So Happy to be Back in Laos

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July 4th 2012
Published: July 4th 2012
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Last time I blogged I was in Gianshui, China waiting for the overnight bus to take me south to the small city of Jinghong, just a few hours north of the Laos border. The overnight bus took 12 hours which meant I arrived at 4.30am, so I watched a few videos on my computer outside a small shop until it got light and then walked into the centre of town where I found a good room for $8 a night. To me Jinghong has a thai feel to it, unlike any other place in China. The city is quite small, tree lined, people are smiling and relaxed, and it also has quite a few foreigner style cafes and restaurants, another thing I wasn't used to seeing in China. I took a couple of day trips to small towns an hour or so away from the city, and although the scenery was nice I didn't find the towns that interesting. Ideally it would be a very good place to trek in the remote areas but unfortunately there were not many tourists and it seemed like the start of the rainy season so I decided to give it a miss.

After about 5 days in Jinghong I hopped on the bus to Luang Namtha in northern Laos, and was surprised after crossing the border and seeing the houses made from bamboo and wood that I felt really happy to be back in the country where I had spent a couple of months in at the start of the year. I guess I really like this country, the relaxed people, the green landscape, the low population, and the ruralness (is that a word) of it. Also I guess it is on the backtracker trail which means I can eat good cheap western and asian food at the farang restaurants and also have my fill of fruit shakes.

I only spent a couple of nights in Luang Namtha before heading to the small, pretty town of Nong Khiaw. I enjoyed staying a couple of nights in this town and having a little look around before getting on a boat for the hour trip to Muang Ngoi Neua, a little backpacker village on the banks of the Nam Ou river. On the second day I walked to Ban Na village with Nick from South Africa and Miki from Japan, both I had met in Nong Khiaw. It was rice planting season so all the women from the village were in the field, including a couple of french girls who were paying for their board with work. Miki jumped in to help for a while before we made our way back to Muang Ngoi Neua. I was planning to leave after 3 nights but I had a bad case of diarrhea, so I thought it safer and less embarrasing to spend another night while I recovered.

From Muang Ngoi Neua I took the boat all the way to Luang Prabang, which was a first for me and a very pleasant 8 hour trip. This time I enjoyed the town more, maybe because there were fewer tourists seeing this was the low season, or perhaps it was I was just there to relax. I decided to go to the beautiful Kuang Si waterfall again just to be able to cool off in that beautiful setting. I caught up with Nick a couple of times but besides those occasions I pretty much kept to myself over the 4 days I was in town. The other notable thing I did was to volunteer at the library to help locals with their english. I did this 2 days for 2 hours at a time and ended up helping the same lovely sisters, Tim and Nim each day. Although they were only 16 and 13 years of age I was very impressed with their eagerness and commitment to the language, and hopefully they will go a long way in the future. I actually got a real buzz out of these informal lessons and I highly recommend doing it whilst in town.

Next I was off to Vang Vieng, the place I had spent New Years Eve in at the start of the year. This time though there was no tubing, motorbike riding, or hot air ballooning I was just here to relax. And this where I am now, writing this blog and just about to think about packing for my long 17 hour overnight bus trip to Bangkok. To be honest I feel very tired after almost 19 months on the road, and have welcomed traveling through a country I have seen a fair bit of before where there is no pressure to see the sites and which means I can just take it easy and be lazy.

Additional photos below
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5th July 2012

Wow 19 months
That is a long time. We understand the need to rest from the travels and not feel like you need to explore every minute. Being on the road is wonderful but can be sensory over load. Happy travels.

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