Fun in Laos

June 4th, 2007

As i mentioned earlier, Laos is my favorite country in SE Asia. Lemme say it again – I love Laos. It has the least population (8 million), the most chill people, tons of mountains and nature, cheap everything (shirts/goods, food, beer, lodging, busses), and some of the tastiest food as well. I’m here in Luang Prabang and almost every meal here is awesome, the town is great to look at (temples, flowers, colonial architecture), and things are just so inexpensive. More on that in my LPB blog.

So let me briefly recap my Lao adventures. I’ve already covered Vientiane and a bit of Vang Vieng. Vang Vieng, altho full of backpackers, was a great little town. We stayed at Maylyn guesthouse, in a beautiful little wooden bungalow surrounded by trees and a creek, 15 min walk from town. In town they had tastee food and plenty of internet, including a spot that would load up your Ipod with movies ($2 each). And really just one really tasteee place – the Organic Farm Cafe – ate there 4 times, having salads, soups, curry, sticky rice, bacon and eggs (yes, bacon, tastier than most spots in America). The cafe is in town, but 3km north is the Organic Farm where they get their goods. The farm also helps out the villages, providing a community center, english school, and a school bus. Hurray. We also explored many caves and swimming holes – my favorite was the Poukham cave lagoon. Awww yeah. And one day we got our drink on and tube on – Could be the most fun day i’ve had all trip. It involved tubing less than half the time, mostly jumping off swings into the river, drinking beer lao, and meeting other travelers. I even played volleyball at one of the many drinking spots along the river.

After Vang Viang we continued north to Luang Prabang, or LPB. We spent about 4 days here, including my 100th day of my trip. On my 100th day we went to Kuang Si Waterfalls, ate traditional Lao food at Tamarind, and got our drink on at Lao Garden and HIVE bar. Shayna also decided she was going to fly back to Bangkok from LPB, freeing up more time for us to spend in Lao. We also saw a great perfomance at the Lao Theatre, got plenty of massages and some internet time.

Next we began our real adventure – Bus to Luang NamTha. 2 beautiful nights at The Boat Landing, and a 3 Day Trek thru Nam Ha National Park. We went with Green Discovery for the Trek, and glad we did – the guides was great. Xay (?), the lead guide, was Lao but spoke english well, he would stop and tell us facts about the plants and stories about the hill tribes. Luckily we got rained out while we hiked. No, i’m not being sarcastic. If it weren’t for the rain, i’d die from the heat. And its not so bad to hike in the rain if you have a poncho. Makes the sweat seem unimportant. We also had a great team of 8 tourists on the trek, making the bug-filled accommodation more of an adventure and less of an annoyance.  The bugs included spiders, ants, and all sorts of flying things. But the worst was the leeches. Oh, how i hate leeches – not as much as cockroaches – now i can grab a leech with my fingers and roll him up and flick him away. But in the beginning of the trek everyone was getting leeches on them .. on the legs, arms, back .. and … yes, even the private parts. Guess who won that prize. Yep, I get the gold star. Luckily the leech already let go by the time i noticed my blood covered underwear. Ewww!!!!! At the time i freaked out, but once i dealt with it .. the worst was over. I wasnt that afraid of them anymore. But the coolest thing on the trek was how fast our guides whipped out a bamboo and banana leaf structure so we could have lunch out of the rain. In like 10 mins they cut down bamboo to make the frame, and a bunch of 3-6 foot banana leaves for the roof. Plus one leaf to throw on the ground as our lunch table. Then out comes the sticky rice, chicken, and vegies. Mmm-mmm. Suffice to say, It was an exhausting and invigorating journey and i’d recommend it to anyone. Once we got back in to town Beer Lao never tasted so good. The whole gang went for Indian Food later, but it sucked. Good thing we had our beer Lao.

Our next trek was not as fun or adventurous, but was interesting nonetheless. We took a 4 hour bus from Luang NamTha up to Muang Sing, a small town near the chinese border. From there we took a 2 day trek thru a government run operation that was cheaper than green discovery. This one was not as strenuous, but we spent alot ore time in the hill tribe villages (which is what i wanted). Our guides were nice but not nearly as informative as the Green Discovery guides. But the number of kids that were friendly to us in the Akha Puli and Hmong villages was astounding. You can tell that plenty of tourists had paved the way before us, but the kids were still excited to interact with us (aka see themselves on a digital camera). I got some of my best shots on this trek. We spent the night in an Akha Puli village called Pawaikao, nestled at the top of a small mountain. We got to drink their lao lao (rice whiskey) and all got massages after dinner. Besides shayna and me, there were 2 others – a girl from Israel and a girl from Denmark, both just recently traveled through China.

After the Muang Sing and the 2 day trek we headed back down to LPB, spending the night in Oudom Say on the way down. Once we got to LPB, we had 2 nights together before shayna left for cali (you know that part), then i spent the next 3 days chillin in LPB. Eating, biking, and uploading pics. One day i biked 60km to the waterfall and back. I pushed myself to edge on that one, eating a ton later that night at dinner. And the day i was supposed to leave, Sarah Bates shows up! So i had to stay one more extra day so we could catch up. We ate some tastee food and checked out LPB from on high.

I left LPB on a slow boat to the Thai Border. It’s a 2 day trip, stopping at Pakbeng the first night and the Lao town of Huoay Xai on the second night, which is right across the river from Chiang Khong, Thailand. The boat ride was a great way to leave Laos – sitting and chilling and looking at beautifull mountains, villages, and river action (fishing, monks swimming, beaches, etc). I admit, the second day i was tired of looking and read 200 pages of my book, finishing it.

Now i’m in Chiang Mai. I woke up in Laos yesterday, made it here last night, and just finished writing this entry. Chiang Mai is cool, too, but its a big city (1.6 million), and i definitely feel different. Its like all of Laos was chill mountains and small towns and now i’m back in the big city. I like cities and all, but i definitely love Laos the best.

Watch out for people trying to overthrow the Laos government.  Or watch out for the Laos government – as people can disappear.

Oh, and i updated my Itinerary again.

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