Lots to do in Central Laos

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March 1st 2007
Published: March 1st 2007
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yet again, here we are

it doesn't look like we've covered very much distance, but oh, for lack of distance, our travels go deep. very very deep.

dirty oliverdirty oliverdirty oliver

after a hard day's work on a cob brick building at the organic farm outside of Vang Vieng, Laos
Hello to all,

Your favorite overseas writer is back for one more blog entry (it was my turn, actually, but oliver stole in and wrote it while i was otherwise occupied). Dorien will inevitably write her witty little comments as she tends to, so if the blog is confusing and hard to follow we can all collectively blame her. We are in Vang Vien, be we like to think of it as a mini Las Vegas. A walk through the main strip (300 yards) will over whelm your senses with flashy lights, the sounds of college kids taking getting drunk, and worst of all the piercing sounds of a laughing track from none other then the TV show FRIENDS!. Perhaps a little too loudly I verbalized my disgust and walked across the street and to my bewilderness found the same thing. Another bar completely packed with young minds in one of the most beatiful places in loa all tuned in to one of the most rediculouse and mind numbing TV shows ever aired...........and for soooo bloody long. Down the street yet another bar. All day every day they play re-runs of friends. Never before have a worried soo much about

Part of the Ramayana we saw performed in Luang Prabang
the future of my generation......................... Before i get too worked up i will move on. Not a whole lot to write about in Luang Prabang. We met up Derik and Paula (the Kiwis) again and Neil. We went to some neat caves and saw the local sights but not much more to say than that. Put in some good resting time before jumping on a local bus and endoured the seven hour bus ride south to Vang Vien where we spent four days working on an organic farm. I don't believe that the local workers were too used to any of the volunteers doing all that much work because after the first day they became very friendly. Joining us in the evenings for swims in the Nam Song river and a beer Loa....or two.....or three. Derik adn Paula got to the farm a day earlier and worked with us on building the grain and Goat cheese storage hut. It was all made from Mud bricks. The mortar was made in a shallow pit where we all removed our shoes and jumped in, mixing the combination of clay, straw, rice husks, sand and water with our feet. After a good amount
View of Mekong from Luang PrabangView of Mekong from Luang PrabangView of Mekong from Luang Prabang

From a temple on top of a hill
of time the mud was ready and we started our work. (this is basically cob construction...I (dorien) also scrubbed and painted the outside of a bath house, planted mulberry trees, and fed baby goats. their lactating adults aren't providing enough milk, so i spent some time on the internet talking to my mom and doing research and worked up a plan of different foods to introduce to increase their milk supply).

The four of us did give into on of the more common touristic things to do here. For 4 dollars (which is a lot) you rent intertubes and they take you up stream and drop you off at the Nam song. The entire day is spent floating down the river stopping off at the numerous bamboo structure they call bars and drinking beer loa. Each one outfitted with a large rope swing or zip line. Some of them are a few stories high. At each stop you chat with the other tubers and try and show up the person trying anew trick off the swing. Of course with my incondescent skin i recieved a decent burn, Dorien fared better. We also visited some other caves one of which
Cave BuddhaCave BuddhaCave Buddha

most of the caves had a Buddha statue near the entrance
was very cool. We went without a tour (since the tours don't take you all the way into the caves) and walked 2.5 miles inside this cave, crawling on our hands and knees in some places and in other places the caves opened up into large caverns big enough for a large house to reside in . We had heard that there was a lake at the end and we were determined to reach it....which we did and of course went swimming, all by flash light. Tomorrow morning we get back on a bus for three hours and head to the capital, Vientiane. Our Visas are almost out and we have so much more to see here.

Due to our general laziness, I (that is, dorien) am finishing the blog in Vientiene. Two days ago (Feb 27) Oliver and I passed our official half way point. Oliver has been sick for a couple of days, as in really very much quite sick, so we spent what was supposed to be our celebration night in our room in the guesthouse listening to the fan whack-whack on the ceiling.
But yesterday, he was able to drag himself out enough to go
Warrior PoseWarrior PoseWarrior Pose

us all ready to go at the cave entrance.
to the most blessed of foreigner temples, the mini-market on main street Vientiene, where we spent an outrageous 12 dollars on cheese and chocolate, hard to find commodities here (i'll go back tmrw for the peanut butter).
We also compiled a quick synopsis of our trip, which i will recount here for our amusement.

Best Foods:

-Mangos and pomellos (giant, sweet grapefruit), peeled and sliced on the streets in Luang Prabang
-Curries in Thailand (green being our favorite, with an especially good red curry in Pai)
-Peanut butter and banana sandwich in Chiang Rai, Thailand (one of my favorite foods ever, and it was actually on the menu. for once i didn't have to chew up a bunch of peanuts, take a bite of bread, and pretend...)
-Grilled whole fish from the Mekong, stuffed with lemon grass (street food, Luang Prabang)
-Grilled chicken on bamboo skewers, having sat a good number of hours on the grill and thus particularly smokey and delicious. on the streets everywhere (much to oliver's delight)
-Spicy tofu and vegetable soup with sticky rice, in Vang Vieng

Worst Foods:

everything that has made us sick::
-stewed green beans on the
Hole in caveHole in caveHole in cave

apparently many stupid falang (such as ourselves) going through the caves without a guide (such as ourselves) have fallen into this hole and been very seriously hurt
trek in Muang Sing (oliver got sick from this one-i was still too sick (see below) to eat this particular delicacy)
-chicken buger in Pai, Thailand (oliver again)
-Indian curry with mutton, in Vang Vieng (oliver, yet again. and he is still sick from this one, though it might not be food poisoning this time)
-sticky rice with mangos and coconut milk (so innocuous sounding...this is the one that got me sick right before our trek in Muang Sing)

but what has to take the prize for worst meal was the noodle soup we had in Xieng Kok. oliver, derek, paula and I were starving, and the only place we could get food was down the street. we got a pretty disgusting noodle soup, with a large sprinkling of human hair and some ants for protein. derek kept watch on the door to see if the woman would come back out. oliver ferried the soup to paula through the window, where she poured it down the drain so the woman wouldnt see, and i divied out the rest of the soup to make it look like we had all just finished it. afterward, still ravenous, we went to a
Warrior PoseWarrior PoseWarrior Pose

in the lake at the end of the cave
snack stand and got a package of cookies that had sat out in the sun and gone rancid.

Best Views:

-the little village at the end of our trek in Muang Sing, looking into mountains of china after a 6 hr hike along a tiny, seasonal mud path through the jungle. probably the only time we'll really be nowhere on our whole trip.
-the Mekong River shooting through rock walls between Burma and Loas in Xieng Kok
-Treking in thailand along a little stream winding it's away among boulders and spots of sun filtering through the jungle.
-The drive to Pai in Thailand

Worst Views:

-the main strip in Vang Vieng at night, filled with neon lights and, from somewhere (shudder) the laughing track to Friends
-the toilet bowl at 3 in the morning. again.

Cheapest Meal:

-5,000 kip (50 cents) per plate vegetarian buffet on a side street of Luang Prabang

Most Expensive Meal:

-124,000 kip ($12.40) on swiss goat cheese, new zealand cheddar cheese, a cadbury's chocolate bar, and a loaf of sesame bread.

Cheapest Nights Stay:

-20,000 kip ($2) in Xieng Kok,
Oli at cave lakeOli at cave lakeOli at cave lake

a much deserved rinse off after climbing over rocks and crawling on our hands and knees through mud for an hour. and oliver's whiteness is really only from the flash. i promise.
and 100 baht ($3) in Thailand for a 'shared room' (our roommates being of the multi-legged variety)

Most Expensive Nights Stay:

-$6, not uncommon for us, though mostly due to laziness.

Anyway, oliver and I are our hoping to leave our lotus-eating lifestyle and plan to make an honest attempt at getting a boat tomorrow to do a little float for a few days. We came very close to getting one in Luang Prabang, but heard some dodgy things about the river, particularly because it was three days float to the next village from there, and there was an outbreak of fighting among the Hmong villagers in the area (and, as many people guess, the government). On the busride south of Luang Prabang we saw occasional groups of armed people standing around (or sleeping) on the side of the road, and one of the porters on our bus had an AK47. but no one else seemed to care, and we were quite safe, being neither Hmong nor part of the government.

Oliver and I will be sure to send an update on our boat trip. Talk to you then!
oh, most of the pictures
Cave tubingCave tubingCave tubing

This river flows out of the cave, you can follow the ropes about 50 meters in up the river and under the low ceiling
are olivers because i can't be bothered to download, resize, and upload mine. some are also derek/paula's. mine are similar, only better (of course).

Additional photos below
Photos: 17, Displayed: 17


Ready to TubeReady to Tube
Ready to Tube

among the first hordes of tourists ready to tube and drink their way down the Nam Song
Zip LineZip Line
Zip Line

over the nam song, a break from tubing and only one beer lao and one free lao lao whisky shot into it
Rope SwingRope Swing
Rope Swing

another break from the tubing, and a number of beer laos into it.
Cob brick buildingCob brick building
Cob brick building

oliver's main job while we were there. i stopped by to help in between coats of paint.

1st March 2007

sounds like you're tired. take it easy (o:
I can't believe you've been there a month and a half already, makes me feel like my month and half has been a complete waste of time. Glad you're doing lots of exciting stuff to make up for the rest of us. I find it very amusing that you are excited about pomellos, I guess I forgot to give you (dorien) one when you came over for 5 days. I think they're fun to clean too. watch out for stomach parasites. yeah that street food looks and tastes so good, but spending your days crunched over the toilet shitting water does take away from the holiday spirit. what's more, sometimes it pretends to go away and hits you 3 months later when you least expect it. the photos are awesome. you guys look really happy, I love the way you travel!
1st March 2007

hey there
Well you guys, I think you are just having too much fun and I am jealous, actually I am happy for you and glad you are on this great adventure!!!!!!!!!!!It snowed buckets this morning, then the sun came out, I opened the office window for fresh air, its about 38 out, beautiful, I am beginning to feel like a sun worshiper, we have seen so little of it this winter. I am gearing up for shearing, kidding could begin soon. Today is Joshua's birthday, March 1st, he is 33!!!How did he get so old!!Grandpa Ludden will celebrate his 90th Bday on March 4th, loves you guys, take of yourself, and keep the blog going, I love it, MOM
3rd March 2007

Not Fair
Hey guys looks like everything is going pretty good for you. The tubing thing and swing from the rope sounds great. I want to do that. Love you guys be safe. Talk to you later Lindsay
4th March 2007

getting it on the throne...
it's only a throne if you are particularly lucky. otherwise, you get the very popular squat toilet, which consists of a two foot rests and a hole in the ground. if a 3 am jaunt it likely, it is sometimes necessary to check the toilet in the guesthouses before renting a room....i missed on the squat once, not a pretty picture. but that's okay, one time oliver didn't even make it that far (and yes, i had his permission to write that) -dorien
6th March 2007

Those muddy faces look familiar...
Hey there river go-ers! The pics from Vang Viene are great! Helen and I crossed the border into Cambodia yesterday and I'm already missing Laos. I can't wait to hear how you're river trip went. Any pirates on the high seas of the Mekong? Did you work your way onto the Mekong? Good stuff... I'm looking forward to exploring Angkor Wat and will hopefully have a day or two to see Phenom Penh before I fly home on the 16th..sad. Helen will be chillaixn for another 2 1/2 weeks so I'll send a hug with her in case the three of your coerce again. Keep on keepin on.
11th March 2007

looks like fun
everything looks like fun but the whole cave thing i dont think i could have done anyways i just got back in town but maybe next mounth we'll get to see you guys i miss you two have fun a dont forget st paties day is right a round the corner yes just another excuse to get shiit faced well ill talk to you guys later eli
23rd March 2007

longing for blog
No entries for three weeks! Your blog groupies are hungry for more pictures and stories. Hope you guys are just having too much fun to write.
26th March 2007

I told you and told you to buy that magic pill they have in every store that KILLS the little f--kers that make you go again and again at night. If I take the pill 2 times in a day the problem is gone. Well, except that I did get the runs 2 or 3 times this year and I dont spose those pills are super good to take too often. Got right up to endangered yellow eyed penguins last night at a beach the tourists dont know about. Some great pics and a video. Will take a whole day at the lodge to download everyone's pictures into everyone else's heads. See you when?? Neil
27th March 2007

Dor i heard that you are going to New Zeland!!! congrats!!! i miss you two so much! keep having fun we are up to 20 degrees here in the day time-bring some sun back with ya will ya love ya sis

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