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October 28, 2004

Wowed in Laos

Starting these blog entries is always an exercise in attempted creativity. When I think of the experience I am trying to share with you it is something totally different than what ends up on screen. Entries like this one are especially difficult because no amount of eloquent descriptive banter could accurately describe some of the beautiful things I've seen in the last few days.

We hopped into our mini bus for the journey from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng and I settled in for a bumpy ride. Since Laos has the reputation of being the most bombed country in history I figured all the potholes (craters) in the road just had to be courtesy of the US government and I refrained from complaining. Instead I enjoyed the scenery. The drive was all down hill, hemmed in by jagged mountains and steep hillside farms. A thick haze obscured the view but added to the mystery.

A few hours of wide eyed sight seeing through the mountains we made it to the valley where Vang Vieng hides out near the Nam Kong River. I wasn't feeling too good since I think I'd picked up another intestinal friend and had to chill out the rest of the day. Next morning we explored Vang Vieng - in about 5 minutes. This one street town exists for the sole purpose of providing backpackers with beer, drugs, and tubing opportunities. Needless to say it wasn't the nicest of places in the world but just outside of town was another world. The river has beautiful mountains on one side and green rice fields on the other. I felt like I was looking in on a place that could be the Earth but probably wasn't since these places don't really exist. It was just then that I was reminded of reality as kids got out of school. With all those happy kids its hard to remember that the serious reality of Laos is not just amazing views. It is a land of smiles but also of abject poverty. Millions live in substandard housing with no running water or electricity. I'm not quite sure if everyone enjoys the view when you have to live in a bamboo hut on the floor.

We celebrated Amanda's Birthday (October 25th!!) in small town style before making plans to get up early for more exploration. Next on our itinerary was the Mines of Moria!! Ok, I wish but really, it was the closest thing I've ever experienced. A few kilometers out of town and across the river is the Chang Caves. I don't know how far back into the mountain the cave actually goes but we walked several hundred meters before getting barred off and I could still see much further than that. I wanted to climb over the broken gate and explore but I didn't want to tempt fate by disobeying the boundaries in a place where goblins lurk - I mean, is slippery -- and stuff. We climbed through the cave to an opening with a lookout over the valley before heading back to town.

We only spent a few days here but were ready to head out. Instead of taking the bus to Vientiane we decided to kayak most of the way and enjoy ourselves outdoors instead of being cramped up in another mini bus. I'm glad we did! More great views and an exhilirating experience jumping off a 30 foot cliff. We took the waterproof camera for that so I'll post a pic if one comes out. I was only jumping once for that photo op!! After a few hours on the river and another hour on the road we made it to Vientiane!

From here we're headed to Cambodia and the world famous Angkor Wat. More UNESCO and I hear its great. I'll keep you posted!

Posted by Josh on October 28, 2004 02:59 PM
Category: Where are we?


Posted by: Steven Saul on October 30, 2004 06:35 AM

Hi Josh and Amanda, We love reading of your traveling adventures and the pics are great.We love you! Stay safe! Did you vote?

Posted by: paige on November 4, 2004 07:55 PM

Hi Paige and Co.

Yes we did vote!! Even though it was a pain in the butt we got it done. Too bad our system is corrupt and nobody seems to care about voter fraud that disenfranchises the people and elects a president that few people actually wanted. I find it interesting how the media doesn't report on things like the county in Wisconsin where somehow 144,000 people voted in a county that only have 17,000 voters. Oh well. Thats American politics. I'll shut up now.

Posted by: Josh on November 15, 2004 04:03 PM
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