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This is the capital of Laos???

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008


Vientiane isn’t like most capitals of a country.  First off, only 250,000 people live here and it feels more like a town than a capital. No high-rise buildings, very little traffic and I only remember one stop light.  Normally, it’s not too exciting to write about food, but the one thing this cozy little city does have is good, cheap restaurants and we found the mother load our first night.  We hooked up with Mark and Jerre, our new travel buds from Connecticut for a glass of wine before going to an Italian/French restaurant (French being the most popular tourist food because Laos used to be a French colony).  The food was some of the best we have eaten since leaving on our trip, probably some of the best food I have ever eaten, period.  We had steaks with fancy French sauces and fresh vegetables and homemade chocolate cake.  I would go back to Vientiane just to eat at this restaurant!  And the kicker was that for the four of us to eat, including wine and appetizers, the bill was around 30 dollars- for 4 people!!!  The next night we were all trying to decide where to eat and we figured, why mess with perfection, let’s go back to the same place.  It’s a little embarrassing since there are so many restaurants in the city, but once again we had another great meal.  This time of lasagna and spaghetti. We finished the night off at a bar that was full of local Laos and a local band that were singing their hearts out to American cover songs.  Who knew “Zombie” by the Cranberries was so popular half way around the world?

Laos is a communist country but you would hardly ever know it.  One of the few times that you do realize it, is when you  take a look at your watch and realize you’re going to be locked out of your hotel room because you’re out after curfew!  In Vientiane we had to be back at our hotel before 11:30 pm or else they lock the front doors and close up the gates and we would be out on the street.  Some hotels are not so strict on this rule but our place was, so on our last night, we had to run home to make our curfew.  We made it with about three minutes to spare, pretty funny stuff.

Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008


Try saying that a few times. Our one week in Luang Prabang was fantastic, we ate at great restaurants, hiked to waterfalls and did a great mountain bike ride to some of the remote villages in the area. Luang Prabang is small enough where you see the same people day in and day out. We have made some friends since we’ve been in Laos and they would keep popping up in different places during our stay here. One of them was, Mark and Gerre from Connecticut. We met them on the boat coming down the Mekong river. We shared some great food together at a really nice French restaurant one night. In Luang Prabang, you get 5 star eating at one star prices so we were loving it. During the evenings we would stroll the town, usually run into Mark and Gerre and then spend the rest of the evening drinking wine at some cool little wine bars. Luang Prabang also has a magical night market selling all kinds of handmade items in a very laid back atmosphere. The Lao are just plain nice people and don’t know how to be aggressive(lets hope that doesn’t change as more and more tourists come into Laos)

Our next stop would be Vang Vieng, the outdoor capital of Laos along with the reputation as the backpacker’s main party spot. We weren’t too interested in the party scene as it’s mainly a younger affair (I admit it, I am an old geezer compared to most of these backpackers) but we were interested in the outdoor opportunities. We lucked out and were able to rent a really nice bungalow right on the river and away from the party noise of town (think trance music and stoned backpackers). Our first day Vang Vieng we wore ourselves out with a 50km mountain bike ride to some amazing caves and villages.  At one particular cave, we were able to hike into it for 2 miles and then went for a swim in a lagoon that was inside the cave with just the light of our flashlights to see!  I said to Chrsity “Here we are, 2 miles inside a cave, in a lagoon in the middle of Laos, now we’re gettin’ somewhere.”  It’s easy to take it all for granted when you’ve been traveling for as long as we have.

Since we seemed to be traveling in the same direction, our friends Mark and Jerre arrived in Vang Vieng a couple days after us, so we all decided to do a hike/mountain trek the following day together.  We hiked to some small Laos villages and eventually to a beautiful waterfall.  No one was around.  It was so beautiful and peaceful.  Along the way, our guide (local Laos teen) pointed out different trees and plants, etc.  It’s very surreal when your hiking and the guide shows you a hole in the ground that was caused by a U.S. bomb.  It’s hard to believe that this was the most heavily bombed country in the world and it sucks that the U.S. was dropping those bombs-sometimes just to unload them.  But, that’s another story for another day.  We had a great day hiking with our friends and we got to see some of the more remote parts of Vang Vieng most backpackers don’t take the time to see.

The party scene in this town is a very weird one.  On the main street, there are several restaurants, all with big screen TVs that are showing episodes of either Friends or the Simpsons all day long, over and over and over.  Each place was packed with people just vegged out like they were in a coma watching for hours on end!!!  Not sure why you would come half way around the world to watch countless episodes of Friends, but hey, to each his own.

Our next and final stop in Laos would be Vientiane.  Rather than take the four hour boring bus ride, we hooked up with an adventure travel agency that offered a guided kayak trip  from Vang Vieng to Vientiane.  Neither Christy or I had really river kayaked, mostly only ocean, so this was going to be a real experience.  The kayaks were tandem and at the start the river was fairly calm.  However, we quickly came upon one section that had some pretty serious white water and the guide told us, “don’t go on right side.  Bad.   Don’t go on left side.  Bad.  Go in middle, not so bad.”  So we translated that to, paddle like hell down the middle and hope for the best.  It was an absolute thrill and we were one of the only kayaks in our group to make it without tipping over.  After our whitewater section we paddled over to a rock to have lunch and there was an opportunity to jump off a “cliff” into the water.  Of course, the cliff was huge and Christy said “Sweetie, go jump off it and I’ll take a picture.”  She loves to watch me do really stupid things.  There were about 14 people in our group and about 4 other people elected to hike over to jump off.  The guide said it was 30ft which is high enough to scare the daylights out of you.  After some psyching up, I jumped and boy was it scary.  I screamed some profanity on the way down which gave everyone a good laugh.

We finished our day in Vientiane, finally finding a guest house after having to go to about 10 that were booked, and took a well deserved hot shower.

New Pictures of Laos

Friday, February 8th, 2008
new.JPGIMG_3920.JPG I just spent about 3 hours getting all our pictures onto disk and then uploaded to the internet. Thank god these Lao kids know ... [Continue reading this entry]

Fried Bat, A Laos specialty

Thursday, February 7th, 2008
rat.jpgbat.jpg The Gourmet eating continued today as I strolled through one of the local markets early this morning. I woke up early and not wanting to wake Christy up I ... [Continue reading this entry]

Rain, Cold and the Mighty Mekong River

Thursday, February 7th, 2008
img_3853.jpgimg_3856.jpgimg_3844.jpg Since we arrived in southeast Asia, everyone has been telling us that Laos is not to be missed. Within a few hours of ... [Continue reading this entry]