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Luang Prabang in a nutshell

LAOS | Sunday, 20 September 2009 | Views [418] | Comments [2]

Ok so since I last blogged alot has happened (including me trying to blog a few days ago and when I was almost finished there was a power surge and I lost it all - so it's only now that I willingly return to try again...).

The bus ride from Chiang Mai to the border was in one word - horrendous. Nobody got any sleep and it was the bumpiest road I've ever been on. Gill and I were squeezed into a seat right at the back with all the luggage - lots of fun. When we got to the border at 6am we surrendered our passports to a man who disappeared on a motorbike... but as we were all so tired and over the whole journey that nobody seemed to care. It turned out that he met us at the border and we got our visas after an hour of waiting in the heat. Then it was back on another bus, this one was first class in comparison to what we had spent too many hours on already so in the half an hour that it took us to get to Vientiane we all managed to squeeze in some sleep.

After we checked into the guesthouse we got some much needed sleep and in the evening wandered around town getting our bearings about the place. We headed to Sunset Bar which is in a treehouse on the Mekong River and we watched the sun set (incase the name didnt give it away). The Mekong divides Laos and Thailand at that point and next to where we were there were young boys on either side shooting pellets at each other. It was the first time I have ever been able to see one country from another and I found it quite amusing.

We got up early the next day to check out some temples/wats and get the most out of the day because pretty much as soon as we arrived we decided that we didn't want to spend too much time in Vientiane. One of the wats we visited was the oldest in town and had over 10,000 buddha statues in it. We tracked down another one which had an emerald buddha in it too - but we never got to see it because we were too early. After the wats we found an anz bank which made my day - until I realised that I was still charged the exorbitant withdrawal fees despite being an anz customer. We went to the local markets and bought a few dvds to keep us occupied and then headed to the 'Arc de Triomphe' which is just like the one in France (apparently) except that it's decorated with Laos designs. When we were there we found out that the USA donated the cement that was used to make the Arc for an airport landing strip so it's nicknamed the Vertical Runway in town and is a bit of an eyesore.

After the AdT we got in a tuk tuk with some monks and helped them practice their English as they were studying it at uni - they were so so so polite and friendly. We headed to the last Wat of the day Pra That Luang and it was conveniently closed for an hour at lunch time. We managed to avoid the insane heat under some trees and chatted to a tuk tuk driver who at first was trying to rip us off with a tour of the city but then realised he wasn't going to get anything out of us and told us about the 'falang' - which is the Lao word for white folk. One of his mates came over to sell us some ice cream and when we said no all we could hear him say was 'falang this falang that'... I would've loved to know what they were saying! In the end we unded up buying ice cream off him so I hope it wasn't too bad!

That evening we had dinner at a restaurant owned by some Australian expats. It definitely cured my food homesickness for awhile... I seem to be missing more little things like Boost Juice and Sushi Train than I thought I would in a region that has such amazing food. That night we were woken up at around 1am by the most intense lightning that I have ever seen in my life, I was actually terrified for our safety as it was cracking on buildings all around where we were staying and the room we were in was lighting up every time. After the storm passed over us we went back to sleep and were both woken again with the roof leaking on our faces because it was raining so heavily... so then after much negotiation with the people at the reception they let us change rooms... according to them it was no big deal as it was almost day time... at 2 am... !

The next morning we got a bus at 6 am to head up to Luang Prabang. When we got there that evening we checked out the local markets and found a vegetarian buffet food vendor which charged 5000 kip for a plate... which is less than $1AUD. We ended up going back there a few times because the food was so good (and cheap). The next day we discovered another treehouse type place named "l'etranger" (after Camus) which is a cafe & book exchange, which has over 50 different teas and the cutest tea pots. We ended up spending hours there for the next two days hiding from the occasional rain by sipping tea and reading.

The next day we got a tuk tuk to Pak Ou caves which are ancient caves that are filled with hundreds of tiny little Buddha statues and sweated over hundreds of steps there and back. That evening we went back to the markets for a vegetarian feast and some shopping, where there was a girl who couldn't have been older than 8 trying to sell me a toiletry bag... "miss you like this? its so pretty look, I know you want to buy, look at all the colours"... she did not stop after I declined numerous times but I never ended up buying one... and after I passed by her a few times the same evening she'd recognise me and say "I know you you want to buy bag". There was another lady who was selling slippers who I went to purely out of sympathy and ended up buying two pairs from her for $2 aud... I bartered with her and got her price down by half her original offer, but felt so bad at the end that i ended up giving her an extra few thousand kip (not even a dollar) because I felt so bad. When we got back tot he guesthouse I was on the verge of tears because I felt so sorry for her - it really pulls the heartstrings even if you are chasing a bargain!

The next afternoon we went to the airport to catch the plane to Hanoi and I ran into a guy that was a few years below me in High School who I did Rock Eistedfodd with... there were literally 10 people on the plane it was such a small-world encounter it blew my mind! We ended up sharing a cab into Hanoi and he stayed at the same hotel as us so we ended up checking out Hanoi's crazy town and getting some dinner from some street vendors when we arrived! Crazy!



Who was the guy?

  SARAH Sep 21, 2009 11:22 AM


Jack Scott do you remember him? the tiny red headed guy... who isn't so tiny anymore I barely recognised him!

  stackattack Sep 21, 2009 11:40 PM

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