Saturday, April 16, 2011

4,000 Islands, Happy New Year

Yesterday I left Laos, and was sad to see it go. I really enjoyed that country, the landscape was beautiful from Northern Laos' limestone mountains and rivers all around, to Southern Laos' coffee plateau and the width of the Mekong River. The Laos people I thought to be very different than the Thai people. The Laos people were very reserved and shy, and quite conservative, but I was invited into many people's homes for drinks and dinner in Laos and they were all very sweet and giving. The food was also different yet delicioso!! Not so much spicy as Thailand, but flavorful all the same. Also, Laos is just much less crowded, there is room to breath, most people live outside the cities, but the landscape still seems uninhabited. All is all, Laos just fit, and I really enjoyed it.

I spent my days heading south after Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi. I first went south to Vang Vieng. This place is a party, and lets just say it fits a certain niche for travelers. Without going into too much, the main attraction there is tubing. You rent a tube for a couple of dollars and float down the nearby river. There are plenty of places to stop along the way. I met 4 girls from Norway and 2 guys from England and we hung out for the day. We stopped along the river to do have a drink or do the adrenaline spots they set up. Among those that did included HUGE swings into the river, ziplines into the river, and enormous slides into the river. I definitely got my adrenaline fix, and had a great day!!

From Vang Vieng, I headed south via Sleeper Bus. Now this 14 hour bus ride was pretty fun itself. This was a double decker bus that had full length beds on both sides of the aisles. The beds were made for Asians though, because they barely fit a 5'10" guy, and also weren't very wide at all. Come to find out my seat/bed was in the very back of the bus on the second level, and my seat was 1 of 5 in the back cabin. So me and four other travelers crammed into this little room lined with red leather over the engine, and made the best of the situation. It was pretty humorous.

I arrived to Pakse, Laos in the south. Over a couple of days me and Korina, a girl from Norway, explored the area. We took the local bus up to Tad Lo one of the days. A beatiful multilevel waterfall up in the Bolaven plateau. The Bolaven plateau is were Laos grows all of its coffee, and their coffee is good and has a unique taste. This waterfall made for a good day trip, going for a dip in the nice emerald pools and relaxing in the sun. Plus we got to see Elephants again, which I always enjoy. They are so COOL!!! Another one of the days we went and ate dinner on the Mekong at one of the floating restaurants. Yes, it is just what it sounds like... you go and eat dinner on a boat on the Mekong. It was really nice and romantic, and I tried Laos laap for the first time which came with fish from the Mekong. Laap is minced meat and vegetable dish which I can compare to Ceviche.

After Pakse, I headed even further south towards Cambodia, to a place called 4,000 islands (Si Phan Don). I had heard good things about this place and decided it was where I wanted to spend my last days in Laos before heading back to Thailand to meet Brad. 4,000 Islands is the name, I'm not sure if there actually are 4,000 of them, but I bet it is pretty close. It gets the name because here the Mekong is at it's widest and it spreads out over the flat land and creates many many islands. Of course only accessible by boat, but that made it all the better for a relaxing peaceful time. Amenities are slim on the island, no ATM's, very slow expensive internet, and patchy electricity. But the small island of Don Det that I stayed on was really really nice. I got myself a bungalow overlooking the river with a hammock and fan for 30,000 Kip (just over $3 USD) and spent my days lounging around, reading, swimming with the kids, going to the 'beach', and eating noodle soup (yummy! best culinary part of Laos, they love their soups!) It was a very relaxing setting, and beautiful to look out of the blue river and bike around the island and see the water buffalo and all the local houses and family. Don Det, and all of Laos and Thailand, was in a festive mood because this time of year is when they celebrate their New Year (aka Water Festival). So during the day and night there is usually someone blasting Laos music, beer and Lao Lao whiskey going down by the liter, kids armed with squirt guns, water balloons, and buckets ready to splash you. You just had to stay in your bathing suit and light clothes all  the time, because any time you walked down the path of the village you were bound to get soaked!! It was a blast, and especially nice because April is HOT! What a fun time.

Thanks LAOS, you were great!


  1. Am still jealous! Sounds like such fun!
    vaya con dios

  2. :-D Thanks Cathy!


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