Since we arrived in southeast Asia, everyone has been telling us that Laos is not to be missed. Within a few hours of crossing the border, I started to see why. Things in Laos just move at a really nice pace, slow and slower. Nobody is in a hurry and the scenery is beautiful.
Our first stop would be Luang nam Tha in the NorthWest section of Laos. We were told the road is horrible and could take 12 hours to get there but decided to do it anyways. To our great relief, the Chinese had just finished a brand new road from China to Thailand which goes right through Luang Nam Tha. Our trip was reduced to only 6 hours. Of course things never go perfectly smooth and two hours into the drive on a very winding road, a car sideswiped our bus. Ahhh, travel days, things never go as planned. We all had to get out of the bus and the driver of our bus, after talking to the other driver, hitched a ride back into the town where we came from. So here we were, on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, not knowing what was going on and when our driver would be back. I guess I should also mention that not many people speak English in Laos, so there was a major language barrier. After about an hour of sitting in the hot sun, the driver came back with the police. Twenty minutes after that everything was settled and we were on our way once again.
We spent 3 days in Luang Nam Tha riding mountain bikes through endless rice patty fields, exploring water falls and riding through some villages where all the little kids would come out screaming “Sabadeeee” which means hello.
We then rented moterbikes and drove 50km up to the chinese border to a town called Muang sing where we stayed one night and then drove back the next day. Riding bikes and moterbikes in Laos is so great beacause the highways are empty, we would ride for a half an hour sometimes without seeing another car and this was on the main highway. Most people in Laos cant afford a bike let alone a car.
We left Luang Nam Tha and took a minibus to a place called Knong quiaw (these names are killing me, so hard to pronounce and remember) Its a village on the
Nam Ou river and it was beautiful. Huge mountains and cliffs all
around. It reminded us somewhat of the Columbia gorge in Oregon. Right
when we got to the town it started to rain, and boy did it rain. We
tromped through the mud to find a bungalow which was right on the river
and really nice. The part that wasn’t nice is that bungalows are made
for warm weather because they are all open and the breeze comes right
in. Well, it was about 60 degrees and pouring rain. We havent felt cold weather in a long time so it really felt cold to us. The other problem
is that in Laos, every restaurant is totally open to the outside. we
Havent eaten in one restaurant where we were inside. Its wonderful
when its warm but not so great when is cold. We put on all the dry clothes we had left
and had dinner at the guest house. A french couple sat with us at dinner and we ended up talking for almost 3 hours. He was a helicopter pilot and used to
fly Jacques Chirac (the old pres of France) around. He also lived in Africa
and was the personal pilot for different African presidents. He was
telling us how corrupt they were and how the aid money that goes to these
countries is just taken by the government and spent like it was there
own money. Anyways, we had a great dinner talking with them.
The next day it was still raining non stop so we decided to hike to a
cave where the pathet lao troops hid out from the Americans during the
vietnam war. we saw big craters where u.s. bombs had exploded and
walked all around in this huge cave. we were the only one there since
it was raining and nobody is as dumb and Christy and I to be out in
the rain. People here use old exploded bombs for all kinds of things, its very eerie. Especially
when you have a Lao citizen telling us about a cave they hid in as our country was bombing them non-stop.
The next day the rain stopped so we decided to take a boat down the
Nam Ou river which connects to the Mekong River and to Luang Prabang. We
were going to go to another town one hour north but the weather was
supposed to turn ugly again the next day and we didnt want to get
stuck. Plus, all our clothes were pretty much damp by this point. It
was a 6 hour boat ride and was really beautiful, we passed little
villages where the kids would run out and wave to us. I got some great
pictures of kids in their canoes. the scenery was also very dramatic,
huge cliffs and forest everywhere.
So now we are in Luang Prabang. I am blown away by how nice this city
is. its a unesco world heritage site and I can tell why. Its a pretty
small town that you can walk everywhere. All the buildings are french
architecture and it feels like a small artsy california town. We had
dinner at a restaurant right on the mekong river. The great thing is
that its a really nice town with nice cafes and restaurants yet its
still really cheap. Were planning on being here for about a week to recharge the batteries and enjoy this beautiful part of the world.