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. 😛 Sounds familiar? 😛 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.
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.
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.
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!!!!!! 😍😍 but I wasn’t allowed to take any photo of him. But when he left the bridge of the waterfall, he smiled to me. 😍😍😍.
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…
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? 😄 We ordered the whole bottle. 😄
Sunset at Mekong river, dinner and wine. What more could I ask for?
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.
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.
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. 😀
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. 😀
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.
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. 🙁
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.
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. 🙂
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.
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.
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. 🙂
So, where next?
I went to Georgia, the country, not the state in the US, later that year. Check it out here. 🙂
After Georgia, I went to Turkey to attend my friend’s wedding and by the way, travelled around. Check it out here. 🙂
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.’ 😀 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. 😉
12 – 21 January, 2017
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