19.06.2011 37 °C
It has been over a week since I last updated on here, that’s mainly because I have been revisiting places I’ve previously described and motivation is pretty low, but also because we’ve spent a lot of times on very tedious, tiring Laos buses!
When I was in Laos last year I took quite a sensible route, arriving from the north and working my way south along the main (or only) highway to the capital Vientiane before leaving for Vietnam. This time we were intent on getting to Vang Vieng for Letha’s birthday so have ended up travelling about 11 hours into the mountains only to turn around and backtrack to where we first entered!
We spent a few days each in Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang, which seemed to have changed slightly from when I was last here. I’m currently writing from a rooftop bar in Vientiane, the capital of Laos.
Vang Vieng is often described (as I did last time) as a stunningly beautiful valley but overrun by backpackers intent on destroying their livers. Jagged mountains set the backdrop against rivers and rice paddies and hiring a bike as we did one day to ride around the local villages and visiting caves makes a fun if bumpy daytrip. The real draw for us though was the tubing, where drinks are served and loud music played on makeshift platforms over the river. ‘Tubers’ float down the river on tractor inner tubes having a rowdy and sociable time, stopping as they go. Perfect for Letha’s 25th!
After two days on the river and a couple of days relaxing/recovering between them, we moved onto Luang Prabang, a very French city in the middle of Laos. This country’s French colonial past is evident from the first time you ride down the right-hand side of the road. When you see winebars and can order amazing crossiants, baguettes and coffee in the middle of such as undeveloped country, it’s a very strange feeling! Luang Prabang is the perfect example of this, but its mixed with Lao too, the city has many nice Buddhist temples and architecture. We visited and also probably the best set of waterfalls I have seen anywhere on my travels (you may remember the pictures from last time).
From Luang Prabang we took the bus the full 11 hours back to Vientiane where we entered from Thailand 8 days ago. It would have been a lot quicker, but the driver seemed to be unable to actually control a bus, we took detours to pick up rice and vegetables and the bus kept stalling (and maybe hit a dog/cat too). We made it eventually though, 210 miles in 11 hours… the maths just makes it more depressing!
The main reason we’ll be stopping here is so I can pre-arrange a Cambodian visa (and try to allocate it a spot in my very full passport), however I forgot that weekends exist and the embassy isn’t open until Monday morning! It’s hard keeping track of what day it is out here…!
I’ll update fully with what we’ve been up to in Vientiane next time, when I’ll hopefully be in procession of a visa! We’ve still got a little time in Laos though as we’re planning a couple of stops in the south when we leave here.
We spent our first day today at a Buddhist temple with a difference. Its set in a forest and offers a traditional lemongrass sauna and massages. We followed this by an hour of meditation with a couple of the monks. If you have seen how bumpy and windy the roads are out here, you’ll know we earned it!