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Laos

Curious what backpackers do in Laos? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.
  • Day83

    Sleepy waterfall town, which really was beautiful. Although our trekking guides, weren't really guides so to speak, rather teenage boys on school holidays trying to learn English. Ha!

    We stayed and ate with a Laos family for the four nights we were there. They were so warm and kind. And the food was incredible. The dad even dropped us off at our next destination, in his pick up truck. Nice one Mr PhoRead more

  • Day18

    Apologies to Helen’s legion of followers but it's Matt doing the blog today. Thought it's about time I had a go and also to prove I'm still here and that Helen didn't leave me on the slow boat so she could spend all our money on cooking classes and the rest of her time geocaching.

    So today we went to the famous (ish) Kuang Si Falls. It's towards the top of any Luang Prabang to do list and we decided to employ our usual strategy of getting up a bit earlier to try and beat the crowds. Meant we were up at 7 and out the door not long after to try and negotiate a Tuk Tuk to take us up there. It's about a 40 min drive away. Safe to say neither of us will be getting the call to lead the Brexit negotiations any time soon and after some half arsed bartering I realised we were arguing over about 2 quid extra so the deal was done. We'd agreed a price (220k Kip which is about £22, everytime you go to the ATM here you're a millionaire) for the driver to take us up there and then wait for about 5 hrs to take us back. We'd paid a bit more so we had the Tuk Tuk to ourselves and weren't relying on other people holding us up but more on that later.

    Anyway after a typically bumpy (and speedy) drive up there we arrived about 8.30. You pay around £2 each to get in and randomly the first thing you see is a bear sanctuary where a number of bears have been rescued from poachers (their stomach bile is valuable in Chinese medicine apparently). There were loads of them just lying about and chilling out, they all looked very calm which was good as at least one of the fences looked very jumpable if they'd put their minds to it.

    The falls itself are over three levels and were absolutely beautiful. I'll put a few more pics on FB but they really don't do it justice. The pools on the first couple of levels are the best for swimming in and getting up early paid off as we were able to to swim about with only a handful of other people about. The water is the turquoise colour due to the water running over limestone. It was very clear and no nasties in there apart from a few little fish swimming about, meant you could get a free fish spa if you stood still long enough (we didn't).

    After spoiling a recently arrived tour parties perfect pictures by swimming in front of the waterfall for a while it was up to the next level. More of the same but less chance for swimming. Once you reach the third level you can trek up to the top of the fall itself which we did. Bit steep at times but worth it, there was another pool with a swing over it as well as a great view down the main fall itself. Glad we swam in the water before seeing what colour it is before the limestone gets involved.

    After a quick rest we decided to hike further up to the spring and cave right at the top. It was about 3km and hilly but again definitely worth it. There was a ‘restaurant’ at the spring which was basically a BBQ and a hut. Food was very good though, (the street food in Laos has been brilliant so far). There was another pool to swim in and unfortunately a rope swing and long log covering the pool that you could try and walk over. Obviously I tried both with Helen (quite sensibly) trying neither. Firstly I swung out on the rope planning to let go at the top of the arc and drop in to the cool water below. Got the angle all wrong and if I'd let go would have dropped on the long log so had to hold on and swing back to the bank where I bumped in to a tree while a French family and the guys working on the BBQ looked on, smooth. Undeterred I tried to walk across the log, twice, and got about a quarter of the way both times before falling in. By this point Helen had had enough and had gone to look at some butterflies.

    We then went a bit further up to the Hermit cave. They're very keen on putting buddha statues in pitch black caves in this part of the world and this was more of the same. You hired a flashlight before you went in and it was very dark and a bit creepy and then the flash light reflected on the bald head of meditating monk, momentary panic followed in case we disturbed him or Helen bumped him but turned out it was another of the weird wax works of long deceased monks. We didn't stay long after that.

    We smugly hiked right back down to where we started (we covered 12k in total today and the equivalent of 68 flights up). Smugly as it was very busy and the pool we'd had virtually to ourselves was packed. We then made a quick stop at the butterfly park near the entrance to the falls. It's ran by a Dutch couple, it was quite good but got us thinking what prompts you so say ‘I'm moving to Laos to open a butterfly park’. Anyway it was back to the Tuk Tuk rendezvous point where our driver was playing cards with his mates and told us he was waiting for some other customers before we could set off, turns out he'd dropped us off and hot footed it back to town to charge another group for the exclusive use of his Tuk Tuk. Shouldn't be surprised and wouldn't have mattered if some of the other group hadn't gone AWOL. After sitting in the back of the Tuk Tuk in 35 degree heat for half an hour the driver came back and said we'd have to go back with his mate in another Tuk Tuk with six other people but still wanted the full fare. We managed to get a bit of a discount but we're hot and hungry so in we got. To be fair had we not set off then we'd have missed what was honestly a boy no older than ten driving a truck loaded up with the local beer, Beerlao! Quite a sight.

    We picked up some food and then had our now customary couple of hours back in the room with the air con. After eating a lot of street food recently we decided to eat out proper and Helen found a tapas place that did a mixture of Laos and international food. It was delicious, one of the best places we've eaten so far. After that it was back home early as per.

    We're huge fans of Laos and Luang Prabang in particular. It's such a nice place and so relaxed, we’ll be sad to leave. Close run thing between here and Chiang Mai for my favourite place so far. Last full day in LP tomorrow before we fly to Vientiane Monday and then on to Hanoi on Tuesday.

    We've had some more laundry done and they must wash it on 90 degrees as everything is getting smaller but my waistline is also undoubtedly getting bigger. We have over eight weeks left and if both these trends continue worried I'll have to replace everything with the elasticated hippy pants (usually with elephants on) that are so popular with the many gap year types we've seen.

    Anyway enough of my ramblings, normal service will be resumed tomorrow with Helen back to tell you about our rice farm experience day.
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  • Day87

    We were staying in the middle of nowhere, so had arranged for a man with motorbike to show us the sights. Unfortunately he let us down last minute, stranded.

    We managed to flag down a local bus and get dropped off nearish to a waterfall called Tat Fane. Tat Fane is stunning, but because it's so deep in jungle you can only view it from a remote viewing platform, not really the experience we were yearning for. So, after a bite to eat in the average resort restaurant, we walked to the next falls on our itinerary. Tad Genung.

    There are really no words to describe to magnificent beauty of this waterfall. I'll let the photos do the talking. But with tears of happiness on finding paradise, we spontaneously stripped, wrapped ourselves in our sarongs (bikinis are culturally insensitive, underwear even more so!) and plunged ourselves into the freezing falls. The clouds moved, the sun shon through the twin plumes, a RAINBOW appeared. Heaven.

    After our reviving dip, we dried off in the sunshine and made our way back to main road . With a spring in our step, it gave us a boost to give hitchhiking a go! A beautiful Laos family in their truck pulled over, and they help us up into the back, in amongst the fruit, vegetables, and live fish!! We attempted to pay them but they refused and we said good bye with the only language we had in common .... Smiles!

    Easily one of the most moving and liberating days of my life.
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  • Day48

    We really only traveled to the Laos capital Vientiane in order to catch a flight to Vietnam, but we ended up enjoying our short visit. The bus ride there was surprisingly better then the last one with full reclining leather seats. We luckily got the last two spots on the bus and Rupal got the best seat in the house right in the back with a clear view of the road watching the driver take scary sharp turns and take over cars on the mountainous road.

    We walked to the nearby park and heard some loud music and found a Zumba-like dance class and joined in. Then we strolled through the local market and found Rupal some replacement sunglasses for less than $2 since her old pair was lost in the river the day before. Then we finished the evening with a kebab and a Belgian beer at a Lebanese shop which was a nice change.

    The next day we headed to the airport and enjoyed some much needed Dairy Queen. The hot dog was "Laosy" but the blizzard hit the spot.
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  • Day14

    We had the warmest goodbye from the Day Waterfront Guest House in Chiang Khong which involved the couple who owned it forcing bananas on us for our journey and waving away our tuk tuk to the port like family members.

    Leaving Thailand and entering Laos is a mix of straightforward and faffy. You do Thai immigration, buy a bus ticket where the price is based on an eye ball of how big your luggage is, bus to Laos immigration which involves your passport disappearing through one window and reappearing 20 minutes later through another after dollars have exchanged hands. Then another tuk tuk to the slow boat which will carry us over the next 2 days from Houey Xay to Luang Prabang. Today was the Houey Xay to Pak Bang leg. Our tour guide is Mr Wong. His English is...ok. But he does use about 10 sentences of ramble where 2 would do which makes for some confusion. And says 'same same but different' a lot.

    There were about 30 of us on a long boat that's for a max of 40. Seeing as I'm anti social and don't like forced chat with strangers, especially for a whole day, I was delighted I managed to look surly enough to put anyone else off sitting in our booth. See photos for a pic of the boat but there are central booths, a seating area at the back and a flat you can sit on at the front. The scenery was stunning the whole journey passing lots of other boats, fishermen, cows etc and I was very happy catching up with my book/napping in between staring off the sides.

    We stopped at a local village on the way to Pak Beng. To be honest I didn't like it. The village was obviously not rich and the company give 2% of profits to the village in the form of clothes and school equipment so they gain in a way from it but it felt very voyeuristic. It was like going to a zoo but the exhibits were people. There were 2 boat tours visiting this small village at once, and I imagine others come every day, and the villagers didn't look thrilled as some of our group were leaning on their houses and taking close up pictures of their children. It was interesting to see another life less financially privileged but just made me unhappy that it has to be this way. A bit dose of perspective.

    After that we got back on the boat and had lunch which was very food considering it's mass catering on a boat. I then had a nice nap but realised I should probably go sit at the front and appreciate the view. Matt was already there with a beer in hand. We travelled till about 4.30 and after some more Mr Wong confusing rambles we got to the right hotel. And we even eventually got to the right room after assuming a key with 1 and 0 on it meant room 10, which was actually already occupied, not room 1 which was our actual room. Silly us. It's an interesting room. Dark wood walls and our first mosquito nets of the trip but also the first hot shower. The view from the balcony is awesome across the Mekong. We went to the bar next door for a pre dinner beer. I think it might have actually been someone's house that they've stuck some tables in and laminated a menu. We saw an elephant though on the opposite bank as the sun set and beer is about a £1 for a mega bottle so we'll take it. Dinner was a random set menu at the hotel included with the room which we ate on a forced shared table with a couple from Halifax but I survived.

    Another day on the boat tomorrow. If we make good time we can make a stop in whisky town. Whoop whoop!
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  • Day57

    After a glorious 11 hour sleep, I met up with the group at the Aussie bar down the road for brunch, had a beer and pizza, and took off for a much needed day of R&R Poolside.

    The pool was at a resort nearby and had 360 views of the city. It was glorious. I don't really have anything to say about it other than I read my book, had a few cocktails delivered by very attentive staff, swam at my leisure, talked when I felt like it, and just had a great afternoon.

    When we got back to the hotel from the pool a few of us continued the day of self indulgence by getting massages! It was an hour long Lao style massage using coconut oil and it was glorious. I almost fell asleep a few times and only didn't because she said to turn over or sit up just at the right moments.

    After our massages we walked back to the night market to eat at the same little alleyway we stopped by last night. We had a "buffet" where we just filled our plates high with food a single time for about $2.50 CAD. A great idea in theory, but I wasn't all that hungry and was kind of grumpy because I just had juice spilled all over me - my own fault really, I hit my head on a ledge and it just fell all over Kayla and I UGH - so I really didn't enjoy it all that much. I regret not getting another chicken skewer that probably would have improved my mood but I just wanted to get the heck out of the oppressing crowd at that point.

    So we did, and I exchanged my leftover kip for Thai baht, bought some fruit and a muffin for breakfast tomorrow, hit a pharmacy, and went back to the room. Jess and I packed up our bags and then joined the rest of the group at Utopia. They were there playing a volleyball game. I watched for a bit and had a beer before ditching the rest of them for bed. I want to get up early tomorrow to watch the monks receive alms!
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  • Day80

    We left Kratie by local minibus and headed north to the Cambodian - Laos border. It was quite an adventure..... We bought a ticket all the way our destination, Si Phan Dom (4000 islands), and hoped for the best. What transpired was one of our best days so far, if a little stressful!

    So we first cram ourselves into a minibus with the locals, all smiles and demon of a driver. There is a standard motorbike roped to the open boot, keeping all our luggage in - PRECARIOUSLY! This part of of the journey was delightful, the people were so friendly and we were helping them all in and out.

    The kids were particularly cute, smiling and giggling as we played games with them. But the fun experience was cut short and we dropped off at a random gas station just south of the border and told to wait. So we did ... For two hours. Then another mini bus turned up... Brand new with air con and plenty of room. We jumped in and headed to the border.

    The border was hilarious. First the Cambodian guard was asleep, in the shiny new immigration centre. The only person in there. He stamped us out of Cambodia, obviously charging us for the pleasure.

    The driver then pointed to Laos and said walk. ( I assume people can't be transported ) so we walked to Laos. Tam and I were giggling all the way with nerves and excitement.

    We eventually got the imposing temple like border and approached the visa-on-arrival window with open smiles and politeness. We had read and heard some horror stories about this border crossing; that it can be a little tricky, with guards charging way over the set amount or being aggressive and bribing you to gain entry, ripping passports up if you refused. Not fun.

    The smiles must of worked, we breezed into Laos without paying over the odds AND I got two marriage proposals. Hahaha! Apparently in Laos I'm a stunner. Who knew!? Ahhh, I've found my people!

    With a giddiness in our step at getting through what we thought was the worst of it, we jumped back in our minivan and headed to Ban Nakasang, the port where you get a boat to Don Det the island we planning on staying.

    Our smug faces didn't last that long, as we were unceremoniously chucked off our minibus at the turning for the port. Which was 4km from there. We were hollered at by a few Lao men and they put us in their pig cart/Nike thing and took us to the port.

    Si Phan Don, the 4000 islands was waiting.
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  • Day45

    Luang Prabang is a small quaint town in Laos known to backpackers for years however we didn't know very much about it and wanted to check it out for ourselves.

    Laos was occupied by the French for 50 years up until 1949, which is evident in Luang Prabang through the architecture and modern day relaxed culture. While there were nice restaurants, wine bars and riverside cafes all around town, it didn't quite feel like the authentic Laos we saw traveling, more of a western resort town.

    Although it was nice to have this small town feel we wanted to see a more local side of Laos so we rented a scooter to drive around the outskirts. This is where we saw the true beauty of this country that has rolling mountains and greenery all around. We drove an hour to the Kuang Si waterfall which was even more amazing in person than the pictures we'd seen. It was fun to hike up to the top of the fall where we could walk around in the water and Mitch could show off on the tree swing before accidentally falling in to the watering hole! Thank god it was really really hot so drying off wasn't a problem.

    On the way back from the waterfall we made a few pit stops to enjoy the scenery and to even do some local people watching while taking a break at a roadside eatery where I had to take a picture with the cutest little Laos girl dressed in her traditional clothing. Once we got back to Luang Prabang we enjoyed a beautiful sunset over the river and decided it was time that we take a chance to eat some street food while in Southeast Asia. We scoped out the most popular BBQ stand and enjoyed some pork, chicken and sticky rice. And lucky to say our stomachs were just fine the next day!
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  • Day47

    Vang Vieng is known for its location on the Nam Song River which attracts younger travelers looking to enjoy the scenery. It was a famous backpacker party spot up until recently when it become scrutinize in the news for numerous casualties from tubing/partying on the river. In 2012, this attention resulted in the Laos government shutting down almost every bar along the river, and all of their associates ziplines and rope swing . However a more tame tubing scene is still one of the main attractions in Vang Vieng. As floating the river was one of our favorite things to do in Texas on a hot summer day, we knew had to check it out. To get there we had to take a 4 hour minivan ride packed with 12 passengers and luggage strapped on top - a scenic drive and experience of its own.

    The tubing was fun but it was definitely not as fun as our Texas experience, although this was definitely more scenic. However we did enjoy making some new friends along the way with travelers from America, Canada, Germany, Scotland and France but it made us miss the good old days with our Texas friends.

    The rest of the time we spent relaxing at a riverside bar with huts above the water with a great view and good people watching of those tubing, kayaking and locals fishing. Other than that, we felt that the town was a bit too small, didn't offer much variety and was a little too populated with young Asian tourists so after two days we were ready for our next stop!
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  • Day15

    A short entry today seeing as I spent a large chunk of the day on the boat.

    After a restless night where I kept waking up in a panic that I'd missed the slow boat we actually did wake up on time and catch our prompt 7.45am departure towards Luang Prabang. It was really cold on the boat but luckily Mr Wong had blankets and was full of bants about us being so drunk we thought a 1 was a 10 on our room key yesterday. Hilarious. Most of the morning was spent reading and watching downloaded Netflix trash (basically my life at home) whilst waiting for lunch. The scenery was equally beautiful to yesterday once the fog cleared and I tried to spend as much of the afternoon as I could sitting on the front.

    First stop on the boat was to the Pak Ou caves. Basically caves with thousands of Buddha statues in them and impressive. You needed a torch for the top caves which were up 226 steps and pitch black inside. Second stop was to 'whisky village' where they making 15% and 50% rice wine and sell to tourists. Obvs we bought some plus I finally graduated to the travellers uniform of elephant trousers. As unstylish as they are comfortable.

    At about half 4 we made in to Luang Prabang and said goodbye to Mr Wong. Our guest house welcomed us with a strange drink and fruit platter before we walked into town. First impressions - I love Luang Prabang. It's small and laid back. There's a night market selling more clothes and trinkets where I could easily buy everything plus a cooked food market sent from heaven which I fully intend to gorge on for the next few days. Here's buffet stalls! And there's wine and it was on happy hour 😍 We did food like locals (/travellers who want to pretend to be locals) sitting at a street food noodle stall with baskets of herbs as condiments and had more beer before calling it an early one in prep for our next few days here. I think I'm going to like it here.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Laos, ላኦስ, لاوس, Лаоская Народна-Дэмакратычная Рэспубліка, Народна Демократична Република Лаос, Layosi, লাওস, ལཱ་འོས།, ལ་འོསུ, Laos nutome, Λάος, Laoso, Laose DRV, لائوس, Lawoos, લાઓસ, Lawas, לאוס, लाओस, Laoska Narodna Demokratska Republika, Laosz, Լաոս, ラオス, ლაოსი, Laosi, ឡាវ, ಲಾವೋಸ್, 라오스, Pow Lao, Laotia, Lawosi, ປະເທດລາວ, Laosas, Laosa, Laôs, Лаос, ലാവോസ്, လာအို, Den folkedemokratiske republikken, Laòs, ଲାଓସ୍, República Popular Democrática do Laos, Lùaôsi, ලාඕසය, லாவோஸ், లావోస్, ประเทศลาว, Lau, Лаоська Народно-Демократична Республіка, لاؤس, Lào, Laosän, Orílẹ́ède Laosi, 老挝, i-Laos