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round-the-world in 2005

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Jan 1 - Jan 9, 2006

We have returned to Laos, as we were so impressed the first time. Read about our first visit to Laos.

golden temple

01 Jan 2006 Vientiane, Laos

New Year, New Country
We slept in after our late night last night, with Clare a little more worse for wear than Rob. We crossed the Friendship Bridge into Laos, having to pay for our visas again. The tuk-tuk driver took us 4 km away from our destination, even though we had paid him too much. This gift, which we like to call some of the problems that arise, enabled us to see the main attraction of Vientiane, the golden stupa. We eventually made it to the city centre, and had a quick look around (it is not very big), then had a ‘hair of the dog’ beer, watching the sun set , looking back over the Mekong into Thailand. We needed an early night after last night’s festivities.

Bridge over the river at Vang Vieng

02 Jan 2006 Vang Vieng, Laos

Best Beer Lao
We only stayed one night in Vientiane, although it was a nice place, we have the lure of more appealing places. After an hour wait at the public bus station, we caught the local bus 5 hrs to Vang Vieng. We had time to walk to a nearby cave, though we forgot to take enough money and could not afford the $1 entry fee (10,000 kip) ! However, there was a freshwater spring exiting the cave which we took advantage of and swam a short distance into the cave. At sunset, we again found ourselves drinking the Lao beer at a great spot looking over the river towards the large limestone cliffs that surround this area.

tubing down the river in Vang Vieng

03 Jan 2006 Vang Vieng, Laos

We celebrated our 2nd year wedding anniversary with breakfast at a nice waterfront restaurant. At 11am we started our exciting activity for the day, tubing down the river. We were taken a few kms up stream, then jumped in with our tractor tyre inner tube. After only 50m, we were out again, to climb onto the riverside bar. They had a flying fox to encourage visitors. After a Beer Lao each, and whirl on the flying fox, we were back in the water, this time for about 100m before being lured out by another bar, this one with a large swing. We visited a nearby cave while we were here, walking about 500m into this empty cave following the dimly lit path. Some more tubing, then some noodles for lunch, and the sun was starting to set. We finally arrived back in Vang Vieng, slowly drifting along as the sun was setting. After 6 hours of fun in the water and sun, we crashed out in our rooms and missed dinner. We are not used to so much fun.

pesky local kids

04 Jan 2006 Vang Vieng, Laos

We tried for an early start, but did not begin our long hike until the sun was well risen. We walked though the lovely surrounding countryside, past a couple of villages set among the limestone cliffs. Our first stop was 6km away, a large cave with a refreshing creek for swimming. Back towards town, after a noodle soup lunch in the village, we came across another, lesser known cave. We had to walk across some rice fields for about 1km, where a guide met us, and took us through a narrow, dark, slippery, and muggy cave, wearing headlamps to light the way - it was very exciting. The obligatory dipping pool out front of the cave was just what we needed after that.

Lang Prabang night markets

05 Jan 2006 Luang Prabang, Laos

Long Windy Road
It was a long and windy road from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang, a nauseating 6 hours on a minibus. It was breathtaking scenery though. At Luang Prabang, we climbed the central hill for an overview of the town and to visit a temple. It is an idyllic UNESCO heritage listed town, with many old temples and french colonial buildings set among the palm trees along the Mekong. Along the main street there was an interesting night market, mainly for tourists, though we found some great local food to eat - fresh and fried spring rolls, soup, sticky rice and BBQ chicken on a stick.

Budda statues

06 Jan 2006 Luang Prabang, Laos

Around Luang
We started our sight-seeing day by visiting the oldest temple in this town of temples, situated at the end of the peninsula, it was wooden with beautiful golden artwork inside. Next we went to the museum situated in the old Royal Palace, very nicely laid out showing the quite moderate lifestyle of the royal family, who were exiled in the 70s. In the afternoon we went out to a waterfall 30kms away, quite spectacular though by the time we got there the pools were mostly in shade and it was a cold swim. We also took a pleasant hike up the side of the hill. On the way back, we stopped at a village, but disappointingly it was more like a tourist show and souvenir shop.

Monks off to receive alms

07 Jan 2006 Luang Prabang, Laos

Land of a million elephants
We woke early to get a boat ticket for tomorrow, and luckily came across the morning monk procession for alms giving. We walked through the markets to get some breakfast, though we had to bypass some of the things that were on offer at the market - frogs, bats, rodents, birds, and numerous indescribable things. The word Laos translates as the ‘land of a thousand elephants’, and appropriately today we went on an elephant ride. We were picked up by a jeep, and rode out to the elephant camp, then a 2 hour trek along dirt tracks to a traditional village, another hour trek then lunch and a swim at a waterfall. Finally a 1.5 hour elephant ride along a forest track back to the starting point. An excellent day.

market school of fish

08 Jan 2006 Pakbeng, Laos

Slow boat to Thailand
An early start to get breakfast and another look at the morning markets before boarding the slow boat up the Mekong, a two day journey to Thailand. We had the choice between a speedboat - taking only one day and apparently quite scary - or the slow boat. We chose the scenic relaxed option! The mountainous region was a delight to view from the rocking boat, and we made a few friends on the way. We stayed overnight at the tiny riverside village of Pakbeng - where there is nothing to do except eat and sleep.

Relaxing on the slow boat to Thailand

09 Jan 2006 Huay Xai, Laos

Further up the river
We stocked up on food supplies after yesterday’s error - nearly 10 hours on the boat and no food stops. We bought lots of baguettes, fruit, snacks, plus some Beer Laos. Watching life go by along the riverbank, chatting and reading - the time went pretty quickly. We arrived at dusk at the Laos border town of Huay Xai - too late to cross the border tonight, we have to have an unplanned overnight stop here. The service was slow and the food variable, but we had a nice evening with our new friends from the boat at a riverside restaurant.


Next we return to Thailand for our final Asian leg of the journey.

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