Taking it easy in Laos... well, sort of...
Trip Start Jul 11, 2006
47Trip End Mar 16, 2007
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The People's Democratic Republic of Laos is a country whose population is less than that of London (at around 6m) and whose socialst governing elite have chosen to pursue the form of liberal communism practiced by the Vietnamese
Vang Vieng is a completely surreal place. Travellers on the road between Vientiane and Luang Prabang in the north of Laos, having enjoyed at least 3-4 hours of uninterupted real-life National Geographic scenes of rolling hills, vast, tree-covered mountain ranges and tiny road-side communities of bamboo and wood shacks, suddenly find themselves confronted by a town populated almost entirely by westerners. More bizarre still is the fact that almost every bar and cafe in Vang Vieng (and most establishments here are either guesthouses or bar-cafes) has at least one TV showing non-stop repeats of popular sit-coms such as Friends, The Simpsons and Family Guy or the latest (pirated) movies
From Vang Vieng, I continued my journey northward to join up, once again, with my good friends Matt and Kerry in the small city of Luang Prabang. Luang Prabang had been described by my guidebook as a photographer's delight, filled with preserved architecture and colourful, time-trapped culture. However, it failed to live up to this billing, especially compared to similarly described Vietnamese towns such as the charming Hoi An and Hue. Fortunately outward-bound activities, coupled with the welcome presence of Matt and Kerry, more than made up for this deficiency. We enjoyed a positively hyperactive few days of marathon-length mountain-bike touring, an all-day kayak trip (with some white-water excitement to spice the expedition up) and what sight-seeing was to be done here. Of particular interest was the stunning Tad Sae, a series of small water-falls (ultimately feeding into the Mekong river) set over multiple plateaux and featuring crystal-clear aqua-marine hued water and numerous swimmable pools. A three-hour stop-off during one of our exertive jaunts went in a flash. Do check out the photos.
Next-stop Bangkok and, from what i have been told, another continent-sized cultural shift from Laos..