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Published: July 28th 2008
Tzarina the Motorbike
Lili on the back of Tzarina fully loaded.
Lets tell about our times in the most bombed country in the world!(Thanks again for the kindness of USA)
We left Thailand expecting a bit more adventure, since there is no challenge in traveling Thailand. (Thai is not bad, just not challenging!)
Laos started a bit different. We decided to do everything on our own, we would save some money and have more exiting stories to tell. Stories about getting lost, ordering food using hand signs, avoiding scams and so on. (This is what we like on traveling!)
To begin with we didn't buy the joint ticket Bus+ferry+taxi+boat+hotel to Luang Prabang. We did one step at the time! It took us the same time and cost us 1 U$ less. Not much, but was fun!
There are two options to go to Luang Prabang by the river: The fast and the slow boat. The fast takes 6 hours in a kind of a long tail that runs as fast as a Formula 1. So dangerous that the passengers must wear helmets and there are still some lives lost every year.
The other option is the slow boat, a long and narrow boat with more than 50 passengers. It is so slow
They take pictures too!
that the trip takes 2 days. (This option sounds safer!!)
Knowing that we would stay two days on board, we searched for something to occupy our time while on the river. We stocked on books, sudoku, food and cards and jumped on the boat. Only to realize that while we were stocking, all the good places were taken. The only ones left were next to the engine. A big, noisy, smoky, diesel engine!!
During the first hours Fernando incredibly managed to take a nap. Claudio was checking his accounting book(Always important while crossing borders)
. Flavia was reading. Lili did one hundred sudoku puzzles and Malin was annoyed with the noise! In the next few hours we were all walking forth and back in the boat, looking around to see if someone had a better distraction.
The first day was short, after only 7 hours we arrived at the stop over for the night.
Before the departure we didn't believe the local guide's small talk "Everything will be full! Book the 10 dollars room with me now.", and therefore we were a bit afraid of having to sleep on the streets. When we jumped off the boat there was
We joined them for a swimm!
a herd of touts trying to take us to any guest house (or selling some weed). As we didn’t book anything we could pick one very nice, for less than a dollar each! Great!
Next day we started early in order to get better places on the boat, far away from the engine!! This trip was a bit longer. Around 8 hours cruising the river, collecting passengers from the villages, discussing politics (This is a good subject because always turns into looooong conversations!)
and taking pictures. Many pictures. Not only the scenario was astonishing but the people, the boat and the life on the river are very photogenic.
Finally we arrived in Luang Prabang.
This UNESCO heritage center is a small French colonial town. This we felt as soon we found, bought and feasted on wine, baguettes, and another selection of French products! Nothing better than some Camembert after so many noodle soups!
Everyday in L. Prabang, all Tuc-Tuc drivers offered to us tours to the waterfalls (and some weed too). So, second day we decided to check it out; the waterfall itself is very beautiful but the best part is to swim in the many pools formed
The smoothest road we've ever been!
by the river and cool down from the heat!
Around L.P. there is no much more to do but we stayed a few days more, updating our websites on Flavia's notebook with stolen wi-fi connection.
Our next destination was The Plain of Jars. This time we were beaten by the tour agencies. We tried hard but couldn't find a way to visit the jars by our own, cheaper than taking a tour. So we jumped on a van and enjoyed the trip!
Between bomb craters, UXOs (unexploded ordinances) and bomb shells (dropped in Laos during the Vietnam war), were amazing stone jars dating more than 3000 years. Survivals from the American carpet bombing. The exact purpose of the jars nobody knows. But they are big and heavy.
In our day tour they took us to 3 jar sites, two Russian tanks, one scrap metal deposit with piles of bomb shells and some houses build using bomb parts. Hostels have displays with dozens of hand grenades and even barbeque grills made of bombs. This area is as popular for its war history as it is for the ancient Jars.
After our bombastic tour we headed to Vang Vieng.
Still made of wood and paper
were curious to see Vang Vieng, we have seen hundreds of people in Thailand talking about it and wearing the "In the Tube - Vang Vieng" t-shirts.
For our surprise, the tubing capital of the world is in reality the "FRIENDS" capital of the world. Every single restaurant here plays the series the whole day long, over and over. When you know all the lines by heart, it's time to go for the tubing.
Just grab your tube and jump in the river. Every hundred meters skilled staff will fish you out of the river, put in your hands a free shot of Lao whiskey and send you to the bar. Each bar has a different attractive. Beach-volley field, giant Tarzan swing, pool table, dance floor, etc. It's all about having fun and getting really drunk or/and stoned! Joints, mushroom shakes are listed in the "happy" menu.
Nothing against who likes it, but for us the constant hassle of the sellers was quite annoying.
Hangover apart, it was time to go on. Vientiane, Laos’s capital city.
For a capital city Vientiane is pretty small. We could go everywhere walking. In the city there is not much to visit.
You can't avoid taking this picture
What amused us is it's location in the country. I've never seen a capital city at the border!! From the river side restaurants we could see Thailand just across!
One morning we left to visit the garden of the Buddhas. We took one local bus (the ones with chickens and all)
to the outskirts of Vientiane. They dropped us off just in front of the gardens. It is more impressive than we expected. Loads of Buddhists and Hindi figures in a well kept garden.
The highlight was the pumpkin-shaped building. In the inside there are lots of small entrances to dark rooms full of mythological sculptures covered in a thick layer of dust. We had to explore it under the light of head torches, what increased even more the adventure!
The day before we were supposed to leave, Claudio saw one add of a motorbike for sale. The famous Russian-made bike used in Vietnam! He couldn't hold himself, the deal was too good, and he bought the bike with Lili. In a few seconds was decided that they would drive south while Fernando, Flavia and Malin would go by the bus.
To go from Vientiane to Si Phan
Where are the travelers
The 5 of us hiding behind the 3000 years old jars.
Don Fernando (hard headed)
didn't want to buy tickets in a tour agency, so he convinced the two girls to do part by part. First they took the local bus from the city center to the long distance bus station and then changed into a crowded bus, with 3 people every 2 seats, for 16 hours until Pakse. In Pakse they took another 4 hours local bus. The conductor from this last bus wanted to overcharge them and
drop them off half way. Fernando had such a big argument with him that in the end the conductor hired 3 motorbikes to take them to the last stop...wait, they are still not there... where they finally took one boat to the island.
Si Phan Don or Four Thousand Islands is a basic chill-out place. The most you can do here is go for a bike ride around the rice fields. But do nothing is why people come here.
Stay in the island was very relaxing and after 3 days eating and sleeping the 3 travelers have forgotten the lesson just learned.
Fernando convinced them again that the DIY (Do It Yourself) would be better! Poor girls, under pouring rain they
Dozens of buddhas and Indian gods in this crowded garden.
started again; boat, motorbike-taxi, border crossing... only they were luckier this time: at the border Fernando run out of options and had to take a mini-van to the first city in Cambodia!!
On the other side of the country, Claudio and Lili manage to organize and prepare the bike in the afternoon the others left and the next morning. The bike was in good condition, after all they bough from two Spanish travelers that just came driving from Hanoi in Vietnam. All Claudio and Lili had to do was, change oil, clutch cable, air filter, spark plug, stretch the chain, clean the carburetor, petrol filter, weld the tank, buy an extra helmet, tire patches, electric wire, electric tape, petrol hose, install a speedometer, feet rests, fix the gear lever and other small things... hehehe.
In a day driving the bike they could drive between 150Km to 300Km (more than that you die from vibration or sorrow bums)
. So they went much slower then the bus group. After the second day driving they left the main road to visit the famous cave near Ban na Him. This cave is formed by a river that impressively cross 7Km straight under
Life on board
The boat is the office and home at same time
the mountains. The river and the cave are so big that you can navigate through it. To get there Claudio and Lili used a road that was in construction, but to their surprise the last bridge was missing, luckily there was a boat men willing to pass them and the bike on his canoe.
Leaving Ban na Him they headed south, taking another 4 days for them to arrive in 4000 Islands and one more to cross into Cambodia. Summary
Length of Stay: 18 Days
Visited: Pak Beng, Luang Prabang, Phonsavan, Vang Vieng, Vientiane, Paksan, Ban na Hin, Savannakhet, Pakse, Wat Phu, Dhong Khong, Si Pan Don.
Pros: Lots to see, tubbing in Vang Vieng, small population
Cons: Slow transport
Transport: Plenty and slow
Budget pp p/day: US$21,44
Budget breaker: Motorbike (Tzarina) and accessories
Tot: 0.658s; Tpl: 0.02s; cc: 30; qc: 126; dbt: 0.0283s; 1; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.7mb