27.06.2011 36 °C
So a 30 degree day at home?! I can’t remember the last time it was 30 degrees here; it’s always so much warmer! Aside from in our current room in Laos that is, the air-con (we splashed out) is either on full or off, so our options are sweating or shivering…
This isn’t the only place that has been chilled (excuse the word-play), as Laos is still as slow-paced and relaxing as I remember it being last time I was here. Although the main tourist places we first visited have cottoned-on to their being big ‘Kip’ to be made by overcharging tourists, however it’s easy to find your way away from this; something we have been doing on Don Det and now in Pakse, in the south of Laos.
I last updated from Vientiane, which was just really another city to us. A couple of days probably would have been sufficient but we arrived on a weekend and had to stay to sort out onward visas (it’s hard to do this outside of the capital). We have now made the decision not to travel south through Cambodia and just move straight on to Vietnam instead as my passport is lacking the space needed. This is a shame for Letha who was looking forward to it, but the hassle and expense of trying to get me a new passport would be just too much. Luckily the Vietnamese agreed to place my visa label on a previous page so I still have enough room for a Chinese visa later on.
In Vientiane we saw the obligatory sights, the French styled buildings, the riverfront overlooking Thailand, a couple of temples and their main road based on the Champs D’Elysees with a Laos style Arc De Triomphe at the top. We considered getting a couple of baguettes and berets to pose for a photo but decided against it…
Since the north of Laos we have been following the Mekong River south, we continued this with our next stop of Si Phan Don- translated as Four Thousand Islands. By this stage of it journey the Mekong is very wide (it starts in China) and supports several inhabited islands in the middle of it which the river forks around. When all the small ones are included and in dry season when the river is lower they number, you guessed it, around four thousand. We stayed on Don Det, one of the larger islands at about 6km long and 1 km wide. It is one of the most relaxed places I’ve ever been, apart from hiring a bicycle to see the rice paddies and waterfalls there’s not a lot to do other than string up a hammock or relax in a restaurant enjoying an ice-cold Beer Lao chatting to like-minded travellers.
After a few sleepy days here we have moved up to Pakse, a ‘transport hub’ which allows travel to other sights nearby. Yesterday we took a trip to Wat Phu Champasak, a historic temple which has been a place of worship since the 5th Century. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the modern Buddhist temples here as they feel a bit tacky sometimes, but the old temples built during the Angkor period here I find fascinating. It was also good for Letha to see Angkor-era ruins as she’ll miss the temples in Cambodia. This was a lot less-crowded and more authentic ruin anyway!
Tomorrow we cross the border into Vietnam to the central coast. Hué will be our first stop followed by Danang (the landing point of Americans during the war). I’ll update from there.
Enjoy the sun!