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Leaving Laos and Thailand Return

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

After typing the last blog entry, I found a restaurant to eat at on the main strip. While eating, I got involved in a conversation with two other Americans. We ended up deciding to see what the Tuesday night nightlife of Luang Nam Tha was like. To sum it up: Not much. We tried two different bars and they both only had about five people in each. This was in contrast to the previous weekend when one of the guys had went to a disco in an old church. The place was packed full of Laotian breakdancing. We stayed at the second bar where they had at least a video of people breakdancing playing. A few of the local patrons also took a stab at singing along to the music. The bar finally gave up at midnight and closed. I returned to my guesthouse to sleep. [read on]

Voyage up the Nam Ou River

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

I went to the boat ticket office early in the morning to buy a boat ticket to Nong Khiaw. While standing in line to get a ticket, I noticed a helpful signboard that listed the prices for all the destinations. I also quickly noticed that I had to pay about 30% more (110,000 kip) than Lao people according to the sign. While this, as always, is annoying as I don’t get anything more for my money at least it’s not like India where I pay 20-40 times more for things just based on race. After buying the ticket, I waited around for about 2 hours before we set off 30 minutes late. They needed to use an extra boat as there were 16 tourists making the trip (so much for my “original” idea of going by boat). Audrey, the Malaysia lady, who you met in my earlier posting was also making the trip. The boat I was in was equipped with small hard butt numbing wooden chairs.The ceiling over the chairs was too low and I had to hang out to really see well. We first headed north up the Mekong River before turning onto the Nam Ou passing by the Pak Ou caves. Once on the Nam Ou we spent about eight hours making it to Nong Khiaw. The scenery in the beginning consisted of small mountains lost in a haze.  The mountains were greatly deforested. (This would be the most depressing part of the whole journey. For such a small population, Laos is tremendously deforested. There is almost no replanting going on and the hillsides are almost bare or covered in grass. In some areas a few clumps of teak trees have been replanted.) The river paralled route 13 for most of the trip. As we got closer to Nong Khiaw the scenery became more dramatic. The mountains turned to karst and great limestone cliffs riddled with caves leapt out of the water. Here the slopes were too steep for logging and old growth forest with full jungle canopy remained. The villages consisted of traditional thatch hut architecture. The river itself was full of rapids, clear, and quite shallow. The boat struggled to get up a few steep parts. We had to stop at one point to change propeller blades as the old one had gotten bent in an extra shallow portion. One of the other boats struck bottom and had to be pushed to deeper water. In a clever blend of old and new technology, the villages produced electricity from the river. Where needed, they constructed bamboo rafts and tied electric turbines to them. The river current turned the turbines. Where extra ooomph was needed, bamboo shoots were used to channel the water over the turbine propellers. Wires supported on bamboo poles ran from the turbines up into the villages. [read on]

Royal Laos and Evil Lao Lao

Sunday, February 17th, 2008
I left the guesthouse around 6:00 am and took a tuk tuk to Vientiane's Northern bus station. I got on the 6:30 am bus going to Phonsovan. The bus trip took 11 hours. The landscape was at first flat, but ... [Continue reading this entry]

Riverside Towns of Laos

Monday, February 11th, 2008
Andreas and I headed to the bus station early to try to get on a bus to Savannakhet. At the ticket window, we bought tickets for the next bus at 8:00 am. While we waited, we observed that there weren't ... [Continue reading this entry]

The Motorcycle Diaries (On and Around the Bolaven Plateau)

Monday, February 4th, 2008
After having so much fun (despite the dust and knee injury) renting a motorbike in Ban Lung, Andreas and I decided to rent motorbikes again and do a tour of Southern Laos. We rented bikes from our hotel in Pakse ... [Continue reading this entry]

Cambodia – Last Days

Monday, January 28th, 2008
Due to an afternoon bus departure, I had a morning to kill in Kratie. To that end I went back to the bookshop where I had eaten previously as the breakfast menu looked good. Upon my entrance, I found that ... [Continue reading this entry]