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Reisverslag floating into Laos
16 januari 2016
floating into Laos
In this report I’ll tell you about my travels in Laos, which is already a month ago from today, because as always I didn’t take time to sit down behind a PC to write it. I’ll try to keep it shorter this time so I have the opportunity to keep up and write about Vietnam and Cambodja as well.
Entering Laos was interesting. In the north there’s only the Mekong river between Thailand and Laos. The night before I stayed in a hotel on the Thai side right at the river so I could hav swum to Laos to avoid immigration burocracy. But I didn’t. So next day we went in a minivan to the immigration. Leaving Thailand was no problem. Than taking a bus to drive 200 meter to the Laos border, crossing the river, while filling in the standard visa application papers. Go the one lane to leave all the papers. Wait 15 minutes in the next line to get the passport back. Then waiting for tuktuk to bring us to a longboat that would bring me in 2 days to Luang Prabang, my next destination inside Laos. In the meantime some semi-official at the Laos border told us never to give our passport to anyone in Laos until leaving the country again. He also warned us for locals trying to offer accommodation for a strong overrated price. Then he asked us to give our passports so they could book a seat on the longboat so we would not get the worst seats in the back next to the giant engine. Then he offered us a accommodation in the village where we would have to stay the first night (you can’t sleep on the longboat itself). So we laughed about this hypocrytic situation but still booked the room with him and gave our passports. Then we waited so more time for the tuktuk to bring us to the boat. After more than half an hour and having seen many other people been picked up, we finally could get into a tuktuk. At the boat we get the passport back together with a small paper that only had a written number for a seat for the boat. Arriving at the boat all seats were already occupied, except the ones in the back, next to the engine……..
The rest of the day we just sat on the boat. The scenery was nice, especially all the rocks that were laying in the Mekong river. But the scenery didn’t change, so most younger people got bored and started drinking the whole day. Arriving at the village that evening, many boats were laying there and the whole village was full of tourists, so we were quite happy to have booked a room in advance, which was a nice room fortunately. Next day we continued on a smaller boat, making less noise so you could even talk with each other without shouting. Right before arriving in Luang Prabang, the scenery started to change, with a lot of high steep karst mountains surrounding the river, in which many caves had formed during the past millennia.
Luang Prabang is the old capital of Laos, a nice and beautiful small city with a UNESCO world heritage city centre. A lot of wooden houses with nice facades, small roads, many guesthouses and restaurants for the big amount of tourists. I spend a few days there, walking around and visiting a very beautiful waterfall (Kuang Si waterfall) 30 km out of town. The color of the water was beautiful and transparent, the water falling down in many terrace steps in the middle of the jungle. I hope I can attach some pictures, otherwise please search on the internet to get in impression.
On December 13, my parents arrived in Luang Prabang. Of course I was happy to see them. My father was ill the week before but recovered just in time. I had planned to show them around town and go to the waterfalls again (I liked them so much that I really wanted my parents to see them also). Unfortunately my mother got ill during the flight, so next day she had to stay in bed and went alone with my father. I was positively surprised and very happy to see his physical abilities, lots of positive energy and awareness of everything around him.
Next day we had to travel by bus to the south, to Vang Vieng. We booked a VIP bus to have a bit more luxury and because it was my mothers birthday. Of course the bus left to late from the bus station, which is expected. The bus was called ‘king of buses’ , although it wasn’t very luxury. After half an hour the bus broke down, right out of town. Instead of calling for another bus to come, the driver and his companions tried to repair the bus, which failed because they appeared not to be technical experts. None of them spoke any English, so asking them to call for another bus or telling us what was their plan was just answered with a ‘yes’ or a smile, without any action. Luckily a road policeman being around, whole did speak some English, helped us out as interpreter and phoned the bus company, that promised that a bus would come in 30 minutes. After waiting 3times 30 minutes and having called the company several times, finally a sleeping bus came, so we could continue our journey with 5 hours delay. The rest of the journey went well, but it was not the nice birthday I had planned for my mom. Luckily we found a nice and cheap guesthouse in Vang Vieng and decided to postpone the birthday celebration to the next day.
Next day we booked a guided tour to visit some caves around and partially travelling by kajak. My mother stayed behind to be ready for her birthday celebration. The tour turned out to by private for me and my father as most tourists booked just the shortcut trail. The caves were very beautiful, many nice formations and with many very small corridors where your really needed a light to see anything. The 3th cave was only accessible by water, so we had to go on a rubber tube, along a fixed rope all the way to the end of the cave. Again we were lucky, being lunchtime when we went in, we were the only ones inside the cave. After a very good and big lunch, we stepped into a 2person kajak to kajak back to Vang Vieng. Passing all the river bars were most people stopped to have one or several beers, we went straight on to our guesthouse which was at the same river. Me and my father appeared to be a good couple so we went pretty fast.
That evening my mother finally felt fit again so we could nicely celebrate her birthday and have some nice but serious talks. Next day we had planned to rent some scooters to go around the area full of beautiful Karst mountains and rock formations. Unfortunately it had been raining and the roads were mainly unpaved clay roads so became extremely slippery. I was going with my mother at the back, but soon we slided on the road so decided to go back and better walk instead. A good decision because on the way back we saw many people, even locals, almost sliding down also. So we walked to a cave inside a lone standing rocky mountain. The way up to the cave entrance was already a change for many people and going inside the cave was impossible without a headlight and some climbing experience, so my parents couldn’t go really far inside. Instead I walked up to the top of the rock, but even that path was to challenging for my mother (also for my father but he just denied it and went up with me, again to my surprise). After getting down safely we walked to another cave but also that one was hard to walk in. Eventually we headed back to town where I and my dad took mountainbikes to go visiting another cave. That one was more crowded but still not easy to get in without a headlight and enough physical balance. So anyone who wants to go to Vangvieng, be prepared to bring a headlight and some climbing skills.
Next day we continued to the capital of Laos, Vientiane. The trip went without any problems and the bus dropped us right in front of the hotel I had planned to stay. That one even had free breakfast included and a very friendly receptionist, instead of what the lonely planet told me. How convenient. Vientiane is not an old or beautiful city, but had some nice temples and an interesting park full of mythical statues (Buddhist, hindu and other kinds). Most special was that the most important Buddhist monk of Laos had died in october and got his funeral when we were there. Everybody worshipped this monk so it was a big procession from the monastery where he was living and died, towards the pagoda were the funeral was. Along the road everyone was paying respect with flowers in their hands and kneeling down when the coffin and whole procession passed.
My stay in Laos ended the same day, when I flew with my parents towards Hanoi, Vietnam.
17 januari 2016 10:21 | Door: Fija Nijmeijer
Hoi Bram. Wat leuk om dit verslag te lezen. Het brengt mij helemaal terug in tijd toen Leo en ik die trip door Laos maakten. Je kan spreken over enige vooruitgang. De longboat had toen geen zitplaatsen, iedereen zat op de grond, in de laadruimte of op het dek. Het dorpje waar jij tijdens de trip naar Loang Prabang hebt overnacht, was er toen ook. Wij sliepen toen in een tweepersoonskamertje, wanden gescheiden door rieten matten, met tl verlichting, een grote tl buis die drie kamers tegelijk licht gaf. Er was Electra van zeven uur 's avonds tot 22.00 uur, daarna was alles donker. Aan het eind van het dorpje zagen wij toen een grote groep inwoners naar een tv kijken, dat deed mij weer denken aan vroeger, toen we met alle buurkinderen op zaterdagmiddag bij de enige t.v. Van de buurt naar Pipo de clown keken.
Wat zijn die watervallen leuk en indrukwekkend hè.
Wij zijn met de plaatselijke bus naar Vang Vieng gegaan, een ware sensatie. Er werden krukken bijgeplaatst zodat ook de gang helemaal bezet was. In een bus van veertig personen kunnen in hun ogen makkelijk 20 meer. Vriendelijke en aardige mensen. In Vang Vieng zijn wij met een tube de Mekong af gedreven, maar dat kon blijkbaar niet meer. Die grotten zijn ook echt speciaal, was je niet bang dat de ruimtes vol zouden stromen met water?
Wat leuk dat je dit samen met je ouders hebt gedaan. Leuk hoor. Bram nog veel reisplezier en groeten van je tegenoverbuurtjes.