We are about to say “goodbye” to Laos and wanted to write one more post about the beauty of this under-appreciated country. If we wanted to come back to Southeast Asia or suggest a country to visit in the region (Angkor Wat in Cambodia being the exception), Laos would get our vote. You can enjoy many of the same experiences that are available in the surrounding countries but with a more genuine atmosphere and a closer relationship with the daily lives of the Laotian people. Laos is refreshingly mountainous compared to the plains of southern Vietnam and Cambodia. The Lao people are not pushy about selling you something like the vendors in the touristy towns in Cambodia. Overall, we have had a great week here in Laos and wish we could spend longer.
Since our last post, we have traveled overnight on a VIP sleeper bus from Pakse to Vientiane. Chris and Lindsey were crammed like sardines onto a twin size “bed”. But, in hindsight, it was surprisingly comfortable compared to our next overnight bus ride (more on that later). Luckily, the bus was AC so we got a rare chance to cuddle. You see, in the non-AC hotel rooms in these hot, tropical countries, you don’t get close together in bed – you stick to your side of the bed, or risk waking up in the middle of the night, dripping with sweat.
Vientiane (pronounced “wee-in-chin”), the capital of Laos, was a beautiful city with old French architecture with elements of Laotian design. The city had a very similar feel to other tropical capital cities that we have visited, but cleaner. There were lots of French expats living here and you hear French being spoken on the streets. We decided that the best way to see the city and sights surrounding it was to rent a motorbike. We had lots of fun and soon started driving and merging like the locals! At the end of the day, we were covered in dust from the drive, but loved the freedom of being able to go everywhere we wanted to go on our own and it was a great bit cheaper than hiring tuk-tuks to drive us around.
Luang Prabang is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and is a gem of a city in the mountains. Which brings me to the bus ride to get here. This time, the overnight bus was a regular bus with slightly reclining seats. The drive here was winding with switchbacks as we climbed into the mountains. Imagine trying to sleep upright and being swayed left and right for 10 hours. It was not the most comfortable sleep (if you can call it that) – we probably should have done the drive during the day to enjoy the scenery. Luang Prabang is situated on a little peninsula formed by the confluence of the Mekong River and the Nam Khan River. The city is very scenic with green, tree-covered mountains all around. This morning we woke up early around 5am to give alms to the Buddhist monks. Every morning the community gives alms in the form of food and money to the monks. The monks have no possessions and the community provides for them. In return, the monks provide spiritual guidance and meditate/pray for community members. It was a neat sight and Chris got involved and gave rice and treats to the monks. Today we went to mountain caves called Pak Ou nearby to see where people have placed Buddha statues and where the Royal Family would make a pilgrimage every year. The night market here is a sight to see. One of the streets is shut down to vehicle traffic as the locals set up their tents to sell their goods and the tourists wander through the skinny aisles between the booths.
Tonight we leave on another overnight bus to the Laos-Thailand border. We think this bus ride will be much the same as the last. We just realized that this will be the last we see of the Mekong River. We have been traveling upriver and have seen the river change from the “fingers” of the delta in Vietnam, to the wide green waters in the Cambodian plains, to the sediment-laden, fast waters moving out of the mountains of northern Laos. We regretfully say “goodbye” to the mighty Mekong River and hope that our future travels will bring us back.
This next message is from your local computer health department: Practice safe, computer intercourse. We did not practice safe computer intercourse and because we were not protected, we got a virus on our camera memory card. Therefore,we are not able to post pictures. I know I sound like a broken record. This time it was not because the internet was slow. The camera still shows the memory space being used but we can’t see any of our pictures on the camera. Luckily we talked with another traveler who had a similar experience and talked about how he got the images off the memory card. So, we are hoping that the images and videos can still be retrieved. We will wait until we find a safe place to clean the card and upload the pics. So always practice safe computer intercourse and protect yourself from viruses!
Until next time,