Page 2 of Two Vines Travel Blog Posts

Asia » Laos » West January 28th 2019

This morning we are up early - we need to make up for yesterday’s indolence! I think we are probably the first up for breakfast. We have a Plan A and a Plan B, depending on the availability of boat spaces for the river trip to the Pak Ou caves. Negotiation is key as the trips are highly inflated for all foreigners. We know the price should be around 10 dollars per person so we have a starting point. Our man starts at 40 dollars per person so we bargain hard. It would appear that he won’t do it for any less than 12 - that will do. OK, we agree with a handshake assuming we will be leaving soon. Not so. He jumps on a scooter, instructing us to wait five minutes, and disappears down ... read more
Volunteering at BBM
Meandering along the Mekong
Arrival at Pak Ou Caves

Asia January 27th 2019

After yesterday’s journey we are both exhausted. We just about make it to breakfast before they finish serving at 10am. We go for a wander, first to the Mekong which is literally down the road from our guesthouse and then past the temple and in to town. We don’t want to do anything formal today as we just want to rest up. It’s lunchtime and feeling quite hot. We grab a baguette and fruit smoothie at the morning market, buy our sleeping bus tickets for our return journey to Vientiane and go for a siesta. This evening we visit the night market. It’s become quite commercialised but nice for a wander and to get dinner at one of the stalls. I have a very tasty chicken pad Thai whilst Ian chooses pork with ginger and rice. ... read more
Pad Thai
Night market

Asia » Laos » West » Luang Prabang January 26th 2019

We are up early as our bus leaves at 7.40am and we need to get to the bus station. There is a little idiosyncrasy in the shower in that, either they had a bodge-it plumber, or they have different ideas about tap colour coding the water runs cold when turned towards red and hot when turned to blue. I keep forgetting and get scorched every time as a result. We are all going our separate ways today. Two couples are heading on to Vietnam leaving ourselves and Lisa only for the Luang Prabang bus. The taxi is late so today we do not get first dibs at the minibus seats - we are almost at the back. It’s a much smaller bus than the one we arrived in and much less comfortable. The driver is ... read more
Mountain passes
Van squash
Mountains and valleys

Asia » Laos » East » Vieng Xai January 25th 2019

This morning we visit the Vieng Xai caves. We are sharing a taxi with three other travellers that we met yesterday on the bus. It’s a bit of a squeeze in the back but I am fortunate - for once it pays to be the fattest as I get the front seat! Our driver takes us through the mist covered karsts, along half made roads and up and down through the mountainous countryside. It takes 50 minutes and now we have arrived at the visitor centre. The Vieng Xai caves were the headquarters of the Pathe Lao Liberation Army between 1964 and 1973, the years when the American Air Force daily dropped tons of bombs in an effort to destroy the political leadership. Here, we see the massive war shelter cave complex. The area’s geology comprises ... read more
Air machine
Cave entrance

Asia » Laos » East » Sam Neua January 24th 2019

We are up early to catch our bus to Sam Neua. The restaurants are closed so we grab a scrambled egg roll at the bakery and buy another two plus some cake for the journey. A tuk tuk arrives to take us through the cold morning air to the out-of-town bus station. Here, a weird man decides to rush up to hug Ian. It’s a bit of a shock but even worse when he tries kissing and licking him! He is surprisingly strong as we both try to pull him off. At first we thought he was attempting to pick his pocket, but actually it turns out to be an over friendly gesture by an unstable person. Our bags are stashed on a minibus roof and then we are handed a carrier bag and told to ... read more
Clouds below
In the mountains
Home farming

Asia » Laos » East » Xiangkhoang January 23rd 2019

We start our day at the Chinese restaurant with a glass of tea and a fried egg breakfast. The tea looks like it has twigs floating in it. Tastes fine though. The eggs are great, but why do they serve them with a mixed salad? We eat the eggs and leave the salad. This morning we are heading to old Xieng Khoun, the region’s old capital city, but not before a trip to the SOS Children’s village. We have often been handed envelopes for donating unused foreign currency on return to the UK airline flights but never quite known anything about the charity. It turns out to be an orphanage with a modern, less institution-like approach. The kids (who are not all orphans), live in ‘families’ with a house mother. This village is aimed towards bomb ... read more
Visit to SOS Village
SOS Village
Wat Si Phoum

Asia » Laos » East January 22nd 2019

We arrive at the bus station on the outskirts of Phonsavan an hour early - that’s a bit of a buggar really as it’s only 5am, it’s freezing cold, our guest house is bound to be locked up and we now have to vacate our nice warm beds on the bus! The journey was reasonably comfortable although the winding mountain roads did throw us around a bit. Outside, a tuk tuk driver is right on hand to assist us - of course he is - he wants 80,000 kip to take us the couple of km into town. That’s outrageous, more than a taxi in the UK would cost! And it’s a share tuk tuk at that. I remain firm that we are not interested in paying tourist prices...and since it’s only 5am, we may as ... read more
Spoon making
Plain of Jars - Site 3
Noodle soup

Asia January 21st 2019

This morning we have a lie in. It’s check out day and tonight we are on the sleeper bus - whether we will sleep or not is anyone’s guess! We check out at noon and head for the bank before our planned trip to Xieng Khuan, otherwise known as ‘Buddha Park’. We head for the same bank that we used on Saturday. Today we are told we cannot change money at the inside counter, but there is a counter outside. We proceed to said counter with our $400, only to be told that three hundred of them are unacceptable - because they have been used! They do not accept ‘dirty money’ although they are more than willing to dish it out! Plus they accepted it two days ago! We try five more banks and money changers ... read more
Cloister - Wat Si Saket
Wat Si Muang
Scary statue at Wat Si Muong

Asia » Laos » West » Vientiane January 20th 2019

This morning we are up early. I could have done with another hour in bed but we need to be up and about before the sun gets too hot. We make our way to the bike hire shop. They want our passports as security. Fortunately our hotel isn’t far away so Ian is dispatched. :-) Bikes secured, we pedal our way up to the victory monument, Patuxai. This square, concrete monument has the look of a miniature triumphal arch. It commemorates the Lao who died in the pre-revolutionary wars and was built with concrete given by the USA to build a new airport, hence its nickname ‘vertical runway’. Patuxai is approached via a large dual carriageway which was practically under construction and little used on our last visit. Whilst the traffic here is not what would ... read more
Pha That Lung
Sunset on the Mekong

Asia » Laos » West » Vientiane January 19th 2019

We are awoken to an announcement on the tannoy - we just catch the tail end which is telling us not to leave any of our belongings on the train. It’s only 5am so it can’t be our stop yet. It turns out to be Khon Kaen, so nowhere near...the conductor had told us 6am for our stop, though our tickets say 6.45am. Anyway, it looks like we’re all awake now and there’s a bit of a queue for the loos. Oh well, I suppose I might as well get dressed. There are three loos and two wash basins at the end of each carriage so I don’t have to wait long. It’s 8am and we have arrived at Nong Khai - the end of the line. Those of us left on the train all appear ... read more
Ugly mug
Statue on the Mekong
Presidential Palace

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