Country of contrast - Laos

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June 18th 2010
Published: July 8th 2010
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We said goodbye to Chaing Mai and sadly to Thailand and drove 6 hours to the border and met some cool people enroute...2 Kiwi guys Chris and Mike and 2 Israeli Guys all of us doing the same thing. Turns out Chris and Mike had just had a serious motorbike accident and were showing off there festering wounds to us! We made it to the border town and stayed there the night. The next day we sped through immigration and jumped aboard our slow boat to Laos! Shaun and I had premium seats...bags of rice! They kind of molded to the shape of your bum and we were also able to lie down using them as a pillow - a luxury many of the other 40-ish people on board didn't have. We shunned buying cushions on the mainland - deciding two dollars could be used better elsewhere and we were right!!!

6 hours on the boat, some card playing, book reading and general chilling later - we arrived in the Laos town of Pak Bao and spent the night in the cheapest accommodation yet...I think it was 2 pounds for both of us! Our first impressions of Laos people were good ones, they were all so friendly and willing to help. The next day we jumped back on the boat (this time no rice bags but a bus style seat!) and headed another 6 hours into Laos and the town of Luang Prabang. Turns out we were going to be able to meet up with our friends Anthony and Alli who we spent time with in the Philippines. We were really excited to see them again, especially as we weren't sure if we would be able to.

Arriving into Luang Prabang by boat was awesome - the mighty Mekong is the heart of this beautiful town and it was a perfect introduction. We said goodbye to Chris and Mike but we had planned to meet them again later. Anyway we found our guesthouse from a tip from Alli and Anthony and then met them later that evening for a few beves and of course, tasting the local brew!

The next few days consisted of hanging out with A&A during the day...climbing temples, visiting Wats and generally hanging out. At night we had a few drinks until curfew of 11.30 and on one night we even ventured out to the ''nightclub'' which was a hilarious and very Lao experience! The night market in Luang Prabang was awesome too, and we'd eat here fresh spring rolls and other Laos delights to fill us both up for under two quid! Amazing!!!! We also met up with Chris and Mike and their friends again for a Laos bbq and a few cold ones.

The second day we headed to the waterfalls about 45minutes out of town and it was well worth the trip. Some crazy people however, thought they could bike the whole way, and they couldn't! Along our trip we picked up two 'bikers' and their bikes as the 40c heat and steep hills was obviously too much for them to handle! (Not like I would have EVER even considered it!) Anyway the falls were amazing...prob the best ones i've ever seen. Lots of different ones with rope swings and the best of all was kind of secret. We met up with Chris and Mike and their friends who'd already been and got told about the secret waterfall up the very top of the mountain. We had to climb UP a waterfall to get there, but it was certainly worth it. Aside from someone getting a leech on them and me slipping into a small pool and scratching the hell outta my ankle, it was definaltey worth the trouble! The view was stunning, we were on top of the huge gushing waterfall below us. We even swam into the pool that overhung the pool (which was hell scary) AND i even jumped off one of the lower ledges into the pool. (The fact that it took me 20 minutes of courage building has no impact on the story...niether does the fact that it was only about 4 meters high and everyone else was jumping off the big one about 6-8 meters high!).

The third day we were there, A&A told us that they wanted to come back to Vang Vien with us and go tubing again!! We were soo excited as they were supposed to be flying out but wanted to come back with us to go tubing which we were sooo excited about. There is just something about Shaun and I getting wasted by ourselves that doesn't really appeal to either of us (unless it's on red wine in front of the telly!). Anyway, we were super stoked and organised to leave to Vang Vien the following day on the 6 hour, windiest mini van trip i'd ever taken. Luckily, Alli gave me some travel sickness tablets that made us very drousy, but I'd much prefer drousy that the most definate travel sickness i would have got without them. I wasn;t even sitting on a seat, but a fold out cushion from the seat next to me that would try to fold back in again due to the gravitation pull every time we went around a bloody corner ... ie every 20 seconds. Basically, it was hell but thank the lord for those drousy sleeping tablets - Alli my saviour!!!!!

Anyway, we finally arrived in Vang Vien at about 9pm to the sounds of drunken teenagers and stumbling westerners. It was completley different to Luang Prabang and neither Shaun nor I knew if we liked it here or wanted to stay. After checking out about 8 different guest houses (cause most of them were filthy or just full of drunken people), we finally decided on one which was clean and good value...and for us, had a fan. We still hadn't fallen into the ''air-con trap''...once you
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slow boat from chain mai to laos
got it you can't go back. So we were holding off as long as possible, plus it was tons cheaper. We had an early night, and got ready to tackle the Nam Song River and it's masses the following day with Alli and Anthony.

The following day was a day of drinking buckets in the sun, swinging off ropes into the Nam Song and taking free shots (which had wierd things such as snakes inside them!) from the crazy bar people. We got there at two and by 9pm I was in bed! It was a great day and we made it all the way down the river, allbeit a little late and lost some of our deposit, not to worry as it worked out to an extra Pound. The river was flowing and so were the buckets, but we made it back and that's what counted.

Conquered the Nam Song!!!

The following day was a rest day, kindof. We didn't hire tubes, just took a tuk tuk down to the river and had a few beves before heading back to town. We also met up with Chris, Mike and their friends too. We had a great night with those guys although somewhat freaky (details to be avoided here).

Another day of chilling for us, with no sign at all of the river and we also had to say a final goodbye to Alli and Anthony. It was sad as we'd probably not see them again until they visited us in Melbourne, or we them in San Francisco. Anyway, the final day was lots of chilling, then the next day we left for the capital of Vietiane.

We arrived in Vietiane with intention of staying maybe 3 nights in the capital, but once we arrived we knew we'd only stay 2. Accommodation was almost triple what we'd been paying elsewhere in Laos, but we managed to get a good deal with our FIRST night of air-conditioning and a TV! We spent two days looking around the smallest capital we'd ever seen - althought the French Colonial architecture made it not so boring. So did the lovely smell of the Mekong (not). Our highlight was probably eating at the night market which Shaun didn't find that amazing, but even though we didn't know what we were eating, and if the little hairs we were spitting out didn't freak us out (and look like Labrador tail) - then it was great! Hey, we didn't get sick so it must have been fresh Labrador!!!!!!!! (just joking, probably poodle).

Anyway, Vientiane was pretty uneventful so on the third day we said goodbye to our friendly guesthouse lady and with Vietnamese Visa in hand (done in a day - no hassle at all) - we jetsetted onto Vietname!!!!

P.S Something wierd happened to the tags on the photos so the headings aren't attached to the right photos! Sorry to confuse!

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view from the top

8th July 2010

wow what a great trip that must have been, how exciting, it really looks like you got into the thick of it there, away from all civilisation, looks fantastic, and you both look sooo well, love the photo of the monk sitting in the window frame, and also the water falls fabulous, what great fun...take care and love to you both, mum and dad xxxx

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