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Nicola and Christopher's Grand Adventure! This is a little story of our 3 month journey through, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. We hope that you (our friends and family) enjoy reading about our trip!

One small capital city and some more rain...

LAOS | Tuesday, 3 August 2010 | Views [403]

Well folks we have made it to Vientiane, the rather French sounding capital of Laos (we are still debating as to whether Laos should be pronounced with an 's'). At just over 250k, we think that the capital is about twice the population of Dunedin, so not that big. If you have looked on the map, you will see that it sits on the Northern bank of the Mekong and is a river crossing away from Thailand. It feels a little weird to be back in a city having been on the road in Northern Laos for the past 8/9 days.

So what have we been up to, we hear you cry. Well after leaving the rather touristy town of Luang Prabang, we hitched a ride on a minibus to Phonsavan. Not wanting to dissapoint anyone, the trip did not occur without incident. We had read that the mountainous region we travelled through is prone to land slips in the wet season, and had indeed seen the after effects of some land slippage on our travels, well we were to experience some more... the rains had reduced a treacherous road to barely one lane and one particular corner and as we reached the end of a long line of stationary traffic our mini bus driver, along with several others took it upon himself to head to the front of the line... where we were promptly in the way... much yelling in Laos ensued, all the tourists got out and had a look at the big truck stuck in the mud, took some pictures and scurried back to the mini van when the heavens opened (again). We sat and waited as more yelling took place, people in uniform strutted up and down the road, and two hours later, some traffic from the north made it through. We then got the green light, and promptly got stuck a couple of times in the mud ourselves. After a village load of men pushed us out, we were on our way to Phonsavan again. Forget seat belts, forget crash barriers, forget any road rules about overtaking on blind corners, we were travelling in the mountains Laos style.

We arrived in the small town of Phonsavan around six, tired and in search of a room. It is a small town and we negotiated a room easily enough ($NZ 16), with satelite tv no less (it felt a little bizarre to be watching Quantum of Solace in the middle of Laos one evening, needless to say Nicola fell asleep half way through). The only reason folks appear to come to Phonsavan is to visit the Plain of Jars, so we signed up for the obligatory day tour and headed to the Indian restaurant for some good nosh!

The Plain of Jars is essentially, hundreds of stone jars that litter the landscape around Phonsavan. They are approx. 3k years old and quite large. It is the Laotian Stone Henge! It was interesting to see and to imagine what life must have been like for those that made and placed the jars. The scenary, with the mountains in the back ground was quite stunning. We were also taken to see how they make rice whisky and the remains of a Russian tank (don't ask). The land in the area is quite fertile and for what feels like the first time on this trip we saw a lot of livestock (we took some pictures of the Cows for those that might be interested!). The problem that folks have in this part of the world, is the 90mn tonnes of bombs that were dropped during the secret war (1964-73) as the US went to war against the communists. There is about a 30% failure rate on the bombs, so there is a shed load of stuff still around the place, for kids to pick up and farmers to come across. It was interesting to learn about this at an information booth in town and to get some insight into one of the reasons development is being hindered.

We departed Phonsavan, having opted to spend a couple of nights in the party town that is Vang Vieng. Again, not to dissapoint us, the trip did not go off without incident... we picked up a mini-bus at 8:30, we were the only people on it, which seemed strange, and lucky... and hour later the check engine light came on, and our driver would not proceed any further... several phone calls in Laos later and a passing minibus going to Luang Prabang picked us up... we stopped in another two hours and were ferried onto a local bus to Vientiane, we jumped off at Vang Vieng about and hour after we hoped to arrive. No harm done. Vang vieng is stunning, you can see why it was first put on the backpacker circuit 30 years ago. The limestone casts make for a great back drop... the throngs of tourists do not! We were glad to have seen the town, and spent a few hours chilling by the river with our books and a few drinks. It was nice to move on though, it had a bit of a tacky Med feel to it, especially with the other tourists who appeared to be doing the loop from Bangkok treating the Lao people with contempt and not bothering to even learn a few words in Lao. Having spent 3.5 hours on a minibus with five of them today, our tolerance limits have been met.

We are in Vientiane for three nights, and hope to get a good look at the city tomorrow, sample some more of the great French influenced cafes, as well as to sort out our visa for Vietnam and some bus tickets to Lak Sao, a small town near the border. We have been on the road for over seven weeks now, so over half way. We are pretty much on budget, amazing considering Christopher's penchant for shopping and yes, we are still talking to one another, just about. We are missing flat white's, the farm and the folks, although not necessarily in that order!

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