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Published: July 27th 2008
Hello again, so this blog is going to tell you what we’ve been up to in the past month since the families left us.
The same day the families left we got a bus up to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand ready to go across to Laos. We’d already been here so it was easy to find our way around, although we spent most of our time relaxing in the guesthouse. On our third day in Chiang Mai we booked a bus to the Thai-Laos border which was a 6hr trip. The ticket we booked included the bus to the border, 3 meals, 1 night in a guesthouse and the boat from the Laos border to Luang Prabang down the Mekong. The guesthouse wasn’t that great but the restaurant was right on the river and you could see across to Laos on the other side which was really nice. We started taking our anti-malarial tablets which made Nick have hot and cold sweats for a couple of nights. The next morning we had to get up early to catch a longtail boat across to the Laos side; we’d already handed over our passports for them to sort out our visas so didn’t have to queue at Thai immigration. On the Laos side though we had to fill out an arrival form, wait for our passports to be stamped, wait for our name to be called to pay for the visa and then get that stamped again. We were then taken to a café where they told us the boat had been overbooked so some people would need to take the bus to Luang Prabang overnight instead. We were set on taking the boat though so we walked down to the river and got on. The boat was already completely packed and we got a few of the last seats at the back; we thought they couldn’t possibly fit any more on as the capacity was 75 but they kept bringing out plastic chairs and eventually we counted 134 people! Nearly double the capacity! The seats were made of wood and built like church pews which were so uncomfortable for the 6hr trip on the first day and 7hr trip on the second day. On the first day the weather was really nice and you could look at out the hills surrounding the Mekong river, but on the second day it rained so we had to have the sides down. We stopped overnight at a small town which only had electricity until 10pm, as soon as we arrived we were asked if we wanted any drugs…it seems that even though you can get a very long prison sentence if caught with drugs they are openly available all over Laos. As we were going to bed we saw an enormous spider walking across the floor, it was nearly the width of the floor board…I just hoped there wouldn’t be any in our room! Whilst in Luang Prabang we visited the Tat Kuang Si waterfall which had lots of tiers and pools of water for swimming. The waterfall was the best we’ve seen so far; it was so tall and looked beautiful. The scenery all over Laos is gorgeous with rolling hills, water buffalo wondering all over the place, small wooden huts lining the roads and paddy fields all over the place. None of the towns in Laos are big and rarely have any buildings higher than two stories; even the capital city is no bigger than Exeter. In fact Laos only has a population of 6 million which means Thailand has more lady-boys than Laos has people!
Our next stop in Laos was Vang Vieng which is famous for its tubing. Tubing is when you rent a tractor inner tube and float down the river stopping at bars along the way. While we were in Vang Vieng we went tubing twice; it was such good fun talking to all the other travelers and sitting at the bar overlooking the river. Each bar has its own swing into the river, some of which are quite high, Nick and I both went on the swings a fair few times which made our muscles hurt so much the next day. It can be really unsafe at this time of the year though as the river is quite high and moving quite fast, if you mix this with a lot of people who are drinking and taking drugs it can get dangerous. In fact the second time we went tubing there was a girl about to go on one of the swings but she let go and fell face first from the platform, hitting the water from such a height knocked her out and she started floating down the river face down! Luckily a few boys jumped in quickly and pulled her out so she was fine after a minute or two. The day we didn’t go tubing we rented mo-peds and rode to a cave a few kilometers away, only problem was we forgot to take a torch. One of the local boys who was about 5 said he would take us (for a small fee obviously) so we followed him. It was lucky we followed him actually because we would never have found the cave otherwise; we walked through some rice paddies, over a couple of fences and climbed up a bamboo ladder before reaching the cave. It wasn’t very impressive but was nice to visit and once again the scenery was well worth a look.
After Vang Vieng we went to Vientiane which is the capital city; although there wasn’t really much to do there we did go to see Buddha Park. Buddha Park was about a 50min drive from our guesthouse and we weren’t really sure what to expect, maybe just a few Buddha statues. But when we arrived the first thing we saw was this massive stone globe with an open mouthed face at the front which was the entrance. Once inside the globe there were 3 floors each with a chamber housing loads of strange statues; I’m not really sure how to describe them so you’ll just have to look at the photos. We walked up the steps to the top and looked out over the park which had hundreds more strange statues covering it. We also went bowling with a couple of friends which was really fun, although I wasn’t very good at it.
Due to the lack of places to visit we only stayed for a couple of days before heading down south to 4000 islands. We stayed on the main backpacker island called Don Det in a small wooden hut next to the river. It was such a relaxing place where you went to bed when the lights went off at 11pm and were woken up by the cockerels at sunrise. One day we rented push bikes and rode to the Khon Phapheng Falls on the next island which is the largest waterfall by volume in South-East Asia. As it’s the rainy season at the moment it looked more like rapids than a waterfall due to the sheer volume of water going over it. We spent the rest of our 3days on the island playing cards and chatting to other travelers in our restaurant overlooking the river and admiring the view before arranging a trip across the border into Cambodia.
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