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Published: March 30th 2012
#33- NORTHERN CENTRAL LAOS.
THE SHOCK OF LAOS.
It is amazing how two neighboring countries can be so different. After the noise, high-rise chaos, hustle and bustle of China, arriving in more laid back Laos was a welcome change. You even notice at the airport, especially after going thru Chinese immigration TWICE at two different airports in China (??!?). Here, the locals smile at you instead of grinning and giggling. And it’s a change to see Aussies everywhere in shorts and thongs (flip-flops) after China’s cool weather.
The capital city, Vientiane, feels more like a country town (like Lismore or Grafton). So now I will rest in good hotel with plenty of SPACE (even a kitchen!) for few days to recover from cold and craziness of the last week. ‘Try to do nothing for a few days and catch up on emails,(where the internet is better), before heading out into only other two places on the Mekong (Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang.
This small capital is mainly interesting for the large number of temples and being on the Mekong. Thailand is one kilometer away-(been there before). It is very easy to just wander
around the multicolored temples and dilapidated old French colonial buildings. Most restaurants sell a large range of international foods.
A few hours north along the Mekong via bus is a very small town, famous, or should I say infamous for being a backpacker party town. It is in a very beautiful area of tall mountain karsts with many restaurants showing continuous re-runs of “Friends” on big TV screens. The mini-marts seem to sell just as much liquor and beer as anything else. I managed to find a hotel back from the road and noise.
I took a tour along the Mekong that involved kayaking part of the way. It was nice and quiet until we heard music in the distance. In an isolated area along the river are bars all close together all playing different loud rock music. They were mostly young Western guys partying. It was like “Apocalypse Now” meets “Lord of the Flies”. There were slippery slides and flying-foxes into the river with people floating in inner tubes, drink-in-hand over shallow rocks. There was a lot of alcohol and drugs involved. Recently on the news there has been a lot of talk of
people (especially young Australians) being killed thru accidents in this area. Fortunately we stopped at one of the ‘quieter’ bars on the edge- more my pace. Altogether it was an exhausting day. Next day would be restful with a six hour bus to my final destination.
The trip to the old capital was quite spectacular with tall rugged mountains thru steep valleys. Luang Prabang is the main reason most people come to Lao. The blend of old French colonial buildings and colorful ancient temples and palace in the tropical setting by the river among mountains is very pleasant. Once again a very laid-back place with very few big modern buildings or fast traffic, but good food instead.
Visits to temple cave and elephant ride was about the most exciting time I needed after the hustle and bustle of China.
A local flight back to the capital and then KL before home; so many plane rides in such a short time. I hope this will settle my travel bug for a while. I have visited every country in mainland south Asia now. (Most were visited in 1980 and 1981)
I could quite easily enjoy
visiting all of them again. Maybe one day.
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