Monday, October 23, 2006

Laos, The Land of A Million Elephants

24th October - 7th November

We crossed into Laos at Huay Xai and caught the two day slow boat down the
Mekong. Destination: Luang Prabang. An uneventful night was spent at the half way stop Pak Beng - a veritable shit hole; an over priced tourist trap. Luckily, we managed to find probably the worst guesthouse in town - despite the clear grafittied warnings....

The two days on the boat were pleasant with river views of working elephants and suicidal speedboat captains. We were, however, glad to reach Luang Prabang. Here's the sunset view across the Mekong from our guesthouse.

Inside, here was one of many of our fellow guests. This ol' girl was about as big as your big toe.

Who wants to be a Millionaire? Here, Casey basks in his first and last moment of glory of holding 1 Million Kip, equivalent to about $100. Luang Prabang is a busy and lovely little city, literally made up of three main streets. The Hmong Night Market heaved with street vendors selling textiles, handicrafts, mulberry-paper lanterns and other souveniers for what seemed to be entirely for tourists. We ate like kings from the street food vendors on grilled fish, whole roasted chicken, papaya salad and ubiquitous sticky rice.

The Phu Si temple, bang in the middle of town on a hill gave us a stunning view of Luang Prabang. However, due to the editors dicision to cut down on boring landscape shots, here's zhenia's stolen shot of the monks inside. This one was smoking a fag.

The lying Buddha sleeps...

...while Sean prays with the disciples.

Tat Kuang Si. The most stunning waterfall i've ever seen in my life. Further down stream it broke out into pristeen turquoise swimming pools where we jumped from over hanging trees.

Here's the view from the very top. The path takes you right across the very edge of the fall.
Before arriving in Vientiane, our last stop in Laos, we stopped off in Vang Vieng for some outdoor recreation (btw Vang Vieng is the tubing capital of the country). We floated down the Nam Song River in big black rubber doughnuts and every hundred meters was a makeshift bar that served us a Beer Lao and offered us some silly entertainment. It's funny to note that it took us the entire day to make the 3 km trip down the stream.

On a more productive day, we decided to hike to Tham Phu Kham cave, which also boasts a lagoon. The hike started early and the 6 km through a shade-less road wasn't enjoyable but the scenery was wild. Part of the US led carpet bombing campaign in the 1960's, these bombs have been recycled to mark where the road begins and ends. The entire countryside seemed to be surrounded by golden rice fields and rugged mountain peaks.
A sweet farewell image from Vang Vieng as Ursula walks across a newly-made bamboo bridge on the Nam Song River.

Don't you love the sentiment?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Darling!! I love you soo soo soo much (so much that I am leaving youthe very very first comment) I am about to write you a huge email so check it out. everything is normal here,no worries. I love your new blog, and I'm glad that you're following the local advice and staying away from the rats. I know they're cute:) but don't do it! Say hello to Tom and all your travel friends, I'm there in spirit with you.