despite what you may all think, this is unusual for us!).

Another 7 hour bus journey to Pakse.  The bus looks quite good, (for a change), but as usual, it is never as good as it first seems.  It stops at every possible stop and squeezes as many people on as possible (including the isle, of course).  Every stop gets more and more painful, as they start loading things on the roof now, there is no space left inside.  They even manage to get a scooter up there!!

We get dropped off at the edge of town, with one other tourist.  This is always slightly worrying, as you have know idea where you are, but there is a tuk-tuk waiting to take us the couple of Km's to the centre. We get  a room in the Sabaidy Guest House 2, a busy backpacker type place.  We opt for the cheaper of the double rooms on offer, but realise that this is probably a mistake, when the people next door return to their room and we can hear them peeing!!  (The bathrooms backed onto one another), so we decide to pay the extra 20,000 kip (1.60p) and get a room in the new building and we even had a balcony!

Paske is full of eateries and tourist offices and not a lot else.  We decide to book on a day trip to go to the Bolevan Plateau.  We are spending the day with a French couple (who speak very little English) and a English lady called Jane, (who incidentally, has a brother who has just bought a piece of land near Ironbridge, small world).  First we go to a tea plantation, then a coffee plantation. Matt, who hates coffee, surprises himself  (and me), by trying some and actually said that it was OK!  We visit some local ethnic minority villages, which were interesting, especially the second one where the kids actually looked and acted worse off, than the kids in the orphanage in Luang Prabang.  (Its' amazing how they can always can ask for 'money' in English!)  Most were very sweet though, especially one little girl, who looked like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders, but the smile she gave us when we gave her some bananas was unbelievable.  All in all, it was a good day out and worth the 180,000 kip (22.50p) each. You definitely get more from a visit when you have an English speaking guide.

From Pakse we are heading into Vietnam, so we go to the Consulate, which happens to be about 50 metres from where we are staying and get our 30 day visa sorted, very easily for 400,000 kip. 

Our last day in Laos was a good one. We hired a scooter and headed south 30K or so, to an ancient temple site (dating back to the 5th century) called Phou Vat.  It is set up high in a hillside and had the most amazing views, but boy, it was hot! 

We are almost embarrassed to admit that our last dinner in Laos was an Indian.  We found a great one down a side alley, called Nazims.  It had plastic chairs and no decor to speak of, but the food was real and authentic! The owner was Indian and his wife was Thai, they were some of the friendliest people we had spoken to in Laos!

Our bus journey to Vietnam, is one that Matt would like to erase from his memory, if he could.  I will quickly tell you that we had a terrible bus, and driver, he had his hand on the horn for 90% of the 10 hours.  The border crossing was not too bad and we managed to get away without having to pay any bribes!  The real bad thing was seeing a scooter accident, where a young girl of about 12 was fighting for her life on the roadside, because she wasn't wearing a helmet.  Fortunately, because I was sat in the isle seat, I didn't get to see this, but it really shook Matt up, for several days.

 All in all, Laos was mostly very scenic and beautiful, although we didn't enjoy it as much as we thought we would, it has to be said.  The people were no where near as friendly as the Thia's and I think because everyone we had spoken to had really enjoyed it, maybe, we were expecting a bit too much!  

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