The Pristine Laos

After I attended the wedding in Vietnam, I went to Laos.

My friend had a business trip there after I visited that country. When he came back from there, he said he had no idea why I travelled to that country. Well…, because it’s there. πŸ˜› Sounds familiar? πŸ˜› He was really lucky to have a business trip in Vientiane. He got to stay in a 5-star hotel and enjoy the food there. The food I ate in cafes (there were quite a lot of them in Vientiane. Some cafes were European while some were Southeast Asian and some were Chinese) was still good (one of them was bad) and it didn’t cost too much. But of course, when you haven’t got a job, everything seems to be expensive. That was the case for me. But I did have tried some really good food there.

On my first day there, I met my roommate and we decided to walk around Vientiane, the capital city of Laos, together. As I walked around, I just couldn’t stop smiling to myself – it was a bit like Paris. We shouldn’t be surprised. It was, like Cambodia and Vietnam, at one stage, a French colony.

Doesn’t it look like Arc de Triomphe (Victory Monument)?
Let’s take a closer look at the Laotian version of Arc de Triomphe (Victory Monument). πŸ˜›
We went past this white monument. It was beautiful.
What a beautiful temple! I like the colour of the building and the roof.
The famous golden temple (That Luang Museum)
A temple near the golden temple (That Luang Museum)
Stories of Buddha were painted on the walls and ceiling of the temple.
The sculpture outside the temple. It’s interesting to see that these ‘3D’ sculptures had been everywhere in the world, Iran, China, European countries, etc. Was this an idea that was spread from one place to another or did people create them without knowing that the others in other parts of the world were doing the same thing?
Wow! Red carpet! Who could that be?
The body guards were ready. We couldn’t go close to them.
The lady came out of the car.
The president of Singapore and his lady visited Laos.
After the president of Singapore left, I went inside the temple. My roommate wasn’t interested. She just stayed outside.
A section inside the golden temple (That Luang Museum).
A little temple inside the golden temple (That Luang Museum)
Another photo of the temple that we saw before we reached the golden temple (That Luang Museum).
A reclining Buddha close to the golden temple (That Luang Museum)
What can you see here? An Apple logo? Nah!
You can see them in many places in Vientiane – in the streets and temples.
My roommate took me to this restaurant for eating. This meal (noodles, lemon pie, and a glass of red wine) cost ~USD8. Delicious! Can you resist it?

I travelled to Vang Vieng from Vientiane the next morning. I saw so much potential of this little town in Laos. It was surrounded by beautiful mountains. And there were many adventurous activities one could do in this town. It was like Queenstown in New Zealand but with a taste of Southeast Asia. But I wasn’t here for all these, yet. It was a stop over. I’d travel to Luang Prabang which was the highlight of my trip. I was very surprised by how modern Laos was. The country had so much potential.

The beautiful mountains. Laos was still very pristine.
The beautiful mountain range.
The price was lower than the one I had in Vientiane and the food was delicious.

Luang Prabang was a town that I liked most in Laos.

It was so hot and sunny when I arrived there. The hostel was good but not as good as the one I stayed at in Vientiane. Well, there are some good things about this hostel too – free tea and it’s cheaper than the one in Vientiane.

I walked around part of the town. The river was cleaner than the ones in Vietnam. Dalat in Vietnam was clean but not the other places, as I recall. Everywhere I went in Laos was cleaner than Vietnam though I still saw rubbish.

View from my hostel. It was a hot and sunny day.
A temple that I visited.
The water in the river was so clean.
I think this guy was placing traps to catch some sea animals. I hope it was legal and that this method would not hurt the fish or other sea animals.
Bamboo bridge. You need to pay to cross this bamboo bridge.
Here’s the reason why you need to pay to cross this bamboo bridge.
A closer look at the bamboo bridge.
Yes, I paid and crossed the bamboo bridge.
The water at the lake was so beautiful!
After crossing the bridge, I saw this line of TVs outside a house. I wonder if these TVs were for sale. If yes, putting them outdoors like this wasn’t a good idea. Or maybe they were for repairing?
If you don’t want to use the bamboo bridge, you can just use this normal bridge which was free for everyone.

On my second day in Luang Prabang, I went to Kuang Si Waterfall – the landmark of Laos.

It was beautiful!

I joined a local tour. The trip was supposed to finish at 3pm and the driver would pick us up from the parking lot at that time. I took some photos of the waterfall, saw an actor and an actress filming at the waterfall. He was so handsome!!!!!!Β  😍😍 but I wasn’t allowed to take any photo of him. But when he left the bridge of the waterfall, he smiled to me.Β  😍😍😍.

This is the landmark of Laos.

I continued with my walk up the trail and met a girl from Brazil. We started to talk and walk together. We reached the top of the waterfall, took some photos and continued to walk. At the end of the trail, we saw two different paths: one to the spring and the cave, the other to the waterfall and the parking lot. I had to go back to the parking lot at 3pm. It was around 1:30pm already. The path to the spring was 3km. I wasn’t sure about it but I tried anyway. I thought to myself, ‘if it takes too long, I’ll just stop and walk back to the parking lot.’ Then all of a sudden, two motorbikes appeared. We asked them if they could take us to the spring and the cave. They said ok!!! 😱 I didn’t expect that. So we hopped on those bikes and they rode us to a point close to the spring. That saved us so much time!! We then walked to the spring and the cave. The cave costs another 10,000 kips. ☹️ Anyway, when we got out of the cave, it was already 2:30pm. I had to leave…

As we walked, I took a few more photos of the mountains.
No, we didn’t need to walk on this rock but in some areas, we needed to take off our shoes and walk with our bare feet because we needed to walk across some creeks.
The motorcyclists took us to this spring.
There wasn’t much to see inside the cave.
‘Let’s go! I need to catch my minivan back “home”.’

When we arrived at the parking lot, it was already 3:15pm. I couldn’t find my mini van. The driver didn’t wait for me. Very very fortunately, the Brazilian girl’s driver was there and she gave me a lift for free.

We then had dinner. Wine!!! Of course!! What else? πŸ˜„ We ordered the whole bottle. πŸ˜„

Sunset at Mekong river, dinner and wine. What more could I ask for?

Sunset at Mekong river. Not disturbed by mosquitoes. Just concentrated on good conversations and dinner. What more could I ask for?
Dinner by the river
Not a big meal, just some noodles and wine. πŸ™‚

When I came back to the hostel, my roommates asked me if I was interested in going to the night market. :D. I just got back from there (for my dinner only). I didn’t mind going there to check out the stalls. So I joined them.

So much walking today! I was so tired.

Grilled fish
This was how they grilled fish.
They looked yummy.

View from my hostel.

I went to Phousi Mountain the next day. The climb wasn’t too bad but the sun was strong. I had a tan. A terrible tan. Argh!!

I stayed at the top of the ‘mountain’ for a while and read a book. A monk started to chat with me and said ‘You look beautiful.’ :D. I really laughed out loud. I responded, ‘I thought you were not supposed to say these things as a monk.’ He smiled. He then started telling me he was poor but he found some really good books that could help him to improve his Chinese and English. He said he was learning Chinese and English in the temple but it wasn’t enough etc. He wanted me to help him. If I could help him, he would pray for me. I thought to myself, my people from the church would pray for me. But I didn’t say anything. I just digressed saying that there was a library in town and he said he wasn’t free etc. And then I said, ‘I’m sure you can find some ways to help yourself.’ He then said ‘aren’t you going to help me?’ He actually spoke quite good English. I repeated what I said. I said it was time for me to leave. I actually wanted to stay there for a longer time maybe to wait for the sunset and continue to read the book but he ruined my mood. I had already paid for the entrance fee to get into this mountain. Don’t tell me the temple doesn’t benefit from the entrance fee.

As I walked down, I saw another monk. I then saw textbooks and notes on the fence next to the Buddha’s footprint. I didn’t know it was his. I had a look at it. It had a sketched map of China, showing Tibet and Inner Mongolia and Mongolia and other neighbouring countries. The monk then came and said hello to me. I asked if they were his notes and textbooks. He said yes. He spoke good English too. He asked me where I was from and if I could speak Mandarin or Cantonese etc. But I wasn’t interested in talking to him for too long. I didn’t want to give him an opportunity to ask me for ‘donations’ again. So I left. But from what I saw and observed, they actually received good education at the temple.

On my way to the Phousi Mountain
These were the things I saw in the streets in Vientiane. So, yes, they were for the gods in the temple. The shoes that the statue was wearing looked like the ones I bought in Bhutan. They were actually pretty Asian.
The view from the mountain
The temple at the top of the mountain
Outside the temple
The view was so good! But it was very hot.

I walked back to the hostel and dried my clothes as I needed to check out the next day and packed then went out for dinner. Finally! I found a restaurant that I liked. The restaurant was Italian and Laos. I ordered bruschetta and Laos fried rice. Both were good – not because I was starving. They were real good. 😍😍 and the meal cost around USD6. But I didn’t drink anything. I still miss the restaurant in Vientiane. That was the most reasonable one in terms of the price and the quality was good.

I couldn’t wait to go back to Vientiane to that restaurant again. πŸ˜€

A delicious meal! Italian cum Laotian food

I took the morning bus to Vang Vieng. It took so long to reach Vang Vieng. Anyway, I checked in the same hostel and the staff could recognise me. πŸ˜€

A group of travellers that I met in Luang Prabang hostel stayed in my hostel too. One of them took me to a tour company telling me that it was the cheapest in town. So I booked a tour and bought a bus ticket back to Vientiane with them.

I quickly had dinner and got ready to sleep. Caught a cold. ☹️ Didn’t do much for the day after the bus trip.

The cold was still with me the next day. I joined a tour to do tubing in a cave, to see the elephant cave, to kayak along the river and to go to Blue Lagoon. I didn’t jump into the water at Blue Lagoon. It was too high for me. I just threw myself from the swing. And it was very crowded. The water was cold.

The tubing wasn’t great. The water inside the cave was cold and I had a cold so it was miserable for me. The tour guide didn’t wait for me and some of us in the group. We were in the dark soaking in the cold water holding the rope advancing along the route inside the dark cave against the strong current.

The river was so calm in this area.
Just took this photo because it was beautiful.
It was called Elephant Cave because the rock looked like an elephant.
On the way to Blue Lagoon. The road was in good condition.
This was where you could climb up and jump down from the rope.

I went back to the hostel and took a nice hot shower after the day trip. What more could I ask for? A hot shower!!! It was quite chilly at night in Laos.

That ended my day in Vang Vieng.

Unexpected things always happen when you’re travelling. I bought this bus ticket from Vang Vieng to Vientiane which was supposed to depart at 9am. But the bus never came to pick me up. So I went to the tour company’s office to check. No one was in the office. I asked the neighbouring tour companies to help me. Fortunately they were very helpful. One of them was able to contact the owner of the tour company. The owner of the company said he forgot. How could he forget?! And then he said the bus company forgot. Whoever’s fault that was. I was standing outside his office. He said he’d come to pick me up from his office to the bus terminus and arranged another bus for me.

Anyway, I safely went back in Vientiane dining at my favourite and affordable restaurant. Lovely! Their juices were all fresh. No ice, no mixture of cold water. Pure carrot juice. My throat got instantly better. But it was still not 100% cured yet. Please!!!!! Pray that I’d feel better tomorrow. I wanted to join the boat trip organised by the hostel!!

Alright! My cold was still with me. So, Vientiane today.

It was a day for me to relax.

It was my last day in Laos. πŸ™

I saw a public bus that went to Bhudda Park on the map while I was navigating where the COPE museum was so I went back to the hostel, took my camera and went to the bus stop to Bhudda Park instead.

On my way, I went past a catholic church. I looked around there and continued to the bus stop.

Inside the church that I walked past on my way to Buddha Park.
Martyrs of Laos – that’s what the banner said.
On the public bus

The public bus first stopped at the Thailand-Laos border where people got off the bus to go to Thailand (the cheapest way to cross the border I believe. The bus only cost 6,000 kip which was around USD0.75, yes, less than USD1) then it continued to Bhudda Park.

Like in other developing countries, while the bus stopped, some local vendors got on the bus and sold grocery, food, etc. but I didn’t see any live chicken so that was good.Β  πŸ™‚

The weather was good.

I took some photos in the Buddha Park and had a very late lunch there. Then headed back ‘home’ and had dinner. I was impressed that the waiters remembered me and gave me warm water instead of cold water (I was still having a cold and a cough). I chatted with a Spanish guy who was also in my tour in Vang Vieng who also stayed in my hostel in Vientiane. He said he was convinced by me to stay in a hostel. I didn’t convince anyone actually. I just talked about the hostel I stayed in Vientiane. He hadn’t stayed in a hostel for a long time. It was a bit hard to communicate with him because his English wasn’t too good and my Spanish wasn’t good at all.

This was the first thing I saw at the Buddha Park.
Inside this little tower, you can see all these sculptures.
An aerial view of Buddha Park
The top part of the tower
There are too many gods in Buddhism.
Maybe this guy was a famous soldier?

Since it was my last night in Laos, I went to the night market. It was just like the Ladies’ Market in Hong Kong. I bought a little coin bag as I needed it. I went back to the hostel chatted with my room mates who told me she loved the 4,000 Islands and said she was impressed by the beauty of the villages and so on. I was glad she enjoyed her trip. It could be just some islands to me. (I googled it just now. Most of the images had been photoshopped.)

That ended my last full day in Laos.

Paris! Arc de Triomphe (Victory Monument)! Goodbye, Laos!

I woke up early and got ready to the airport on my last day in Laos.

Another surprise awaited me.

The tuk tuk charged everyone 60,000 kip for a ride to the airport which was a 10-minute trip or less than that. I decided to negotiate with them. I still had some cash in kip. I took out 40,000kip and put them in my pocket. When I was negotiating with the tuk tuk drivers, they said, ‘60,000’, I said, ‘40,000’ (around USD7). They insisted on 60,000 so I took out the cash 40,000kip and said ‘40,000’. Immediately, one of the drivers sitting at the tuk tuk got out of the tuk tuk, took my money from my hands and said ‘I will drive you there’. He then took me to his air conditioned comfortable 9-seater taxi, all to myself. That was a nice surprise for me. It was much better than a tuk tuk. When you have been in a country for a certain number of days, you definitely don’t mind some luxury. πŸ™‚

So, where next?

I went to Georgia, the country, not the state in the US, later that year. Check it out here. πŸ™‚

After Georgia, I went to Turkey to attend my friend’s wedding and by the way, travelled around. Check it out here. πŸ™‚

And then I went to Cambodia to volunteer for around 8 months. Check it out here. That was the time when I started this blog. I updated the Cambodia one every week. One of the Cambodian students who understood English better said, ‘reading your blogs is very addictive.’ πŸ˜€ Here’s the student who made this comment. I asked him to contribute a blog post. Here’s my student who attended my class in the village in Cambodia.

Alright. All my past travel blogs have been written. Well, not all. I started backpacking in the 90’s and this website only records my travels from 2005 (my Tibet trip) onwards.

Life goes on.

Where am I now?

Stay tuned. πŸ˜‰

12 – 21 January, 2017

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