Published: March 13th 2012March 13th 2012
Laos is the second of three Communist countries on my trip and I thought for sure I would be given a proper interrogation, asked about my papers, and possibly burned with a cigarette, punched, and beaten with a billy club before being allowed to walk free. Again, this has not happened. What’s wrong with these “Communist run/corrupt” countries I’ve been traveling to? That’s the problem these days – no one takes the time to do a proper interrogation, draw up some false allegations, and threaten a simple tourist with the 20 years to life of hard labor based on the false allegations. They just want your visa fee now. They even itemize the ‘processing fee’ of $1. I suppose it’s easier. The world is getting lazy! Luang Prabang
- I flew from Hanoi to Luang Prabang. Since my night bus ride form Hue to Hanoi was 16 hours instead of 12, I wasn’t about to test the estimated 24 hour bus ride from Hanoi to Luang Prabang. Luang Prabang is one of those places that linger in your imagination after you leave. It’s situated on a peninsula with amazing views of the Mekong River and crumbling French architecture. There
is also a certain glow to the city from the sun trying to make it through the haze or smoke (I could never figure out which it was). This was the kind of town you could just chill in for days. I spent a day more than I planned just because it was so tranquil. Luang Prabang looked like it was frozen in time. Apart from the cafes having free Wifi, I can’t imagine it being any different than it was 30 years ago. I went to this French café everyday and ordered a crepe with bananas and Nutella
, an orange juice, and a coffee. So good!
I met two English girls who were walking around who noticed I had a map. We checked out the temple on the top of hill and the Royal Palace museum. The Royal Palace was impressive with some amazing furniture with artwork. The royal cars were on display, which featured a Lincoln and Ford from the 50s. They were gifts from the American Government. We finished the day just walking around town and grabbing dinner and then a massage. The next day we met up to go to the big waterfall.
big waterfall was one of the nicest waterfalls I had ever seen. In fact, it was multiple waterfalls. The water was freezing, but a lot of people braved the temperature and jumped in. The area also had a bear protection center that rescues bears that have been mistreated. It took about an hour to get there, but well worth it. At night we met up again and had dinner at an Italian restaurant. The area between my hotel and the restaurant became a huge market at night. I have no idea where all these crafts/scarfs/ect. come from, but everyone in the town seems to be a salesman. Vang Vieng
– Well known for it’s tubing on the river and multitude of river bars, Vang Vieng sat as a midway point between Luang Prabang and Vientiane. Once again, the 5-hour bus ride took about 7 hours. We took minibuses. Where all the minibuses looked semi capable to tackle the hills, ours looked like the Mystery Machine
from Scooby Doo. At one point we had to take 4 people out of our van (which only sat 11) and put them in another van. I volunteered. Our bus was just struggling to
stay alive. It was even a clear shot to the pride of our driver, who would roll his eyes ever time it almost stalled on the hills. On one of the hills the minibus grinded to a complete halt, only to find a second wind and make it up the rest of the hill. It was like the scene from ‘Back to the Future’ when the DeLorean
dies and Marty hits his head on the steering wheel and it jumps back to life. Hey, we made it.
Since we arrived so late to Vang Vieng I wasn’t able to go tubing that day. I only planned to stay for a night. I thought it was a good stopping point on the way to Vientiane. Since my bus for Vientiane left at 1:30 the next day, I had to go tubing in the morning. At 9:00 I was all ready to go. Unfortunately, I was the only person on the river at that time. The 4 km trip took about 3 hours to complete. That included me paddling with my arms for about half the trip. It was peaceful though. The hills are huge and the river was so quiet. Vientiane
– The bus ride from Vang Vieng to Vientaine was almost as long as the bus ride the day before. One important lesson I’ve learned is to add a few hours onto the expected arrival time when traveling by bus or train in SE Asia. I got into Vientiane late with no place to stay. Most of the places were booked, but I did find a nice place close to the river. Vientiane was definitely more modern than the two other places I had seen in Laos, but it was also kind of cluttered and old. I only stayed a night. That night I walked down by the river that separated Laos from Thailand. The huge river walkway reminded me of Phnom Penh. There was market set up too.
I had half a day to see Vientiane so I got up early and walked to the main temple. On the way I passed their version of the Arc de Triomphe (Patuxai) and the presidential palace. I tried to see their military museum, but it was closed. It did have a display of trucks from the 50s on display outside of the museum. On the way back I
went to the top of the Patuxai and got a good view of the city. Possibly the best thing about Vientiane was this Italian restaurant across form my hotel that had an all you can eat buffet. After that it was off to the train station to catch my train back to Bangkok. I met an older American couple that had spent years working in Laos for the State Department in the 70s. They had been back every year for the past 10 years. You could tell they really loved the country. Luckily they loaned me $2 for the exit fee since I had spent all my Lao Kips at the Italian restaurant. Next stop – Bangkok (again)!
There are more photos below