Sabadee from Lovely Laos, historically named "the land of a million elephants". Well, we are on the road again and having a blast. We picked up Kate (Pats 19 year old daughter) and travelled with her for a month. She was an absolute pleasure to travel with: she is very happy and well adjusted, willing to try everything and anything and very enthusiastic about it all.
We arrived in Bangkok just after Xmas and proceeded in kitting Kate out for travel with a large hat (to hide her blonde hair that is so rare here), water bottle holders, money belts; all the travel essentials. She was really getting good at negotiating by the end of the trip!! We stayed at the State Tower on the 48th floor in friends, Wayne and Lorraines apartment that they kindly lent us. Fireworks on New Years Eve from our balcony overlooking Bangkok was fantastic- we have never been above fireworks before!!
Next step was the diving island of Kho Tao, where Kate did her SCUBA Divers Licence and we walked around the island checking out all the lovely beaches, resorts and fruit shakes!! It really was paradise- one of the best islands in Thailand. Kate loved the food and we all had a hard job ordering anything else if Penang Curry was on the menu!!
We then night-trained up to Laos and the capital Vientiane. Laos is a very quiet, peaceful country with surprisingly few traffic. The people are very poor, quietly spoken and very friendly and happy. They are very spiritual people, mainly Budhists with monks and Wats everywhere. They believe Karma determines ones lot in life, so they dont get too worked up over anything!!
The three of us tried hard to learn the language, Kate was definately the best at it and we enjoyed mixing with the very friendly locals. They were all fascinated with Kate and all wanted to know how old she is!! In Laos she is "Sip Cow Pee"- she will kill me for telling you all her new nickname!!
We worked our way north on VIP buses!!! (overcrowded and always leaving early in the morning) to the jewel of Laos- world heritage listed Luang Prabang. Kate and Belinda had a herbal sauna and massage and nearly blew their brains in the heat!! Nothing that a few BeerLoa didnt solve!!
We then caught a boat up river, dodging rapids all the way, to a little town that is only accessible by river called Muang Ngoi. Our accommodation was a lovely bamboo hut with a verandah and a hammock out the front overlooking the river for $1 per night!! We went for walks to the villages, checked out the morning market and even went to a wedding!! We chilled out for 3 days there- it was hard to leave.
Next we headed further north on a very dusty and rough road to another little village called Muang Sing where we went on a guided trek through the hillside villages. The parents were all out working in the rice fields, so it was only the kids at home. It was amazing to see kids as young as 3 with their baby siblings strapped to their back walking around and looking after them!! They were all fascinated by us, especially when Belinda would sing and dance for them!!
Time was running out for Kate, so we started the hot and dusty 2 day journey back to Luang Prabang. She then hopped on a plane to Bangkok and only just made her connection with the flight to Australia- with only minutes to spare apparently!!
We stayed in Luang Prabang and arranged to rent a Honda XR250 Baja for US$18/day from Green Discovery for 15 days to tour the south of Laos. We met up with Dave from www.GT-Rider.com who gave us heaps of information and we bought one of his great maps. We were then free to wake up whenever we liked (buses normally leave really early in Laos and they dont go till they are absolutely chockerblock full!!) and go wherever we liked. Freedom again!!
The riverside guest house we stayed in one night put on a free feed for all the guests and the owners ate 12 songbirds. We were all horrified and said we would rather listen to them forever than eat them once!! Hence, there are not many birds in Laos, in fact there are not many animals they dont eat!!
We had a great ride through the mountains and arrived at the backpacker mekka Vang Vieng and did a relaxing tubing trip down the river. We also did a great ride over the rickety old bridge to the non tourisy side and through the villages that you wouldnt know where there. Every sunset we stop and find a nice spot to have a drink and watch the sunset and to think about how fortunate we are to be doing what we are doing. "Find your passion and make it happen."
Next stop south was the capital Vientiane where we met up with Jan and Warrick who we met in Malaysia 2 years ago!! It was a great night spent on the bank of the Mekong River watching the sun go down and cooking up a hot pot each.
Tham Lot Kong Lo was our next destination south and it really was amazing. We took a boat ride along a river/cave for 7km that went right through a mountain!! The road to get there was really rough, they said it would take 3 hours, it took Pat 1.5 hours!! What a hero!! He was in heaven on this rough track with Belinda bouncing along the back like a rag doll, but with a smile to equal Pats!! We stayed in a gorgeous village in a river side hut. Life is good and so very simple and pleasant in Laos.
We then continued to visit all the towns and villages to the very south of Laos. The highlight being a night we spent at a newly opened eco lodge near Pakse. Check it out on: www.kingfisherecolodge.com They were so friendly and the place was so beautiful, we have written to Lonely Planet about them- we wish them all the best.
Overall, the roads were in amazingly good condition, considering how little traffic was on them. Most of the Laos people are subsistence farmers, with no transport and no need to go anywhere. The hazzards on the roads were not other drivers, but damn pigs (we VERY nearly hit one that raced out of nowhere), chickens, ducks, cows, waterbuffallows, elephants and very small kids!! It was like a dodge em computer game!!
The kids here are worth mentioning. Tourism is quite new here only about 8 years now and they are still fascinated by us and are very friendly and always waving, but never begging. A lot of the villages are right by the side of the road and you see the kids as young as 3 years old carrying big knives that would easily cut off their foot!! Normally, no parents are anywhere to be seen, there are out in the fields working!!
Tourism is definately on the increase in Laos, so if you are thinking about coming to "One of the last quiet countries on Earth"- come soon. Its unbelievable that Laos is "the most heavily bombed nation, on a per capita basis, in the HISTORY of WARFARE" and yet they are so loving and peaceful: theres a lesson to be learnt there!! Speaking of lessons, Belinda has finally learnt the joy in tipping. She was getting a foot massage from a young 19 year old mother and gave her a tip equal to 4 days work and she was so grateful she almost burst!! That has started her and now she cant stop!! The joy in giving- you just cant beat it!!
Next stop for us is Europe. Starting with Rome, then Barcelona, then Mallorca, then Madrid and finally to Seville, Spain March 6 to pick up our motorbike "Miss Adventure 2" (that has been in storage for 1 year) and off to the North of Africa and Eastern Europe. We would love to meet up with anyone who is coming our direction, just let us know by email or sms +61 419309309Posted by Patrick Peck at February 09, 2006 06:28 AM GMT
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