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Rosi & Jen's 11 Thousand Beach Odyssey Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you did not do, then the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream...."

Luscious Laos

LAOS | Saturday, 10 May 2008 | Views [934]

There is so much more to write about Cambodia.  It’s a country that changes lives.  It affected us both greatly.  At times it left us saddened to the core of our souls with the tragic history of what the Khmer people have been through.  At times we felt disgust at how inexplicably some westerners can still take advantage of such vulnerable people.  At times we loved it and it left us gob smacked with awe at the sheer magnificence of what the people have created over thousands of years.   It definitely left us wanting more.  Wanting to see more, wanting to help, wanting to hear more stories.  I don’t feel that I can adequately explain the feelings Cambodia left us with here.  I think it will take time to sort that out.  I’ll get back to you. 

So after 3 soul searching and definitely enlightening weeks in Cambodia we flew to Vientiane, Laos.    After nearly 2 months in Vietnam and a few weeks in Cambodia arriving in Laos was like entering the chillout zone.  After 4 days in the Vientiane (the capital) we headed for Vang Vieng which is dubbed the "chillout capital' of South East Asia.  The town itself really isn’t that great.  It’s full of young western backpackers doing what young western backpackers do.  Drinking and being silly.  But that’s not why we came.   I’m sitting here on the verandah of our bamboo bungalow looking out at the Nam Song River rush by.  It’s early in the morning and everyone is still asleep.  The roosters have been “cock a doodle dooing”  for a couple of hours.  Except the roosters here seem to only "cock-a-doodle", they forget the "dooing" part which in itself is pretty funny.   It’s raining.  It’s been raining all night.  That tropical rain that can’t really be explained to anyone who hasn’t experienced  it first hand.  Heavy and totally refreshing.  Cooling and lush.  Looking across the river I can see massive limestone karsts rising up in every direction.  Like a line of dramatics peaks.  Like they some how just got pushed out of the earth one day all in one movement.  Maybe they did.. They are stunning and enigmatic and apparently scattered with caves.  Just waiting to be explored.  The limestone peaks remind me a lot of Halong Bay in Northern Vietnam,  except these ones are mostly covered in dense jungle.

Last night I sat on the same verandah and watched the fireflies buzz around.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen fireflies before.  They are fascinating.  Like little singular fairylights all on their own just floating through the air as if by magic. 

Since we’ve been here we’ve been trekking through the jungle and visited some incredible caves.  I’m talking the kind of caves that you get given a torch upon entry and climb up slippery rocks and hillsides and the climb down deep into.  Caves where you  crawl through little tunnels and go so deep inside that there is an absolute absence of light.   I have never experienced anything like it.  We also went tubing so deep through a water cave that when we all turned our torches off and then turned them back again after a couple of minutes no one had any idea which was out.  We have also been tubing down the Nam Song river.  You can hire tyre inner tubes and they will drop you off 4 kms from the town and you can float down the river looking at some of the most amazing scenery you will see anywhere. 

I feel like I’m only starting to relax, wind down and stop thinking about work.  And we’ve been in South East Asia nearly 11 weeks now.   Life as I once knew it doesn’t exist anymore.   It’s such a liberating feeling.  Jen and I do both miss our families and friends.  We wish they were here sharing this experience with us sometimes.  We often look at amazing things and say “Chris would love this”  Ellen would think this was hilarious”  “ I can see Jen’s  Dad having a great old chat to the locals about this”  "Lynelle would photograph that weird looking insect so well"

Laos is spectacular.  It definitely lives up to its beautiful, chilled out reputation.  The more we see of this country the more we both believe that this is just about the closest to Eden the world will ever get.  From the saffron robed monks to the continuous laughter of children. The easy going people with the big broad smiles who don't want to sell you anything they  just want to say hello and have a chat.  From the taste of mulberry fruit shakes to the hard working h'mong people forever tending their crops or hugging their adorable children.  From the scruffy dogs who look like they have urgent places to be to the scrawny chooks.  From the the fireflies to the pristine rivers rushing by.  From the tuk tuk drivers who sing to their passengers to the shouts of sabaidee (hello) from hilltribe children hiding giggling in trees.  From the prettiest city you will ever see to the immense expanse of jungle and the unbeliveable vertical farming plots.  This truly is a country of magnificant beauty, both natural and man made.  This is Asia at its finest and most unspoilt.  With few people and  just starting to open up to tourists, it doesn’t yet suffer from any of the problems that other South East Asian countries experiences due to tourism.  If you're thinking of going to Vietnam.  Don't!  Come to Laos first.  I think this is how Vietnam would have been before it choked itself on its obsession with the tourist dollar.

I can see why people just keep coming back here.  It’s impossible not to immediately relax.  In Vang Vieng we are staying at a place called “Le Jardin Organique” which is a lovely collection of simple bungalows right on the river a little out of town.  Our friend Marie has come over from Australia to travel with us for a couple of weeks. The other day Marie and I went for a swim in the fast moving Nam Song.  Lots of local Lao children were playing in the river, having a bath and doing their washing.  It was so lovely to hear their laughter and see their smiling happy faces.  Across the bank local fishermen were casting nets.  I looked around me and couldn’t believe I was actually here amongst this beautiful simplicity. 

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