|1/20: So I guess it has been a little while since I posted. Brian and I reconveyned for a couple of fun days in Bangkok. I was pleasantly surprised to find Bangkok not nearly as seedy or hectic as I had been led to believe.
B and I took a 12 hr bus out of BKK to the capital city of Loas, Vientiane. Vientiane is right on the Thai/Laos border which is divided by the Mekong River. About 45 minutes outside of BKK the bus lurched a couple of times this came to a pathetic stop along the shoulder of the highway. Uncertain of our fate our crew sat on the side of the highway in central Thailand lit by the full moon. 1.5 hrs later an identical replacement bus appeared and took us to the border. I was surprised at how cold the morning was as I impatiently waited in a log line to obtain kip (local $) and a Laos visa.
After finding a 3 man hostel room for $2 per nite (real nice Clark) I stumbled upon the Scandinavian Bakery in downtown Vientiane for bottomless Laos coffee and an egg sandwich. You, well I, eat so many eggs each day. There is an egg served with every meal here regardless of what you order. Ian (Brit friend), Brian, and I then explored a couple of temples before residing along the Mekong for a few BeerLao. The next afternoon it was on to Vang Vieng. Here the scenery changed dramatically. A beautiful sunset set among the mountains along the Nam Song River welcomed us to the town made famous among tourist for tubing. We would do this the next day. Upon arriving at the drop off point a couple of Swedish girls (sara and sophia) recognize Brian and I from a bus, so we saddle up for a beer before braving the river. Then upon entering the river on a tube we bump into a couple of Swedish guys we had shared a room with in Coffee Bay, South Africa. Put all of them together with the British couple we had gone up the river with and we had a nice tubing crew. The tubing was crazy! There were bars with dangerous zip lines and rope swings out into the river all pumping loud music down the river. One guy along the shore was assigned at scooping people into the bars by thowing out a rope with a plastic bottle on the end. It was insane, but loads of fun!
After a few nights partying at the Smile Bar and a really nice hike to some caves I was ready to check out Luang Prabang.. And so I set off on my own again. LP was a refreshing plunge into Laotian culture. The bus ride to LP and the few hours in town would be character building to say the least. The bus ride North was only about 200 km but took over 7.5 hrs of slowly twisting through the mountains and avoiding the ever present pot holes. The bus was overbooked and I found myself in the 'jump seat' basically on top of the gear shaft. After getting off the bus a lady I had made friends with says ' is that water all over your bag'. Come to find out the 'water' was from an exploded can of bug spray in my bag...awesome! So anyway I realize I am totalled broke and head for the ATM. The ATM claims to be out of order after I tried 3 times to withdraw money. Come to find out I would lose around $300 for those attempts. So I finally got money, a nice room, 2 large beers and a pizza. Welcome to Luang Prabang!
It would actually turn out to be a great stay for 3 nights. I met some great people. Mostly hung with 3 American, yes Americans!, girls. We went out to the Kuang Si waterfalls and did some rope swings a day. I have posted pictures and the water really was the color that you see in the pics. It was amazing.
Anywho I had a pretty miserable experience with another bus trip getting down to southern Laos where I am now, but will have to save that for later. I have a great group of Israeli and Finish people I am traveling with now and really enjoying myself. Tomorrow I am heading down to a place called Four Thousands Islands right on the Laos/Cambodian border.
1/27/09: So I did end up with negotiating a good price for my room at Ch something or the other guesthouse in Luang Prabang. Walked around the west side of the city that borders the Mekong River until it meets the Khan River. On the opposite side of the rivers you see small farms taking advantage of the fertile soil by the rivers edge.
The best thing I did was hire a tuk tuk with Cakes, Andrea, and Alexandra to go to the Kuang Si waterfalls. When Cakes first introduced herself, my response was 'really?' thinking I must have misunderstood. I hadn't. The water was freezing but there was a cool rope swing that we decided we must try out.
From LP I took a 9 hr local bus with rice bags and chickens in the aisle to Vientiane. Then 2 hrs after arriving booked an overnite bus to Pakse in southern Laos. Upon boarding the bus I was temporarily filled with excitement as I saw oversized twin mattresses. As I worked towards seat A3 I saw a disturbing trend of people sharing these mattresses. A few minutes later I found myself spooning with a Laos man at the front of the bus for the 10 hr ride.
Upon arriving in Pakse I met Haim (israeli) and decided to share a room along the river. After gteting a 3 egg breakfast and coffee we assembled a group of 7 and hired a ride to the Bolaven Plateau. Here we saw the famous Laos coffee fields and waterfalls: Tad Yueang, Thamchampy, and Tad Fane. That night had great Indian food followed by beers along the river with Robert and Minny (Finland).
The next day I headed for the island of Don Khong in Si Phan Don (4000 islands). Don Khong I nicnamed the geriatric island but had a funny night with Damien the drunken Englishman from Manchester.
The next day Haim and I took a boat to Don Det, another of the 4000 islands in the middle of the Mekong. Right off the boat I ran into Brian.
There are 2 paths on the island: sunset and sunrise. I found a private bungalow on the sunset side right on the river with hammocks on the front porch for 30,000 kip or $3.70 a night. Over my four days I would spend roughly 90% of my time on the hammock or at the restaurant eating sticky rice. One day I did rent a bike and explore Don Det and the neighboring island of Don Khone. My last day Brian and I rented a kayak and baked in the everpresent sun while paddling around uninhabited islands.