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Asia » Laos » West » Vientiane
January 31st 2013
Published: February 1st 2013
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It's been an eventful few days! We went to Pai in Northern Thailand on the 20th of January. It was an absolute delight! The drive up there was incredible, something like 762 bends! Not ideal if you get travel sickness. The views were mountains, forrests, greenery for as far as the eye could see! Pai was quite a small place but compact with loads of cute cafes and bars. We checked into a little guesthouse tucked away from the main road with little bungalows and rabbits hopping about! We met an English couple on our minibus and went for dinner and drinks with them. We also wandered through the night market where I was somehow convinced to try a deep-fried grasshopper ... I told myself to not think about what I was eating but it still did NOT taste good! We also bumped into the Dutch girls, Charlotte, Charlotte and Merel, from our trekking in Chiang Mai and haven't been able to get rid of them since! We hired bicycles one afternoon and cycled to a nearby tourist attraction, the Chinese village. It was ridiculously touristy! Very fake but the cycling was fun and the views from the 'Great Wall of China' immitation castle were pretty nice! We also did a cookery course which was amazing! We learnt to cook 6 Thai dishes. I chose Phad Thai, Spring rolls, Stir fried chicken with cashew nuts, Green curry, Chicken in coconut milk soup and Mango with Sticky Rice! It was the easiest cooking ever; most things were pre-chopped and prepared for you and the chef told you exactly what to do but I'm still proud to say it was the best Thai food I've ever eaten! We all got to take a recipe book away with us so I look forward to delighting my friends and family with Thai dishes in the future! We spent 3 nights in Pai, eating and drinking and playing quite a lot of pool! It was a really chilled place, I loved it!

After Pai we headed back to Chiang Mai for one night before leaving for Laos the next day. We took a slow boat down the Mekong River which I thought we'd only booked because it was cheap but then my travel guide said it was one of the must-do things in South East Asia! We had to take a minibus north through Thailand first. We stopped in Chiang Rai to see the big white temple, Wat Rong Koom. It was really odd, a completely white temple with some strange additions like a sea of hands and a mural including Elvis! It was different though, so many temples start to look the same whereas this one looked like something out of Narnia! There was definitely something slightly magical about it, obviously very touristy but I liked it! Then we spent a few more hours in the minibus before we reached Chiang Khong. Everyone taking the slow boat was booked into the same accommodation for one night. The beds were rock solid and the room stunk but fortunately it was only for one night! Our Dutch friends turned up on another minibus. We had our first border crossing experience the next day. There's just a lot of paperwork and it all seems quite slow but then a Visa is granted and you enter a new country. We spent two days sailing down the Mekong River which was pretty nice! The views were amazing and it was a relaxing way to travel. We stopped for one night in Pakbeng where we went for a curry. I ordered a Korma (standard) and although what arrived tasted nothing like the Korma I know, it was still pretty good!

The next day we arrived in Luang Prabang. We checked into a guesthouse with Charlotte, Charlotte and Merel and went off to explore the night market and go for dinner. Everywhere closed by 11pm so we turned in. The next day we wandered and did a little sight-seeing although we were all too underdressed for the temples so we viewed them from afar! We ended up just finding a really nice bar overlooking the Nam Khan river and settling in there for the afternoon! We went out for dinner again that night and taught the Dutch girls some classic English drinking games like 'Irish Snap' ... Classic. According to my travel guide the only place to be was the bowling alley which stayed open til 3am so we jumped in a tuktuk and headed there. Apparently we were the last to join the party! The place was rammed and we saw everyone we'd met on the slow boat! It was really surreal, people were actually bowling! We all grabbed a beer, I later dropped mine much to the amusement of everyone else as literally the whole place jeered me for about 5 minutes! Shockingly, I went bright red and retreated back to the bar! The next morning I couldn't find my handbag anywhere and really started to panic as I was certain my passport was in the bag. I searched everywhere but couldn't find it so had to go to the tourist police station. They reported the loss and sent me to the immigration office. My Laos visa is printed in my passport so they had to verify my border crossing and told me to come back the next morning. There was talk of having to go to Vientiane, the capital, where there is an Australian Embassy. As there's no British Embassy in Laos, I'd be granted a temporary visa from the Australian one but I'd then have to fly to Bangkok to get a new passport ordered there! I was so worried about the whole process, thinking about how much money it would cost to get it all sorted and how it would affect the rest of our trip. I was beating myself up all day, who loses their passport one month into their trip?! I tried to make the most of the rest of the day and went to a nearby waterfall with the girls and a couple of Italian girls we'd met from the slow boat. It was beautiful! We first walked through the forest, stopping to see some bears, as you do! Then wandered on where we were met by the most dazzlingly blue water I've ever seen! This waterfall was so perfect it looked constructed. We climbed higher and higher, stopping to swim and it was a really lovely place!

The next morning I woke up early as I had to go back to the immigration office. I decided to pack my things before going and picked up my box of UNO cards and suddenly spotted a passport stuck underneath! I couldn't believe it, my hands were genuinely shaking as I searched for the photo page, telling myself I'd just found Beth's. But miracles do happen and I found my passport!!!!! I have never been more relieved! I still can't quite believe it, I must have taken the two out of my bag and completely forgot! Of course when I woke Beth to tell her, she exasperatedly asked, "Did you not search the room before?!" Well, no ... but I was convinced it was in my handbag! Anyone who knows me will know I can't help but panic! I jump to all the worst conclusions and allow myself to worry for days! I still lost my handbag which was a shame as I had a disposable camera with me that contained memories of Thailand. I also lost my purse with about £40, my cashcard (fortunately I have a spare), and bug spray and things! Nothing major but still slightly costly to replace. The passport was obviously the most important thing though so I am too happy to have found it! I genuinely believe it was a miracle and am now checking it every single day!

After the miraculous morning, we took a bus to Vang Vieng. The bus journey was so bumpy I felt like I was on a theme park ride! We arrived and bumped into our Dutch friends so checked into a guesthouse and went for dinner and drinks with them. We headed to an Irish bar and then followed the crowd to a club right by our guesthouse. Vang Vieng is a very small place, completely set up for backpackers. Next day we did the infamous tubing experience but it wasn't quite what I was expecting. They've closed down all the bars and got rid of the rope swings and slides as it was becoming too dangerous so now it's just a placid, lazy river! It was really relaxing but about as slow as the slow boat and by late afternoon, got pretty cold! This coldness wasn't helped by the fact that I fully submerged myself and my dry dress right at the end! The river had been fairly shallow, so shallow that we'd all got stuck on some rocks at one point! So when we went to get out, I slipped through the middle of the tube, expecting to stand and suddenly plummeted! Everyone else thought it was hilarious of course, which it was, and don't get me wrong, if it had happened to anyone else I would have been the first to laugh too, but I was absolutely freezing! You have to get a tuktuk back to the rental office, then drag yourself back to the guesthouse and I didn't stop shivering for about an hour! Ah well, it's all fun and games! We pretty much repeated the night before then left Vang Vieng the next day for Vientiane. It rained all day which was a bit of a shock to the system! The bus ride was less bumpy but the driver made some pretty questionable over-taking moves! At one point we passed a bus on the other side of the road with a wheel stuck in a crevice and the bus almost tipping over. That was pretty scary but we made it to Vientiane in one piece! We all checked into a guesthouse with a family room so we've got two rooms, a bathroom and a big kitchen/lounge! We went off to explore the capital yesterday but it all seemed a bit gray, perhaps not helped by the rain! We wandered to Lane Xang Avenue which is modelled on the French Champs Elysees and at the end is a replica of the Arc de Triomphe! It was a bit odd but there's a lot of French influences in Laos due to their time as a French colony and I can't say I'm complaining as I tuck into a baguette or crepe each day!

So that's it so far! We've passed the month point, we've passed into a new country and I haven't lost my passport! Although I have finally lost some possessions! I'm surprised it's taken this long!

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1st February 2013

Holiday
Hi Cecilia Enjoying reading all about the latest leg of your journey , your trials & tribulations.TG all turned out well in the end , especially finding your passport.I'm sure it was St.Anthony that was looking out for you! This trip is going to make you a more responsible & stronger person , as you have to get on & make your own decisions & sort out your own problems. At least you don't have to put up with the awful weather conditions of snow , rain, floods & gales.We've had the lot in the past month. We are redecorating our bedroom @ present & are having fitted wardrobes installed. Una is working away, not seen her for sometime. Mgt Dunn is nearing the end of her maternity leave, as Rory will 1 yr old next month. Pops down from time to time as she has now got her own car. Caitlin doing teaching practise in Killarney @ present. Keep well & keep safe & continue to enjoy your exploring Looking forward to the next installment. Love & God Bless Ann xx

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