Friday, 29 April 2011

Two weeks in Laos :)





It all started in Danang on Saturday morning 16th with the sleeper bus from Danang to Vientiane. The bus was supposed to take 24h so as we started at 8am we expected to reach Vientiane at 8am on Sunday. Well, let’s see – but it came all different…surprise, surprise.

The sleeping bus was actually not too bad at all. I was so happy to have company with me :) Tin was joining me for one week in Laos! What an experience for both of us ;)

I was the only Western person on the sleeping bus – everybody else was Vietnamese or Laos. We killed the time with an i-pod and chatted to each other and slept a bit.

The worst part was still to come, when we both woke up and all people had to leave the bus at 1.30am. First I didn’t really understand what happened. Then I realized we were already in Vientiane and the bus took only 17 hours. But what to do at the Southern Bus Station at 1.30am in Vientiane during Laos New Year?!

Long story short, we found some transport, also the driver tried to rip us off as usual, a hotel to sleep for a few hours until we took the minibus to Vang Vieng.

Vang Vieng was gorgeous again! I just love this small little backpacker town and it seemed like Tin enjoyed it as well.






We ate some lovely crepes and rented some bicycles to get around to see the caves and the blue lagoon. As the New Year celebration in Laos was still in full swing, instead of a peaceful blue lagoon we found a festival place with a band and a big tend with a lot of people. Anyway, was still fun to see the locals celebrating and to get a chance to experience the Laos New year :)

We slept in the lovely guesthouse Champa Lao made out of old dark wood. The rooms are just beautiful and the whole atmosphere is lovely! Unfortunately we didn’t had much time there to spend, but we made the most of it. We went to my favourite place “The Otherside restaurant” – and if you believe it or not, but it was also Tin’s favourite!!!

The next day we travelled further to Luang Prabang on a so called “VIP Bus” ;) it took us 7 hours until we finally arrived in Luang Prabang and the ride was not so pleasant as the road went through the mountains, a lot of curves etc.

But we had booked a lovely place in Luang Prabang where we stayed four nights called “The Thongbay Guesthouse”. It is a bit outside the city centre, but it lies in a beautiful surrounding and our bungalow was with a direct view onto the river! Can life be better?! Not really ;)







The first night we headed into town and luckily enough we experienced some really nice New Year celebrations and traditions in the Wat’s. Have a look at the pictures yourself.









The next morning we rented some bicycles from our guesthouse and cycled into town.







We had a gorgeous breakfast at one of the cosy coffee places with fresh pineapple jam, a croissant and a baguette with ham – Yummy! We were both happy and ready to continue exploring the town further.







In the afternoon we went up to the top of Phu Si Mountain, where you have an awesome view onto the city and the landscape around it including some Buddha statues on the way. Night market in the evening to shop for some souvenirs made it another lovely day.







The next morning we bought our bus tickets and after all this was sorted we got a tuck-tuck to the famous Kuang Si Waterfall just 40km outside of Luang Prabang.









We had a brilliant afternoon together. Tin and myself were swimming in the amazing waterfall and enjoying ourselves so much! This is just such a beautiful spot.

In the evening we headed into town to eat some tasty Lao food once again and tried one of the famous bars in town.

The next day Tin went into town to see the national Museum, whereas I stayed in the brilliant bungalow and enjoyed some me time ;)

We met up in town to have some food and a quick stroll, before we headed back to a relaxing time on our veranda.

Then the sad part started, as we had to say goodbye as Tin had to travel back to Vietnam and I travelled down South.


As I wanted to explore the South of Laos I decided to skip Vientiane as I had seen it previously and wasn’t too impressed with it and headed straight to Pakse.

It meant to take a 10hours bus trip from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, starting at 8am, swapping busses in Vientiane onto a sleeper bus to Pakse for another 12 hours.

Overall I have to say it wasn’t too bad – the sleeper bus was pretty comfortable and I shared the booth with a Swedish girl,which I met on the bus.

Arriving in Pakse at 8am I checked out a few places for accommodation, which were recommended in the Lonely planet, but I didn’t fancy any of the more expensive once. So I decided to walk to the cheapest one called Sabaidy Guesthouse. On the way I met a young Dutch women, so I asked her if she knows the place. She stayed there and we got talking and she told me that she wants to do a motorbike tour today to the Bolaven Plateau. I wanted to do exactly the same route, so we decided to leave Pakse, rent motorbikes and leave our big bags in the guesthouse for a small fee :) I had a quick shower, packed a small bag and here I was - after a 24 hours bus ride - on the back of a Honda Wave riding through the South of Laos!!! So typical me ;)



We started in Pakse at 10am or so and drove 175km on that day. I was pretty exhausted I have to say after spending 24h on a bus beforehand. But it was all worthwhile for sure! We saw two waterfalls – Tad Phasouam waterfall and Tad Lo, where some monks visited the site at the same time.We passed by so many rural villages and area’s in Laos. The people here in that part are so poor – it is incredible. Very sad so, you can even see that finally in the last 3-4 years some primary schools where built, but I guess there is a lot to be done in the future to secure some proper education for these people.


















We finally stopped when it got dark in a place called Paksong, trying to find a guesthouse. After looking at a few we finally decided for one, got a decent shower and some local Lao food. I must have fallen asleep close to 10pm completely exhausted.

The next morning we woke up at 7am and hit the road at 7.30 already. It was gorgeous to start so early and driving around on the Honda Wave 110 – even the fresh air smelled like freedom.



We stopped at the biggest waterfall which is 120m high called Tan Fan. Impressive I have to say and no tourists there whatsoever – we decided to have a quick coffee before we hit the road again straight to Champasak. After maybe 50km we were finally able to leave the main road with all the trucks and drove on a small cute country road towards Champasak. Gorgeous scenery indeed and then after a few pictures my battery of my camera had died L Oh well, so it will all stay in my memory for sure.



We reached the Mekong River and had to take a small little ferry. If I talk about a small little ferry, I mean a few wooden floorboards nailed together, enough space for 4 motorbikes and 6 people ;) what an adventure! But we reached the other side of the Mekong save and sound and were finally in a small cute little village called Champasak. It was a sleepy little town and we decided to stop and have some lunch.

Gorgeous setting by the Mekong River I have to say and it reminded me about Vietnam.

We drove further out of town to see the famous Wat Phu, an ancient Khmer religious complex – this reminded me about Angkor Wat for sure, just in a small version of course.

We decided to make our way back to Pakse and reached the guesthouse, where we had stored our backpacks, in the late afternoon finding out that the rooms were all taken. As we still had our bikes with us, we drove around town and looked at a few options. We found a decent guesthouse, at least clean and with air-con and got our bags and checked in.

In the evening we went to the only Italian place in town and had some nice pasta after days of Laos food :) Really tasty for a change!

We booked the boot ticket to head down to the 4000 Islands the next morning and there we were – on the Minibus to the most Southern point of Laos at the Cambodia boarder.

We reached the Island around 11am and made our way through the East side of the Island looking for a place to stay and just relax for a few days :)



I found a lovely place called the Don Det Bungalows, which is for this Island almost luxury as it has it’s on bathroom, 3 windows and it is made out of real wood! The dutch girls stayed in another bungalow closer to the pear which was a way cheaper and it was nice, so we both had our own space.


The location here is gorgeous! I have never seen such an Island before really, where it works so well that the tourists are blending in the local life on the Island.

On our first day we decided to rent bicycle and discover the rest of the Island and maybe even some neighbour Islands which we could reach by just crossing the old French bridge. We did so and entered Don Khon, I have to say one of the most beautiful Islands I have ever been to!!



You can see real rural Laos life. Kids cycling to school, playing outside and don’t care if a tourist cycles past. Older women looking after their grandchildren, some are smoking, others have a bath in the Mekong River or washing their clothes there.









We cycled a gorgeous road through a forest in the shade and ended up at an impressive waterfall Tat Somphamit. Unfortunately it is too dangerous to swim here, so we decided to cycle back to the Island where we stayed and see if we can have a dip in the water there. It was around 38 degrees and the sun was blurring from the sky!


We found a spot and had a lovely swim after a really nice day out on the Island. The following days we rented some tubes and were floating down the Mekong with some other people we met from the US and just taking it easy.










I was reading a lot on my veranda from my bungalow lying in the hammock. So nice and peaceful I have to say. I rented a bicycle again the other day to cycle back to the other Island to finally find the spot where you apparently can go dolphin watching. It was roasting again, but I didn’t care really. I found the old French peer, which was described in the Lonely planet and here I was on a small fisher boat to hopefully see some dolphins. And you bet I did!!! We had one hour and the local Lao fisherman had exactly known where to go to see them – really cute dolphins and all worthwhile!

This night we finally got a thunderstorm and a lot of rain and it cooled a little bit down! It was so necessary and I think it meant as well that the rainy season it about to arrive.

So this morning I left the lovely Island Don Det to go back to Pakse for one night, but just to start another adventure!



Good-bye Laos and your gorgeous landscapes!

I cannot wait to see my friends Annette, Jan & John in Ho Chi Minh City back in Vietnam to travel for 2 weeks tomorrow!!! Vietnam I am coming back ;)


4 comments:

  1. Wow, looks like an amazing trip! Some really good pictures in here too. Feel quite bad I have not been in touch a lot lately or updated my blog for that matter. I better get cracking. Looking forward to your next posting.

    Hugs,
    Nicole xxx

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are becoming my idol with all your cycle and motorbike trips and backpacker life! Kerstin Cool Rieger!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Fantastic Kerstin.....All looks wonderful
    xxx

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Kerstin,

    It seemed an amazing trip didn't you? You must enjoy it a lot with a big smile on your face always!

    Lovely to hear from you and let me know French soon.

    You know, after looking at these photos, they light me up with the thirsty of travelling around!

    best, Trang POM ELI

    ReplyDelete