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Laos: The Home of Pink Toilet Paper

From Buses to Bruises in the Land of a Million Elephants

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View South East Asia on acard's travel map.

Luke just commented that it is weird now, hearing phones ring. He is very right! I can see us looking confused when we start a real life again and our phones ring. There are many glares in our future in the West!

But hopefully less bruises. We are currently in Vang Vieng, Laos, waiting for a bus to Luang Prabang and the good lord has given us access to free wifi; gotta stay in touch! I know some will see our communicative accessibility as a bad thing, un travellery, but it is a new day; I’m sure no one glared at travellers of old writing letters, or people writing in journals.

So. Laos. It’s a funny one; the people are not so forward in being friendly here; Laos takes laid back to new levels. Tuk Tuk touts cant even be bothered saying Tuk Tuk, they just lazily swing a “tuk…?” your way. It is refreshing, and will be hard to go back to Vietnam, home of persistence!

Impressions of Laos… hmmm. I’ll give it to you in snapshot form:
• A kid eating pink toilet paper. Spitting it out, and then joyfully eating another piece
• Paying $10 AUD for a packet of chips; not being ripped off, just stupid (Ann)
• Dancing at an empty bar in the back of no where (Luke)
• Tubing down a river with breathtaking views and horrendous bars and tourists
• Walking through Vientiane thinking; “where is the rest of this capital city??”
• Lavish Wats (temples) next to rundown shacks
• 2 new Canadian friends! Effie and Kristen. Hilarious, made for very good times
• unbelievably [picturesque; am currently on a teeny bouncy mini bus, in for the best 6 hours EVER, looking out on to fields lined with bamboo, with craggy mountains looming over head, sun streaming through fluffy clouds, an occasional bullock or hut dotting the landscape. It’s almost sickening
• GSOH – good sense of humour; Laos people seem to be laughing often… at me.

So when we left you we were in Vientiane, about to enjoy a beer Laos. I then did so, and facebook chatted to Sian; drunk. Tee hee hee. The next day we spent some time on breakfast, and headed out to see what the nation’s capital, nicknamed a long time ago the Land of a Million Elephants, had to offer. Firstly, to the Pha That Luang- a big gold monument. As it was closed for lunch, we just had a look around, popped into one of the 2 remaining Wats; there were four but they fell in the ‘Secret War with America. We then went on to another couple of temples, Wat Si Saket and Haw Pha Kew, one of which had an inordinate amount of Buddha statue around 4000. As Luke says, we have seen a LOT of Buddhas. One of the photos has a tally. These places are beautiful and some are breathtaking, but I think we are getting temple burn out.; I hope Luang Prabang is not very temple heavy!!

The next morning we hopped up bright and early to catch our “VIP” bus to Vang Vieng, home to the illustrious tubing; loved and hated for its backpackery scene of tubing down a river and stopping in at bars for buckets of cheap alcohol on the way. One of our friends has called it a cultural disgrace, and he is right. It is, however, a fun cultural disgrace, so we partook. The first day was a failed attempt though; disgustingly hung-over from a night out with our new Canadian mates, we didn’t get going till late. Then when we got there we just stood for a minute or five wondering where to go and how we do this thing. We were VERY hungover…! Once we got going, we realized the amount of money we had brought with us would fall woefully short, and sure enough, after a lousy 3 buckets of cheap booze, we were out of money. Without our beer blankets, we started to get cold, but we soldiered on. We went right to the end of the course, but the last part was very rocky, and if you were silly enough to go down the middle, you would get stranded on the rocks and beat your legs up hard core trying to make any progress down the river; like I did. Luke was fine, happily bobbing the easy course. This is how it is.

So grumpy, hungover, tired and sore we decided that tomorrow we would try again; wit thick wallets

Pause – there are piglets crossing the road. Awesome.

So the next day, feeling better, we embarked on round two. Happily swilling buckets of dubious mojitos a, we went to our first bar, where we convinced Kristen, the youngest out of the four of us, to do a bomb in the water, because such spirit was sorely lacking in the people we saw doing the flying foxes. Off she went. I stood on the side cheering like a proud “soccer mom”, and sure enough, Kristen did us proud. And her subsequent bruise now does her proud…
After returning home muddy, cold and tired but energized by fun times, we went out for dinner, and this is where the bruising became apparent; after doing a flying fox into the water and landing on my FACE, then doing a super fast slippery slide ending in a stunning aerial , Effie asked me what was on my chin; it was is a bruise from the aforementioned activities. Apparently you can bruise yourself by falling on your face; who knew!? Further investigations showed my legs as purple and green as well. I am a disgrace. Luke had one little bruise. Cheap whiskey in a bucket is such a good and bad thing, simultaneously.

So after wandering the bars for a bit, we went home happy and purple.

So we are now on our way to Luang Prabang,. It is supposed to be a gorgeous town and it comes highly recommended, but right now we are enjoying looking out at the Laos countryside; the most connected I feel to Laos so far. Vang Vieng was fun, great fun, but our livers are glad that we are leaving. We are very nearly to old for what we just did.

Love and kisses, ann and luke.

CONTINUED…
5/3/10

Ok after reading that , I realise we sound like complete fools. We have just checked out of our guest house in Luang Prabang, and we are heading to Hanoi in a couple of hours.

We have been grown ups here.
Luang Prabang IS gorgeous, but for one thing; the air. We noticed on the bus on the way here that the air was thick with smoke (from the slash and burn of the countryside? Not sure). We thought that Luang Prabang would be better; it isn’t. You cant see very far in the distance, or even very clearly across the Mekong River. Apart from that, we are stunned that this town could be built so long ago without modern technology and good roads! The other remarkable thing about it is how quiet it is… very welcome after aggressive Vang Vieng. It is almost a ghost town.
On our first day here we took a rest day; just read books, ate food, wandered by the river some, it was nice. We also booked our tours to the Pak Ouk caves and nearby waterfalls, and planned our time. The next day was the caves, and yet another boat ride down the Mekong River; except this time our boat broke down! Of course it did. A 1 hour trip took 2.5 hours, without a proper seat, along a river we’ve almost seen enough of. We then arrived at the caves which was a bit of a let down; basically a cave where a lot of Budda statues have been brought. With another boat ride after being rushed through the caves by an overly enthusiastic Grey Army member (similar to mature age student), we arrived back in LP tired and grumpy (Luke was fine, I was t’n’g). We asked the tour guide if we could do the waterfalls the next day; which made him grumpy. Oh well, we then went on to have a relaxing Luang Prabang afternoon, followed by night markets, which Luke hated. He tries not to but he cant help it.
So the next day, yesterday, we had a leisurely breakfast (please note all done at a leisurely pace, without throbbing hangovers) and made our way to the tour operator on time, where we were ushered onto a mini bus… driven by Mad Dog. This was our name for him.
Now, we have had some scary bus rides (one which resulted in hitting a motorcyclist), but Mad Dog was mad. Like a rogue bull, he was champing at the bit to pass whatever was on or near the road. It was so mental it was fun, but I was sure there were going to be fatalities.
So mad dog drops us off at the waterfalls and painstakingly tells us the time “foor tree” – four thirty, and we head off. It was stunning! Beautiful “jungle”, or bush, with twinkling waterfalls coming through gleaming rocks, with blue pools (luke thought suspiciously blue) every so often. We went up to the main event, and found we had enough time for a dip in one of the pools where they don’t say “don’t swimming here” on the sign.
So I hopped in the change room to change into my bathers.
These bathers are BAD luck. First time, bruises. Second time, door on change room that doesn’t lock.
One Asian man got more than he paid for.
That’s enough about that, there is family reading.

Anyway we hopped in, swam around, it was freezing but so pretty, and we had the pool to ourselves (after said Asian man left, with big grin on face). Then home, happy, to more food (cheap food at that!), a game of cards, and bed. Our room has shutters that let no light in so we are very well rested.
So today we hopped up, and took on the mountain temple in the middle of town, which had been scaring us with its big steps. Sure enough, when we got up the steps, there were 192 more! Oh the humanity. Another temple, more Budda (if we put the pictures up, check out Tuesday Budda, he’s my favourite.

Oh my god this is so long and probably not very interesting. Sorry!

Lots of love and words

Ann and Luke

Posted by acard 21:29 Archived in Laos Tagged backpacking

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