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Published: August 6th 2007
In my last entry I mentioned that I caught a bus to Luang Prabang (LPB). I think a "grossly overloaded minivan" is probably a better description of the vehicle. When I arrived at the bus station it was already full and I was wondering where I was going to sit. Worry not, someone soon turned up to toss a young Lao woman into the already full backseat. It's ok, she was smaller than me 😉. My newly vacated seat was a fold-down contraption that placed me next to the middle row of seats. I've seen these seats before. They're designed to cram even more people into a bus. Essentially, they fill up the aisle with fold-down seats once everyone else is in place. It's great for their profits, but not so good for everyone's comfort (or safety)!
Thankfully, we arrived safe and sound in LPB after a hair raising ride through some seriously mountainous terrain. An old woman who was crammed in the very back corner of the minivan spent the better part of the ride hacking stuff up out the open window. I'm not sure if she was carsick or what, but it wasn't fun listening to! Several of
What does $100 buy you
960,000 Kip in 48 convenient notes!
us caught a tuk-tuk into town and then we split up to find guest houses. I settled on one for 5 bucks a night after checking a few other places. It's some kind of unspoken backpacker's rule that you never take the first place that you come across. You always have to check at least one other. Normally I ignore that rule as long as the price seems reasonable, but the prices at the first two places weren't reasonable so off I went.
I took a shower (the first of several) to cool down a bit. The temperature in LPB was around 95F and it was a bit of a shock after the cold weather in China. Once I got cooled off I set off to explore a bit. LPB is a cool city, and it's fun to see some of the old colonial architecture. Being Laos, everything really is laid-back. People smile a lot and no one is in a hurry. Another thing about LPB is that there were westerners everywhere. With my arrival in LPB I was officially back on the tourist circuit. No more half empty dorms and going an entire day without seeing a westerner.
It also meant that once again the tuk-tuk drivers were after my business. I had become so used to being ignored in China (from a business perspective) that it took some time to realize that they were talking to me when I heard calls of "hello! tuk-tuk mister?"
Since I was back in backpacker land I decided to take full advantage of it and I marched straight over to a pizza place. Finally, a decent pizza! I also had an amazing mango shake from a street side vendor before walking along the river to enjoy the sunset. I headed off to bed early after another shower.
I woke up with the sun the next morning and headed straight to the bank since I was officially out of small dollars and the only ATM did not take VISA. I changed $100 and they supplied me with 48(!) 20,000 Kip notes. Wonderful. Try putting 48 bills in your money belt! So, I headed back to the gh where I split the money into a few piles and hid one in my bag, another in the money belt, and the third went into my wallet. With that settled I had already
Monkey on a chain
Courtesy of my guest house
worked up a sweat so I took a shower (see a pattern emerging here?) before heading off to rustle up some breakfast.
Just at the end of my little street I found the Scandinavian Bakery. The name sounded interesting so I headed inside and discovered that they had bagels, which I promptly ordered along with some cream cheese. The bagel (toasted of course) was good, but the cream cheese was seriously lacking. I decided to make it a priority to find some Laughing Cow cheese, which I figured would work better than their sour cream cheese as a topping. I bought some more bagels before leaving and then wandered around some more. It didn't take long before the temperature had hit the mid nineties and so I soon returned to the gh for a bit of lunch and then a siesta. I woke up around 2 and then spent a couple hours reading before heading off into the (cooler) evening air. I checked out the night market for a bit, but it was just same same. I could have looked at the first five stalls and seen all that was on offer. Everyone was selling the same money pouch/purses
with a spiral design sewed on them and not much else.
I had dinner at a place that came highly recommended by the LP. The little restaurant had a movie room, and since I was the only customer I picked a movie out. I ended up watching Seven Years in Tibet, which turned out to be a great film. Plus, it got me even more excited to get to Tibet. No one else showed up the entire time I was there, so I guess the 10 minute walk from the center must be too much for most people! After I got home I had another lazy evening spent reading.
The next morning I decided to make something of the day so I headed off to find some new books after eating more bagels for breakfast. I exchanged four books for two, which is pretty standard fare over here. I was actually quite glad to be rid of a bunch of dead weight. It wasn't long before the heat sent me inside for another siesta. In the afternoon I climbed up Phu Si hill for a stunning view of LPB. I just wish that the Lao people weren't forced
to slash-and-burn their land to survive. Aside from destroying the land it makes the air really smoky so the view wasn't as nice as it could have been. Still, it was peaceful up on the hill watching the sun go down over the Mekong.
The next morning I caught an early tuk-tuk to the bus station and I was off to my next destination.
Stay tuned for Vang Vieng.
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