30th October 2009

Laos

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We didn’t manage to pass the border to Laos from Cambodia without paying 1 dollar each for the border controller to stamp our passport. They first made us to wait for a long time as we refused to pay and then threatened to cancel our visa if we wouldn’t pay.

First in Laos we went for a day to the 4000 islands, which are located close to the border. The boat ride there on Mekong river was very nice. On the islands we got to witness the locals washing themselves, and even their teeth on this brown water.
   
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Next stop was in Pakse, where Chris got to train some hotel workers in putting off a fire. Next to a hotel where we stayed, a lightning hit an electric box, which put the next by tree on fire. The hotel owner gave us dragon fruit shakes as a thank you for Chris acting fast and showing their staff how to use the extinguisher. It is also interesting to notice that Lao has the worse connection to Internet so far, which is one of the reason why we publish so late. Talking with that hotel’s manager, we learnt that a 1Mb connection costs 240 US dollars a month, and that the bandwidth isn’t guaranteed at all, meaning that most of time, one can’t get a single page.
   
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We had heard that the people in Laos were a bit quieter than in the neighboring countries, and actually for once we did get a quiet night bus to Vientiane. After arriving we shared a long lasting, interesting conversation with an Australian woman and an Israeli man we had asked for directions from the bus station. One annoying thing in South East Asia is that the bus stations are always located outside or at the edges of the towns, so that every time you are forced to take a tuk-tuk to get to the centre, and you never know how far anything is. Vientiane is quite nice little capital. We walked around to the sights as usual even though the tuk-tuk drivers always try to persuade us to take a tour with them.
   
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The plain of jars is located close to a small town called Phonsavan. We enjoyed a lot walking on the fields and once again realized this is the kind of sights we have enjoyed the most on our trip. Not crowded places, in the middle of the nature. It makes your mind to rest so much!
   
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We quite liked Luang Prabang despite all the building work around and got stuck there for longer than planned. The time passed quickly in good company.
   
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And we had to return to Kuang Si waterfalls for swimming and relaxing day as we ended up hiking the whole afternoon in the rain forest by accident the first time there.
   
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In Lao we saw more monks than in any other country. Especially young ones. They may not have had chosen this path themselves, but it is a pride for their families, or they have joined because they are poor. Being a monk teaches social skills and discipline. Some monasteries also teach English for free, and also we got to discuss in English with some of them. So for these youngsters monk hood is not necessarily a lifetime commitment. One sight in Luang Prabang is to see hundreds of monks collecting rice donations from the villagers very early in the morning.
There are still a lot of unexploded mines in different part of the country, but progress is being made despite an obvious lack of resource and equipment.
Transport is about as bad as in Cambodia, but with less people on the road, it is far less dangerous. Tuk-tuks may have different shapes and colours, but as they say here: “same same !” Lao food is quite similar to that of Cambodia, and we were able to enjoy those cheap fresh fruit shakes a bit longer. Of course we sometimes get bored of Asian food, so we occasionally “have to” go for a pizza or a burger, but these usually are much more expensive and we come back to our noodles and rice. Local beer is alright by Asian standard, but the local booze, “Lao Lao” is cheap, strong, and weird: the bottle might contain scorpions, snakes or other local delicacies :) Talking about delicacies, taking long bus journeys mean we’ll have to stop to eat somewhere in the countryside, and it’s always interesting to guess what the locals will try to sell us: grilled grasshoppers ? fried worms ? spicy spiders ?
Minus in Laos nowadays is too many backpackers who go there basically just to drink and bother other people. They don’t respect anyone or anything. In Laos there are some interesting rules due to increase of tourism. For example in Luang Prabang it is forbidden to play western music, and everyone have to be back in their hotels by 23.30.
   
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We now need to cross the Mekong again, and pass into Thailand.

This entry was posted on Friday, October 30th, 2009 at 21:37 and is filed under in English please !, news, voyages, worldtrip'09. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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  1. 1 On October 31st, 2009, Irma said:

    Terveiset meiltä täältä syyspimeyden keskeltä! Olisipa ihanaa päästä aurinkoon, ei voi muuta sanoa kun lukee matkakuulumisianne ja katselee kuvia sieltä puolelta maailmaa..Mielenkiintoista kuulla miten koette suomalaisturistien suosiman Thaimaan kaikkien aasialaismaiden -ja kokemusten jälkeen. Odottelinkin jo kuulumisianne ja olin iloinen huomatessani, että kaikki hyvin ja matkanne jatkuu.. Täällä “odottelemme” sikainfulenssaa, siitä puhutaan joka uutisissa, toivottavasti ei nyt kuitenkaan ole kovin raju. Muuten entiseen malliin jatketaan kiitos kun saan välillä matkustaa mukananne kuvin ja matkakuulumisin. Oikein hyvää jatkoa Thaimaassa ja kirjoitellaan. Sydämellisin terveisin Irma ja perhe

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