Continuation of Thailand: The Arrival
I was pretty eager to see Laos so after a couple of days I was crossing the border. A slowboat took me down the Mekong river and I passed Jungle, mountains, small wooden villages and water buffaloes grazing along the shore. The trip was beautiful and we toppedit off with the famous Lao pride, Beer Lao.
Our destination was the heritage city Luang Prabang which atmosphere makes you Zen in an instant. There are still a lot of French colonial building made from dark brown wood and the streets are calm. There are many temples and you see monks everywhere walking around in their orange robes. In the evening you have fantastic sunsets over the river while the air smells gently like burned wood.
My next place was Vang Vien. I heard it was a bit of a party place but I didn’t expect what I eventually saw. First of all, almost everyone is drunk or is having a hangover. Second, the reason for this is called tubing. There is a river flowing through the village and somewhere in history someone came up with the idea to drive a few kilometers up river with an inflated tube and float downriver again while drinking a lot. So nowadays there are a lot for bars on the riversides and everyone is drinking like crazy while slowly making their way down. It was fun to experience it for one time. In my opinion, the actual magic of this place were the nights with people hanging out around fires and I remember realizing one of those nights, how many friends I already made. The funny thing is that the nature around Vang Vien is beautiful but I guess not a lot of people see it.
To be honest, I found Vientianne, the capital city of Laos, a bit boring. Sure, there was an easy going vibe and it was quite fun to discover the city on a peddle bike but something was missing. There’s a few temples you can visit, a golden stupa and the Lao version of the Arc de Triomphe but if you skip it, you don’t miss out a lot.
After leaving Vientianne I arrived in Pakse, more in the south. The city itself is like a ghost city and there’s almost nothing to do but the area around is quite interesting. It’s called ‘The Bolaven Plateau’ and if you take a tour, you’ll see coffee and tea plantations, remote villages build on red/orange soil and a couple of nice waterfalls. Another thing in the area is the Wat Phou temple in Champasak. It’s a Khmer temple and was connected with the more famous Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia.
Don Det (4000 Islands)
My last destination in Laos was the Island Don Det in the Si Pan Don area close to the Cambodian border. It was also one of my favorite places in Laos. It’s a very green and lush island in the Mekong river. It’s also quite a small island and it’s lovely to take the one hour walk around the island and watch life, nature and water buffaloes cooling down in the water.
It’s also connected to the another island Don Kon and there’s a big waterfall in between. It’s fun to explore Don Kon by bike and cool down in the river, drink a fresh coconut and if you’re lucky, spot river dolphins on the south side of the island. I saw these almost extinct dolphins myself on a canoe trip going down the river. So there are a couple of things you can do on the island but the main thing you want to do is just relax. I remember watching so many great sunsets from the hammock on my balcony and it was priceless.
Overall, Laos is a very beautiful and relaxed country. The people are friendly, it’s cheap and it’s very easy to travel around. Accommodation and transportation are not bad at all and there are quite some backpackers following the same route so it’s easy to make friends. Food wise, it’s not very special but you can’t go wrong with some noodles or sticky rice with sweet and sour chicken. There’s a couple of interesting things to see and it wasn’t hard for me to spend here a month.
The story continues on Smiling Cambodia