A Travellerspoint blog


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Day 16 - 02 March 2016

Travel day

We got on another bus to head for savannakhet, but this time, it was with the locals and lots of goods and packages that are dropped off at various towns and villages throughout the country.
We had just taken off from the bus station when some local sellers hopped on the bus, selling drinks, snacks and meat on sticks which is really popular in asia. They stayed away from the foreigners on the bus presumably because of their lack of knowledge of the english language.
The bus rolled through villages, small towns and little districts, dropping off passengers and several packages for the locals. At about 5.45pm, we stopped in this town that had a whole street of stalls. We were ushered off the bus and across the road to another bus where we were not sure was going, but after striking up a bit of a conversation with the guy across from us, we were reassured that we were headed for Savannakhet. Just before 7pm, we got to the town and walked about 5 minutes to our hotel. This hotel was a big step up from the place that we left earlier that day with nice bright furnishings, really modern facilities and had a really comfortable and relaxing air about it.
Guaranteed a decent night's sleep.
We ate at the cafe that was attached to the hotel for convenience and left the exploration of the city for the next day.

Day 17 - 03 March 2016


Life begins early in Asia and so began another new day for us in the Southern province and sleepy little city of Savannakhet.
This city is not used to seeing tourists and most backpackers bypass this town. The main reason we wanted to visit it was because of sightings of dinosaur footprints in the area and so in this vain, map in hand, we headed off to the dinosaur museum which might have led us to the footprints.
After walking for about 20 minutes and on the street where the museum was supposed to be, we had to ask for directions which led us around the block and eventually we found it.
It was actually named the Savannakhet provincial science and technology centre so hence we passed it the first time round.
We went into the museum which looked very quiet and it consisted of two rooms of dinosaur bones, some original, some replicas and most of the descriptions were in french and laos.
We also found a map showing where the possible sightings were and the nearest ones were about 100km from Savannakhet. This was a bit disappointing for us to say the least as we were under the impression from reading travel books, that the footprints were nearby the city.
We left the museum and headed for the riverbank where you could look across to Thailand and chill out. And that is exactly what we did, we found a nice quiet table right on the water and took shade from the incredibly intense sun. We read our books while drinking some cool drinks and realised then that we are allowed to do nothing ever so often on this trip. It doesn't always have to involve going all the time and being busy all the time.
We headed back towards our hotel, stopping at the bus station on the way to purchase our onward journey to Champasak. The ticket attendant told us to come back in the morning to get our tickets as apparently, they can only be sold on the day.
After chilling at our hotel for another hour or two, we hopped on a tuk tuk and went to the night market area of the city and ate in this cute little restaurant called Lyns cafe. I tried a medley of typical Lao food; black sticky rice, hot and creamy chicken soup, lao sausage cooked in banana leaves and dried, smoked beef which had a hard texture, while ciara ordered yellow vegetable curry.
Most importantly, it tasted really good and hence has good reviews on trip advisor.

Posted by Ronantattan 08:22 Archived in Laos Comments (0)


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Day 15 - All roads lead to the Laotion capital, Vientiane

The most frustrating thing about travelling is the moving on from one place to another. Just as you are getting to know a place, it is time to move on again. And so it was time to move onto destination no 4 in laos, the capital city, Vientiane.

The bus journey took about 5 hours as there were some mechanical issues with the bus but in the early afternoon, we arrived in Vientiane. We asked the tuk tuk driver to bring us to our hotel but to our frustration, there were two hotels with the same name so he landed us at the other Lao Paris hotel. After a few shakes of the head and showing him the address on our phone, he eventually took us to the hotel that we were staying at which was just around the corner from our main bus drop off point. How crazy is that! Neither his mistake or ours, we paid him, glad that we had got to our hotel where we were planning to stay for just one night.
Looking at the lobby, the hotel had a french flair about it and looked like a typical hotel in paris or bordeaux. The room left alot to be desired for with very dated furniture, tape on the ceiling and pretty grim looking tiles in the bathroom. At least it was only for one night.
We headed off to see the Presidential palace and the Patuxai which is a grand arch that is a replica of the Arc de triomphe in Paris. As night was drawing in, we headed to the night market down by the pier and had some good vietnamese food. We browsed the markets before calling it a night.

Posted by Ronantattan 04:06 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Vang Vieng

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Day 13 - On the road to Vang Vieng

Apart from travelling by tuk tuk in Laos, we did not experience the roads as we did that day in a mini bus/van to Vang Vieng.
It was hellish, the best way to describe it as the road surfaces were non existent in places and there were huge craters in their place.
Although the scenery was spectacular with the most amazingly steep, green mountains, valleys and rivers, it was difficult to enjoy it but I guess it is all part of travelling by bus in Laos.
Just before 3pm, we arrived into Vang Vieng, which is known as the party town of Laos.
We checked ourselves into the Inthira hotel which looked quite nice from the outside at least and chilled out for a while.
We booked hot air ballooning at sunset and some activities for the following day.
A songthaeiw or tuk tuk/van picked us up at 4.30pm and brought us to the field where they set up the balloons and take off from. It was our first time seeing how this was done.
The basket is tilted on its side with about 10 guys holding it down, while the pilot is standing inside it releasing flames using gas which is used to blow up the huge multi coloured balloon.
Once there is sufficient air in it, they turn over the basket, load it up with 10 or so customers and the pilot continues to release the flames allowing it to take off and control how go high it can go.
We were the fourth and last balloon to take off and it was a very smooth take off from the ground. The heat from the flames was quite intense along with the evening sun on our faces but it was a very cool and worthwhile experience. We drifted up, up, up where we had magnificent views of Vang Vieng town and the surrounding area in all directions. As the evening sun was going down, we could see the mountains, the rivers, the factories in the distance, roads stretched on for miles and the town itself where people were tiny dots and cars looked like insects.
After floating for about 30 minutes, we finally glided down for landing right behind where our hotel was, coincidentally enough, on an old runway that is now used for markets and carpark.
Just as we were coming into land, 8 or 9 guys grabbed hold of the basket and attempted to pull it to ground. The basket skidded along the carpark for a few seconds before the guys got it under control. Then they unloaded us one by one as they were taking off again with another lot of passengers.
After a quick change, we found the only irish pub in the town, the rising son, and met our neighbour's friend, who owns the place. The 'tubing' burger and the beer went down very well after our busy day.

Day 14 - Activity day in Vang Vieng

After a magnificent breakfast at the hotel, we got picked up in another songthaeiw and headed off for a day of activities with Green Discovery tours.
We started the morning with a stroll to the Tham xang elephant cave which is famous for the small buddhist temple. Then we put on our flashlights and climbed down into the Tham hoi cave which is also called a 'snail cave' due to its low ceilings. We continued on into the loop cave which is much wider and has higher ceilings. This cave has a route down to the nearby Nam Song river and loops back into the cave.
After lunch, we put on our wet gear and got into a tube where we did cave tubing in the Tam nam water cave. This involved pulling yourself along on a rope until we reached the end. It was very dark and eerie down there, with just our flashlights turned on.
Once we emerged again into the bright sunshine, we headed off on a 2Km Trek to Phathao which is an Hmong village, a type of tribe that have their own cultures and customs in laos.
Once finished there, we headed back to the bus which brought us down to the Nam song river where we kayaked for about 10km back to Vang Vieng, passing the weary and probably drunk tubers along the way.
A great day of activities over, we were glad to get to our bed that night.

Posted by Ronantattan 03:55 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Luang Prabang

rain 26 °C
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Day 10 - Luang Prabang

The morning started quite cool as we departed for Luang Prabang, the main reason we took the slow boat in the first place, and the second biggest city in Laos.
For this second day of sailing, the group was split between two boats which had less seats and a table for every four passengers onboard.
Unfortunately, the people that we met on the first day of the slow boat were not on our boat but we got to know a German couple who were travelling for 5 months or so and we had good fun with them. We also were playing card games with the french family that we met the day before en route to the border.
The weather was much colder and windier than the previous day, the water was much rougher and it even started to rain while we were sailing which led to some of the passengers hanging out at the end of the boat which was covered from the wind but was very noisy from the engines.
We passed by similar scenery to the previous days journey and as we got closer, we passed by caves which are a very popular tourist attraction in Luang Prabang.
We docked a few km from Luang Prabang where we hopped on a tuk tuk to bring us to town.
Lo and behold, who got on with us but all the people that we met the previous day plus the germans. It was like a European delegation on the back of this tuk tuk miles from home, in the dusty, dry and hot lands of Laos.
We said goodbye to our fellow travellers and found our guest house accommodation, the Kounsavan guest house.
After we got ourselves organised, we took a wander downtown to explore the very famous and historic Luang Prabang.
We took a leisurely stroll through the markets, that covered the main street beyond recognition.
These markets, like all of the previous ones gone before, are so tempting with so low prices but with little or no room in either suitcase, it was not possible to buy anything of substantial size.
We dined at a lovely restaurant just off the main street and as we were wandering back towards the markets, we bumped into Andrew Murphy, the corkman from the slowboat and he invited us for a drink to have a chat about Cork, Ireland and travelling etc.
After a few cold beers, we were just getting up to leave when we spotted a few of the guys that were on the slowboat and we joined them for a drink in Utopia which is a bar/club that was quite difficult to find. All premises in Luang Prabang have a curfew of 11.30pm but if you want to stay out, there is a bowling alley/bar that one can go to, to continue the night.
8 of us jumped on yet another tuk tuk and checked out this place, which was a bowling alley in the middle of nowhere.
It was good fun there with alot of tourists like us, seeing what it was all about.

Day 11 - Kuang Si Waterfalls

One of the main attractions in Luang Prabang or outside it are the Kuang Si waterfalls and we headed out to see what they were all about. Nearly an hours ride on the back of a van/tuk tuk, and very much in the countryside, we arrived at the Kuang si waterfall park where there are a couple of shops and restaurants around for the visitors to stock up on food and drink.
At the waterfall park, they also have a bear rescue centre which is ran by Free the Bears charity organisation.
Here, they rescue bears in the wild that have experienced some hardship and suffering for human gain and try to reverse the damage that has been done them in the wild.
They are not a protected species in most of south east Asia and they are hunted and maimed for their paws, their fur and their bile as it is believed that this has medicinal properties.
We continued onto the waterfall area which has lots of places where it levels out and provides good swimming areas for tourists.

We carried onwards and upwards until we could see the waterfall in all its glory and it was spectacular.
We climbed through a forest area which had a very steep incline where we reached the top of the waterfall. It was an incredible sight to look across the mountainside and down the waterfall.
We followed a nice handy path down the opposite side of the waterfall and got down to the bottom with no issue.
We met up with some of the boat crew who were with us and we went for a quick swim, i mean very quick, all of 30 seconds. It was arctic cold and numbed my body in about 10 seconds. As I emerged from the chilly waters, just then the skies opened and I got even wetter and colder.
We headed back to the tuk tuk driver who was very patiently waiting for us but, the two dutch girls who started the trek to the waterfall with us, took a different path towards caves and got stuck up there with the rain. Somehow, they managed to meet some very nice Vietnamese people who offered them lunch and brought them via motorbike down the mountain, arriving back to us about 45 minutes after scheduled departure time.
It was bitterly cold, wet and miserable that day as we waited in the tuk tuk way up there in the mountains.
We were all glad to get back that day to our hostels to dry out and get warm. Who would have thought it, raining and cold in south east Asia.

Day 12 - Exploring downtown LP

Day 12 of this trip was far more pleasant than days gone before and it was the perfect day to see what Luang Prabang had to offer.
First order of day was to visit the temple at the highest point in the city, That Phu Si.
This was located 355 steps up a small hill that overlooked Luang Prabang and a great spot for photos.
After this, we had a look at some of the other temples in the area of which they are numerous. Some of the temples here are quite old and badly in need of repair and there are various ways to donate so as to maintain these temples.
Next, we headed for the bamboo bridge which is a complete wooden structure rebuilt every year after the wet season and is used as a link between the main city and across the water, where people live and tourists stay.
A nominal fee of 5000 kip or 50 cents goes to the family who slave tirelessly year after year building this amazing structure.
We continued along the river down around the historic district passing lovely guesthouses, restaurants and other temples all with amazing views of the Mekong river.
We gave into the temptation of the lovely smells and got some lunch overlooking the river. Sounds good.
I rounded off the days events with a nice cool swim in the guesthouse's pool.
After dinner and a wander through the markets, we reluctantly packed up our rucksacks and got our things ready for travelling to our next destination in Laos, Vang Vieng.

Posted by Ronantattan 03:44 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Laos border

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Day 9 - Laos Border and slow boat

An early wake up call and we were whisked away by tuk tuk to the Thai departure side of the border crossing. A French family of five who were travelling for 6 months all over South East Asia and a spanish chap jordi joined us in the back of a tiny tuk tuk as we all scurried for the border.
On the Thai side, we boarded a bus to take us across the Friendship bridge which is one of only two land crossings between Thailand and
Laos. Now on the Laos side, we handed in our passports with application form, photo and 35 US dollars to get our visas for Laos.
We had a bit of fun at the desk while we were waiting for our passports as it seemed like people at the back were getting theirs back first but it was completely random.
We met the kiwis again from the previous night, an aussie and his thai wife and the crew from the tuk tuk so there was great banter between all of the nationalities.
Eventually, passports in hand, and after waiting for the best part of an hour for a few others who were headed for the boat, we hopped on yet another tuk tuk, bound for the boat.
First difference that we noticed between Thailand and Laos was that the Thais drive on the left hand side of the road while the Laotions drive on the right side. Also, from the little bit of the countryside that we saw, it seemed very hilly and mountainous and was clearly lacking proper infrastructure. The bridges were completely wooden and didn't look very secure at all and the roads were no better than mudpaths in places.
We made a pit stop at a stall and shop at side of the road for sandwiches and snacks and we organised ourselves for the long boat ride ahead.
Just before midday, the slow boat departed for Pakbeng, which is about halfway to Luang Prabang along the Mekong river.
The craic on board was mighty with spanish jordi, franklin the canadian, luke from london, Andrew Murphy originally from Cork but now living in Vancouver and two girls from tyrone, the first Irish that we met on this trip.
The views along the Mekong were stunning with rocks protruding from the deep river with very white sand, where buffalo roam freely and lush green mountainside, totally unspoilt.
Every so often, we would see very young boys playing on the rocks, not an adult in sight and some local fishermen and the odd barge/long boat, which our boat was.
We made two stops along the way to pick up some locals and about 20 big bags of rice destined for the little towns and villages further along the river.
Just before dusk, our boat arrived in Pakbeng where we were staying the night. We were greeted by half of the village handing out leaflets for this bar and that, various restaurants and guesthouses and tuk tuk drivers all wanting our business.
Kids were lined on the rocks waiting to see if the sort of rich backpackers and tourists would give them a little present.
We were staying right in the centre of the village where the locals were barbecuing various meats and cooking local delicacies.
We took a stroll around this tiny village where nearly all of its inhabitants have never been outside the town and perhaps their siblings and parents aswell. We eventually went to one of its restaurants, which was family run where even the young kids help out, and ordered some food.
When we went to pay, there was confusion around what food we ordered and a few miscalculations by the owner before we settled up. We then decided to head to the Happy bar who were handing out free shots of banana whiskey and we met a few of our fellow passengers from the boat.

Posted by Ronantattan 07:23 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

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