Entering Laos through the hard way
Trip Start Sep 03, 2006
50Trip End Jul 21, 2007
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We had heard a lot of good things about Laos from other travellers and the country was still supposed to be the rough gem of Southeast Asia. Well, it is not anymore, it's a well trodden country popular with backpackers. At least the now classical route of Huax Xai-Luang Prabang-Vientiane. The positive effect is that the road have been repaired and the bus rides are much more comfortable than they used to be. Our biggest disapointment though, was not Laos popularity, but the Lao themselves. After three month in southeast Asia, we were expecting much more warmth and much less carelessness. The consequence was that we cut our stay by a week, spending only two weeks instead of three. Nonetheless, Laos has very nice landscapes and is worth a visit for a holiday.
Crossing the Thai-Lao border at Huay Xai
It was actually our last day to enter Laos, and swiftly crossed the river without any problems. Changing our Thai Baths and a few Euros in Laos Kips, and we found ourselves millionaires!
The pace of life in Huay Xai is very slow and the town is really quiet. No touts. No shop owner helling you in the distance to "just have a look" in his shop. On the contrary, most of the time we had to look for the shop keeper in order to buy something. We even had the case of one of them watching TV in the back room and reluctantly leaving her program because we were insisting to buy something!
Forgettable slow boat down the Mekong
This leg certainly gave us a negative first impression of Lao people:
There were enough people to fill up two boats but the local authorities insisted to pack us up on only one incomfortable boat until some tourists protested and decided to occupy another one. Then they agreed to use two boats. Of course we left about an hour and a half late for no appearent reason, this would have been fine if we had not been told to show up for ID and ticket control 2 hours before the departure (which was frankly useless as there was no queue at all!
The day passes slowly and nicely and we arrived in Pak Beng where an army of porters jump into the boat and grab any bag they could and then ask for a ridiculous amount of money to carry it up the steep 500m to the village.
We were happy to arrive in Luang Prabang where things got back to normal for us...
Luang Prabang: temples and tourists
As soon as our slow boat landed, it was room hunt for the 200 or so backpackers it
Kuang Si falls
We took our time in Luang Prabang, strolling in the streets, shopping at the night market, visiting the museum and many temples, and working on the blog of course! One of the highlights of our stay were the Kuang Si falls, 30 Km out of town. Dotted with turquoise blue pools and tall waterfalls, the site doesn't disapoint.
We were in February, during the dry season, the waters of the Mekong were low, so villagers living on the river banks were using the fertile soil to grow vegetables, something quite common in Southeast Asia. Across the river, it is actually still village life, nothing to do with the sophistication of Luang Prabang.
After almost a week, and having done our duty of updating the blog, tasting Lao coffee (beurkk!), sampling baguette sandwich (yummy!), trying Lao massage (yeahh!), it was time for us to move on to Vang Vieng, 5 hours south of Luang Prabang. These two cities are actually not that far away the way the crows fly ("a vol d'oiseau" pour nos lecteurs francophones), but unlike Cambodia which is as flat as Kate Moss' chest, Laos landscape is more like Pamela Anderson's...
Where I stayed