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Published: June 17th 2008
Keen observers will spot that a river features prominently in many of this blogs photos. It is the mighty Mekong which defines this part of the world acting as a border, the setting for virtually all settlements, a livelihood, a food source and until very recently the only real means of transportation. The river flows slowly and life moves at the same speed. Relaxing is definitely the order of the day around here.
After Siem Reap; Kratie was our first stop. A sleepy Cambodian river town it is famous for its rare Irrawaddy river dolphins (which we spotted on a boat trip) and its amazing sunsets (which cloud cover meant were only half in evidence). Kratie was just a brief stop before it was full speed to the Cambodia Laos border - we successfully negotiated one of the most remote borders we have been to and found ourselves on Don Khong, part of the 4000 islands area of the Mekong. Our guidebook describes Laos as the most laidback country in the world and it seems a fair enough description. We spent our first week in Laos enjoying hammocks, sunsets and the ubiquitous Beer Lao although we did manage to take
some time out from this strenuous regime to go for a very pleasant if rather hot bike ride through the countryside and visit Wat Phu, another Angkor temple.
As mentioned, the Mekong was the only real means of transportation until recently but within the last decade roads have been built and nowadays the trip to the capital, Vientiane, has to be made by bus. Not wanting to travel overnight we shunned the fast and comfortable tourist bus and joined the locals (with their chickens and enough rice to feed a small town for a year) on their slow cramped version. It was actually quite good fun and fortunately on the second day, when it poured with rain, we had managed to find a bus with glass in the windows.
Vientiane may be about the quietest capital city in the world but it does have a few things to see so we have picked up the pace (ever so marginally) and been to see a few temples, monuments and a bizarre park full of Buddha sculptures. The French influence is still very much in evidence here and our less than hectic schedule has give us time to sample some
goats cheese salads, crepes and even a carafe of wine (which isn't to say we have been ignoring the equally delicious Laos cuisine).
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