I absolutely love Lao! Although I’ve only been here for a total of 7 days, I’m sure I will come back some day to stay here a bit longer and see more parts of this beautiful country.
This time I only visited Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane. But there’s plenty more to go around and I hope that someday I can make another blogpost about the southern part of the country as well.
Luang Prabang is the ancient capital of the Luang Prabang Province. Since 1995 the whole town is a Unesco World Heritage Site. We stayed here for three nights and booked the Namkhan Riverside Hotel. They had the best breakfast of our entire journey. We could choose between banana pancakes, muesli and yoghurt, toast, sandwiches, eggs, … and a fresh juice every day. It was heaven on earth for the breakfast-lovers. Mainly because in all the other places we only got eggs and toast, and after a few days I was tired of constantly eating fried eggs… :-).
After arriving in Luang Prabang and checking-in we were just in time to linger along the evening market in Luang Prabang. Strolling around the numerous stands – without being forced to buy something – was strangely enough very relaxing. The market wasn’t crowded neither, although there were a lot of people walking around. Most of them were searching for a restaurant or a café to hang out, or were walking by to get to food corner of the market – where you can eat from a buffet for 10.000-15.000 KIP.
On the second day we walked around the city center for a few hours. The center is really small, so you really don’t need much more time to visit it. One of the temples we visited was the Wat Xieng Thong, one of the most important monasteries of Lao.
Because we didn’t used the slowboat to get to Luang Prabang, we booked a sunset cruise on the Mekong river for the afternoon. The cruise was arranged by Sa Sa Sunset, and included a mojito and a peaceful journey along the Mekong. Nice scenery, a cocktail in the hand and the peace and quiet of the river… what more does one need? We had a perfect evening cruising the Mekong. It only makes me wondering how a two-day trip must have been…
On our last day in Luang Prabang we stood up way to early to experience the Tak Bat, or the Alms Giving Ceremony. During the Tak Bat the locals are sitting next to each other, awaiting the monks. Every morning around sunrise all the monks leave their temples to go and claim all sorts of food they receive from the locals. It’s a peaceful tradition. Or at least, it was a peaceful tradition. Until the tourist came… Now the locals are selling biscuits and sweets to the tourists, so they can give it to the monks. But, what’s worse, the bigger part of the tourist are actually jumping in front of the monks to shoot pictures of them… disturbing them in their sacred ceremony. There are rules to be followed during the Tak Bat. The main rule is to be respectful towards the monks. This means that you stay out of their way, or – if you want to participate – that you keep sitting on your knees, whilst giving them your alms. I observed the Tak Bat from across the street. Just waiting for the monks to pass by.
Because we were up really early, we decided to take a tuktuk around 9h30 towards the Kuang Si Falls. If I knew that it would be a 45 minute drive, I would’ve arranged a tuktuk a bit earlier. Because we arrived around 10u15-10u30 and there were already too much people for me (and for my pictures) :-). The Kuang Si Falls are really a piece of paradise on earth. I’ve never seen a waterfall that’s more beautiful and inspiring than this one… Before we jumped right into the water, we decided to follow the waterfall al the way to the top. This meant risking our lives a few times, but once we reached the top, we were rewarded with a stunning view. After that we had to risk our lives again to get back down, but it was really worth it :-). The best way to climb the waterfall is to go up on the right side of the waterfall (when you’re in front of it) and back down on the other side (where you have some stairs).
Next to the waterfall there was also a butterfly park. I wanted to visit the Kuang Si Butterfly Park as well, but it was closed on the day we went there.
In the late afternoon we decided to climb Mount Phousi to enjoy a nice sunset. We started our climb up around 16h30 which was early enough to get a place on the bench on the front row ;-). Unfortunatly it was a cloudy day, so we couldn’t see much of the sunset. However we did have a splendid view over the city.
After a busride that endured more than 6 hours, we arrived at Vang Vieng. The minivan dropped us of at a “bus station” that was 2km away from the city center. The tuktuk-drivers asked 50.000 kip for a 2 minute drive, so we decided to walk towards our hotel, the Vang Vieng Boutique Resort. Our first hotel with a pool ;-).
On our first day we wanted to go to the Blue Lagoon. There are a lot of ways to get there, you can rent a bike, a scooter or a “buggy”. We decided to be sportive and tried to rent a bike. The problem with that was that everybody wanted to have our pasport as a warranty, but we weren’t too keen on giving our ticket back home to somebody else. It took us almost an hour to find someone that had enough pitty with us to let us rent the bikes without any warranty. Hooray! Our tour could finally start :-).
Vang Vieng itself isn’t anything special, but the environment surely is! With mountains surrounding the green rice fields you have a picturesque place to bicycle around. The Blue Lagoon isn’t so hard to find, you just have to follow all the buggy’s and the signs. The only problem is that you have to pay everywhere :-). You have to pay to cross the bridge, you have to pay to enter the premises of the Blue Lagoon, you have to pay to park your bike and if you want to swim or jump into the lagoon, you have to pay to rent a life-vest. That was the downside of the whole trip actually. So we just pedaled to the Blue Lagoon. Picnicked there with a bottle of water and some Pringles and went to the Tham Phu Kham Cave, which is on the same premises. Visiting the cave requires a head torch, good shoes and no anxiety for dark spaces and steep stairways… Which we lacked. Or at least, I lacked. So after the climb up to reach the entrance of the cave, I only managed to get inside the cave for 5 minutes. After that I just waited until the boyfriend got back to risk my life (again) to go back to the ground. We decided to head back to the city center. We stumbled upon the Wat Si Sou Mang Karam before returning our bikes to the rental shop.
On our last day in Vang Vieng, we wanted to climb a mountain. That never happened as we never found the mountain that they spoke of. I can’t even tell you which mountain it was, because I still haven’t found the information back neither :-). Instead of climbing the mountain, we tried to walk around the city, tried to reach on of the many caves in the environment – failed to do that as well – and returned back to our hotel.
We didn’t stay very long in Vientiane, most people didn’t like this city and there wasn’t mucht to be done neither. After we arrived in the city, we walked towards our hostel, the Backpackers Garden Hostel, which I truly, really, do NOT recommend. It was our worst stay of the entire journey. The matrass was made out of concrete, we had to share our air-conditioning with our neighbors and the rooms weren’t soundproof at all. I felt like sleeping in a jail.
In Vientiane we visited the Patuxai Arch, which wasn’t really worth or time ;-). After that we just strolled around the city. We stumbled upon the Wat That Foon and the That Dam. We also reached the Mekong. In Vientiane the Mekong forms the border with Thailand.