Vientiane

In the fading early evening light we gaze out across the Mekong river, from where we sit having dinner at a street restaurant in Vientiane, at the road in Thailand which we hitchhiked along some 28 years previously! The streetlights across the river reflect into the Mekong. The vertical patterns that they make remind me of pictures I saw in Dallas years ago of a business associate’s children’s DNA that he had made into pictures. I guess as we are now older and have more memories everything new that we see and explore has the potential to be linked to something in our past, interesting thought.

Dinner by the Mekong at Vientiane, Laos

Dinner by the Mekong at Vientiane, Laos


Lights of Thailand seen across the Mekong from Vientiane, Laos

Lights of Thailand seen across the Mekong from Vientiane, Laos

We had a delicious prawn dinner at this  restaurant, Vientiane, Laos

We had a delicious prawn dinner at this restaurant, Vientiane, Laos


Vientiane has turned out to be a relaxing city, not too big with a population 200,000 at the last census in 2008 and easy to get around. Our first experience of the city was driving in from the north. Normally we have found that as we enter large cites or capitals such as Vientiane, roads widen with extra lanes added and an impressive approach is created. We find none of this and speculate that the nature of the mountainous terrain to the north means that the small population, which the available flat arable land supports, does not warrant such an approach road. I think this was confirmed on our departure to the south and the large wide highway we discovered as we headed to Thailand.

Our hotel, close to the river is excellent and reasonably priced. The benefit of the internet and the time others take to record their experiences allows a much easier selection of accommodation that meets ones own criteria. In our case, clean, quiet air-conditioner/fan and en-suite. In the past, verbal recommendations and much walking were involved in securing appropriate accommodation. Of course it should be noted we had less money and therefore were less fussy in our youth.

Our gorgeous guesthouse, the Mali Namphu,  in Vientiane, Laos

Our gorgeous guesthouse, the Mali Namphu, in Vientiane, Laos


We found a large variety of cafés and restaurants including a couple of Scandinavian bakeries alongside the usual French ones. It is always interesting to see what businesses become established for tourists or expats as we travel. One thing we have noticed here is the lack of parking for cars. The plethora of mopeds, scooters and small motorcycles can be catered for, but cars just park on the pavement/sidewalk making walking some distance almost impossible. Most people use their two wheeled transport or tuk-tuks to get around. The exception to this is the road and walkway along the Mekong river, which is turned into pedestrian only access at dusk. The area is then filled with locals, walking, cycling, skateboarding and even dancing as the sun slowly sets in the west. A large market also springs up each night with hundreds of stalls all aimed at the locals, not us tourists. As in the rest of Laos there is no pressure from vendors and touts trying to market their wares. We have considered the possibility based on our observations that the harder life is, the more desperate people are to sell and what role if any does culture play. Any thoughts on this?
French legacy is still found everywhere, Vientiane, Laos

French legacy is still found everywhere, Vientiane, Laos

Rice basket seller in Vientiane, Laos

Rice basket seller in Vientiane, Laos


Big cars take over pavements in Vientiane, Laos

Big cars take over pavements in Vientiane, Laos


Patuxai, Vientiane's Arc de Triomphe, Laos

Patuxai, Vientiane’s Arc de Triomphe, Laos

That Dam, or Black stupa, Vientiane, Laos

That Dam, or Black stupa, Vientiane, Laos


While the areas we have visited in Laos have been unaffected by war in recent times, large swathes of the country still suffer from the effects of unexploded munitions dropped from the mid 1960’s to 1973. The needs of those injured have been met by Cooperative Orthotic Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE). While COPE grew out of the needs of those injured by unexploded munitions, their scope has grown to now cover those with disabilities from other causes. The museum has a stark reminder of the damage and suffering that is caused by war, but also showed people’s ingenuity in using parts of the munitions for making everything from scythes to storage containers. Well worth a visit.

We arrive at the Great Sacred Stupa (Pha That Luang) just after 16:00 to find it has closed. The sun is slowly going down and the golden glow of the setting sun is reflected back from the stupa with increasing intensity as we stroll around the quiet complex. The tourists have left, vendors are packing up the remaining stalls and chatting to tuk-tuk drivers that missed out on the last fares back to the hotels. The tranquility of the moment is echoed by the rhythmic shushing sounds the monks’ brushes make while sweeping leaves from the square around the stupa. Again we are lucky with timing even though it was not planned.

Pha That Luang, Vientiane, Laos

Pha That Luang, Vientiane, Laos

Monks brushing up leaves at Pha That Luang, Vientiane, laos

Monks brushing up leaves at Pha That Luang, Vientiane, laos


Crossing the Mekong, again for the second time brings us back to Thailand, see Visas and admin as usual for details, and we ride past Nong Khai recalling our first and only live kickboxing match we have seen back in 1986, before we even set foot in Australia.
Crossing the Mekong, between Laos and Thailand

Crossing the Mekong, between Laos and Thailand


We are heading south and towards home, we are both looking forward to that. We have been travelling and living on the road for some 14 months and the break for a month at home in Australia is going to be most welcome.

– Anthony

A most glorious ride in Laos

As we check out of our gorgeous hotel in Luang Prabang, Anthony finds out that there is a new route to Vang Vieng: a small short cut road across the top of the mountains was upgraded last year and is in good condition and cuts out the very twisty main road to Phoukhoun. Turn off the 4 road, half way between Luang Prabang and Sayaboury at Poungdong, and head towards Kasi. Easy! First time we’ve heard of this route!! As there are hardly any villages along that route, the traffic is likely to be much lighter. Worth trying it out.

So we say our goodbyes, thank the nightwatchman who kept an eye on our bikes for the last few days and off we go. It always feels great to be back on the bikes, heading out into the unknown. It is 9am and pretty cool so we decide to close all the vents on our jackets but opt out of putting an extra layer on. It is 18 degrees. Definitely cool for us!! Time for the heated grips to come on. And they stay on for a couple of hours, until the sun has burnt off the cloud layer.

We find the turn off easily and up the mountain we head. We stop several times, taking in the stunning scenery. I am feeling great. I am loving this gently twisty road, the light traffic. I had sorted my silly little head and my problem with the right hand hairpin bends (because it is all in the head). I had thought about it over the last few days and had worked out how to get over it: ride the bike on the pegs as I had done relatively well during our off-road training course, and again on the forest trail on that 2nd day in Myanmar. It worked. Problem solved. So now I can really enjoy this delicious road.

Heading south east from Poungdong towards Kasi, Laos

Heading south east from Poungdong towards Kasi, Laos

On our road to Kasi, Laos

On our road to Kasi, Laos

The crests of mountains have peaked out of the clouds. The butterflies flutter all around us again. The road takes us higher and higher, until we get above the tree line. The scenery is breathtaking. It is our kind of scenery. While the scenery from the Thai border to Sayaboury was incredible, with the most dense jungle and steep cliff gorges we’ve ever seen, I did feel claustrophobic. There was nowhere to go, impossible to stop or turn off. Here though, you could see far far away, and feel wonderfully insignificant.

Laos

Laos

Still going up, Laos

Still going up, Laos

And up... , Laos

And up… , Laos

We reached above 2000 metres. Here is a Google Earth photo of our route.

Google Earth view of our road to Kasi, Laos

Google Earth view of our road to Kasi, Laos

We've nearly reached the top 2000m, Laos

We’ve nearly reached the top 2000m, Laos

At one point, I comment to Anthony how we haven’t seen any animals in Laos. And a few minutes later, a long snake slithers across the road right in front of Anthony. It was nice to finally see some wildlife.

Then we go down, and down and down the mountain. It seems like forever. Even though the road is only a year old, we come across quite a few patches under repair due to landslides – once repaired though, that means loose deep gravel as there hasn’t been enough traffic to pack it down yet. A couple of wobbly moments, but steady pace and loose shoulders, and we’re through each one easily. One patch is being retarred and suddenly, Anthony’s bike slides left and right and left. Eeek! I see that and manage to switch to the dirt part in time. There’ll be some serious cleaning of his bike next!!!

Today is one of the most glorious bike rides I have ever done.

Once down in the valley, we enjoy seeing all the school kids riding home for lunch, mostly cycling and holding an umbrella. The girls wear the traditional skirt: a dark coloured wrap around skirt, with a lighter coloured and beautifully woven strip around the bottom.

School kids heading home for lunch, Laos

School kids heading home for lunch, Laos

Young Lao boy in Kasi

Young Lao boy in Kasi

Young Lao girl in Kasi

Young Lao girl in Kasi

Anthony in a reflective mood at our lunch stop, Laos

Anthony in a reflective mood at our lunch stop, Laos

Between Kasi and Vang Vieng, Laos

Between Kasi and Vang Vieng, Laos

Tangerine vendors between Kasi and Vang Vieng, Laos

Tangerine vendors between Kasi and Vang Vieng, Laos

Between Kasi and Vang Vieng, Laos

Between Kasi and Vang Vieng, Laos

Ban Pha Tang, Laos

Ban Pha Tang, Laos

We get to Vang Vieng and it doesn’t take us long to decide that we will not be staying tomorrow even though we have paid for 2 nights. Too bad. Although I had read that this place had been ‘cleaned up’ over the last couple of years, (too many drunken parties, drugs, thumping music etc), it still has a long way to go. All the daytime activities are for adrenaline seeking young folk. Not our style. And in the evening, we start to see and hear the effects of too much alcohol. The hotel owner was very accommodating when I asked for another room: after being there a couple of hours, I realised the rooster mext door was never going to stop crowing and would drive me mad. Talking to the owner, we found out the neighbours kept fighting roosters – they were indeed never going to stop!! Not until the hotel owner decided to get some dinner one day…

A lovely but nothing special ride to Vientiane the next day. Just a couple of photo opportunities. When we get to a longer patch under repair am I able to take a photo (while riding as usual). Once again, we are lucky to be here during the dry season – wet mud is something we are still learning to master!! The road deteriorates badly with nasty potholes as we get closer to the capital. It is worse for 4 or more wheels but we can generally avoid most of them and take the opportunity to overtake the slower trucks and coaches as they slow down to avoid them.

Heading for Vientiane, Laos

Heading for Vientiane, Laos

We are out of the mountains, Laos

We are out of the mountains, Laos

The most beautiful sight on our ride today, the 2nd photo opportunity, was that of a young Laos lady walking through a village with a bright green paper umbrella casually resting on her shoulder. The sun shone through the bright umbrella, her walk and slight shoulder movement making the bright light shimmer. A brief magical sight which I wasn’t quick enough to capture well on camera but which will stick in our memory.

– Anne

Croissants et Traction-Avant à Luang Prabang

Ah, il était temps, je vous entends dire!!! Enfin un blog en français…. Et dire que nous sommes partis il y a exactement 5 mois aujourd’hui!!

Et oui, 5 mois, 18 pays et 18,500kms. Que d’aventures, de beaux pays, de contacts merveilleux, de nouveaux amis et de repas délicieux. Notre philosophie a toujours été de ne pas avoir de regrets dans la vie, autant que possible, et surtout de faire en sorte qu’on ne regrette pas de ne pas avoir essayé quelque chose qui nous tentait. Et nous sommes en effet ravis d’avoir passé ces derniers 5 mois sur la route comme nous l’avons fait. Aucun regret!

Oui bien sûr, il y a eu des moments difficiles, mais c’est surtout parce que nous n’avons pas asez d’experience sur certaines surfaces. Il y a eu en particulier 2 jours en Birmanie qui nous ont testés. Ces routes, nous les avons subites, et nous en sommes sortis pas trop mal, (j’en suis même assez fière je dois avouer) mais nous ne les cherchons pas. Et plus récemment, lors de notre séjour á Chiang Mai, où nous nous sommes posé tant de questions à propos de notre retour en Australie et notre futur – c’est normal. Que va-t’il se passer une fois notre voyage terminé? Nous avons beaucoup de projets, une fois de retour à Manly, pour la maison et le travail, nous ne manquerons pas d’activités. Mais est-ce que ce sera assez?! Que rechercherons nous, point de vue amis, activités, communauté? Nous avons hâte de revoir tout le monde en Australie, mais l’Amérique du Sud nous appelle!!! Et bien sûr notre retour en Europe encore plus :-). Quand nous voyageons, nous profitons au maximum de nos experiences, tout est neuf, interessant, fascinant même. Quand nous nous arrêtons, c’est une période de réflexion.

Comme pays, nous avons surtout adoré l’Ouzbekistan, l’Iran et plus récemment, la Birmanie. Je suis sûre que les conditions en Birmanie vont continuer à changer pour faciliter le tourisme, et nous aimerions y retourner un jour quand nous aurons le droit de voyager à notre rythme. Malgrès nos difficultés en Inde, nous avons sympatisé avec quelques personnes avec lesquelles nous sommes toujours en contact. Un jeune garçon en particulier de 16 ans qui m’appelle ‘tante’ et qui fait des choses formidables avec son père pour éduquer les pauvres. Deux familles que nous avons recontrées à Samarkande continuent de nous écrire. Et nous avons tant de nouveaux amis en Iran…

Voilà notre petit résumé rapide de nos 5 mois sur la route… Aucun regret d’avoir commencé ce voyage autour du monde en moto. Au contraire. Que d’aventures, que d’expériences et souvenirs, et de nouveaux amis. Et beaucoup, beaucoup plus que celà… Un voyage comme celà change tout, presque, ou au moins confirme ce qui est important et ce qui ne l’est pas, dans la vie, pour nous du moins…

Nous sommes arrivés à Luang Prabang il y a deux jours. Belle petite ville située au nord du laos, inscrite au patrimoine mondial de l’UNESCO depuis 1995, où l’inflence française se fait sentir partout. Un peu d’histoire grâce à wikipedia: http://fr.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luang_Prabang. Nous avons trouvé un petit hotel formidable, 3 Nagas, qui a une belle Traction-Avant datant de 1950.

Anne dans une Traction-Avant de notre hotel 3 Nagas à Luang Prabang, Laos

Anne dans une Traction-Avant de notre hotel 3 Nagas à Luang Prabang, Laos


Superbe Traction-Avant datant de 1950 à Luang Prabang, Laos

Superbe Traction-Avant datant de 1950 à Luang Prabang, Laos


Les touristes que nous rencontrons sont toujours choqués ou au moins surpris quand nous leur disons que nous ne faisons aucune excursion – on pourrait aller en bateau voir des caves, des éléphants, des chuttes d’eau etc. Nous profitons plutôt de simplement marcher partout. Je me suis levée à 05.00 hier matin pour voir les centaines de moines recolter l’aumône des habitants. J’allais me lever ce matin tôt pour prendre plus de photos mais le sommeil était trop profond. Demain, avant notre départ pour Vang Vieng, peut-être…
Aumône des moines à Luang Prabang, Laos

Aumône des moines à Luang Prabang, Laos


Hier, nous nous sommes régalés: croissants délicieux, déjeuners et dinners incroyables. C’est pourquoi nous devons, ou plutôt de rions…, faire autant d’exercise que possible!! Savez-vous que nous avons grossi de 2 kgs lors de notre séjour en inde?! Nous avons tellement bien mangé là aussi et n’avons jamais été malade.
Croissant pur beurre à Luang Prabang, Laos - quel délice

Croissant pur beurre à Luang Prabang, Laos – quel délice


Anthony traversant la rivière Nam Khan á Luang Prabang, Laos

Anthony traversant la rivière Nam Khan á Luang Prabang, Laos


Vue de notre restaurant à midi, Luang Prabang, Laos

Vue de notre restaurant à midi, Luang Prabang, Laos


Il y a une multitude de petites ruelles à Luang Prabang, Laos

Il y a une multitude de petites ruelles à Luang Prabang, Laos

Offrande de fleurs, Luang Prabang, Laos

Offrande de fleurs, Luang Prabang, Laos


Après une belle randonnée le long de la rivière, nous visitons le Mont Phu Si en plein centre de Luang Prabanga où on y trouve multiples temples et statues de Buddha. On pourrait s’y perdre avant de retrouver les 300 marches pour redescendre. Je m’arrête quelques temps pour bavarder avec un jeune moine. Nowisput a 16 ans et n’est donc que novice – ils ne peuvent devenir moine qu’à partir de 21 ans. Il a quitté sa famille à l’age de 7 ans car la vie dans la jungle était trop dure pour lui. Il n’est pas sûr de devenir moine car la vie est dure pour eux aussi il me dit…
Moine novice Nowisput au Mont Phu Si, à  Luang Prabang, Laos

Moine novice Nowisput au Mont Phu Si, à Luang Prabang, Laos

Mont Phu Si, Luang Prabang, Laos

Mont Phu Si, Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang et Mékong, Laos vu du Mont Phu Si

Luang Prabang et Mékong, Laos vus du Mont Phu Si


C’était amusant d’entendre des français dire en nous voyant descendre: “il y a des gens que ne restent même pas pour le sunset!”. Le sunset?! Nouveau mot français. Et oui, nous ne sommes pas restés avec les douzaines de touristes pour voir le coucher de soleil sur le Mékong. Nous n’avons jamais aimé les foules (d’où nos difficultés en Inde…). Nous préferrons admirer un coucher de soleil en pleine nature, seuls, loin de tout le monde, comme nous avons réussi à le faire en Birmanie quand nous avons refusé de faire plus de route en pleine nuit en moto. (Mille fois trop dangereux, quand on ne voit pas les trous, les couches de sable recouvrant la route etc, surtout après les heures que nous avions déjà fait dans des conditions difficiles même pour les autres motards avec beaucoup plus d’expérience que nous).
Luang Prabang et Mékong vus du Mont Phu Si, Laos

Luang Prabang et Mékong vus du Mont Phu Si, Laos

Wat Hor Phrabang, Luang Prabang, Laos

Wat Hor Phrabang, Luang Prabang, Laos


Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos

Aujourd’hui, après la grasse matinée, petit déjeuner relax, dehors, mais bien couverts car il fait plutôt frais ici le matin (20 degrés), nous avons visité le musée national, situé dans l’ancien palais royal, et plusieurs wat et monastères. Luang Prabang, malgrés tous les touristes, est une petite ville très agréable où l’on oublie même que nous sommes des touristes. J’adore le fait que l’école est restée en pleine ville, parmis tous les restaurants touristiques – j’ai toujours adoré entendre les enfants jouer et rire dehors ou dans la cour.

Ecole maternelle de Luang Prabang, Laos

Ecole maternelle de Luang Prabang, Laos


L'école maternelle de Luang Prabang en plein centre ville

L’école maternelle de Luang Prabang en plein centre ville


Wat Xieng Thong, Luang Prabang, Laos

Wat Xieng Thong, Luang Prabang, Laos


Nous finissons notre belle journée avec un repas délicieux à notre hotel, et pour la 3ème fois, nous choisissons le poulet avec une sauce délicieuse: peau de buffle d’eau sechée ensuite marinee dans une sauce chili et citronelle. Hmmmm

Poulet avec sauce de peau buffle d'eau séchée et marinée dans une sauce chili et citronelle

Poulet avec sauce de peau buffle d’eau séchée et marinée dans une sauce chili et citronelle


Demain, nous quittons Luang Prabang pour Vang Vieng.

– Anne

Butterflies and the rice harvest

Finally we are leaving Chiang Mai. As Anne alluded to in her last post, we have many thoughts and questions swirling in our minds, being back on the road after so much down time will be enjoyable and clear our heads. I think that some of my lethargy this last 10 days has been the anti climax of reaching Thailand. The first class roads, first world facilities and the lack of challenges that we have faced along the road so far have taken the edge off the journey. When you have an objective, you focus on achieving it, when it’s done, the question is what’s next. I remember when we travelled through Africa in 1982/83 and reached the Cape of Good Hope, south of Cape Town, there was satisfaction at the achievement, a let down that it was over but then, ok what’s next? It is about the journey not the destination and so we set new goals and objectives after a short reflection time and off we go again.

Our departure from Liam’s Guest House and our hosts Ron and Daphne was hard after the hospitality and helpfulness they had shown during our stay. As we had to keep extending our stay each day while waiting for Anne’s BMW part to arrive, I am not sure they thought we would ever leave! It was a great place to stay, a quiet oasis outside the city of Chiang Mai. We will miss this place and the people, but the road beckons.

Fabulous sweeping road towards Nan, Thailand

Fabulous sweeping road towards Nan, Thailand


The roads in the north of Thailand, we have been told, are great for motorcycling by the various expats living here that we met. We have had so many suggestions of routes and contradictory views as to the roads condition, it has been difficult to chose. We have decided to head today to Nan about 300 km east by road from our current location. We retrace our route for about 100km then head east riding on good surfaces with gentle bends. A recipe for good motorcycle riding. The smell of food as we pass a roadside cafe has us turn around for lunch. We sit in comfortable chairs watching the occasional traffic go by as we have an excellent fish dish and a rather hot salad. Total cost about $2.50, €2.00 or £1.80. Thailand food prices are so reasonable I could not imagine anyone, expats that is, living here cooking their own meals apart from breakfast.
Had a delicious fish lunch at this tiny roadside restaurant on our way to Nan, Thailand

Had a delicious fish lunch at this tiny roadside restaurant on our way to Nan, Thailand


I have noticed the leaves of some trees are turning from green to yellow, and the current rice harvest seems to be almost completed. The air is cooler and the landscape has an autumn dryness about it with brown stalks and stubble predominating the farming areas. This land is well utilised with rice grown on flat land and corn / maize / mealies on quite hilly ground. Occasionally, we pass small groups working diligently in the fields harvesting rice. One thing we do notice is that most of them have arrived by car or moped which are parked neatly at the side of the road. A sign that prosperity is reaching into the countryside and is not just confined to the towns.

Butterflies abound, white, yellow and darker, multi coloured varieties. I watch then as I ride, hoping as they flit into my field of vision that they will not become casualties of my motorbike’s passage; thankfully most pass unharmed. I really enjoy their presence and it reminds me how few I see in Australia. In places, the road is lined with teak trees, tall and imposing with huge leaves which we have been warned are an early morning hazard on the road – covered in dew they are very slippery!

Teak tree lined road, Thailand

Teak tree lined road, Thailand

All Thai town entrances have huge banners with their King

All Thai town entrances have huge banners with their King


We arrive in Nan and make our way to a nice hotel that Anne had identified previously near the river. We ask ‘do you have a room for tonight?’ They do not, but ring around hotels to find a room for us, then as they talk to the second hotel, we realise that they understood our question to be ‘do you have a room for two nights?’ We have our room and a reminder to think when we phrase questions as they may be misinterpreted. A stroll along the river for a great whole fish dinner completes our first riding day in almost 2 weeks. It’s good to be back on the road.

At a fuel stop early next morning, I see a Chelsea, the soccer club I support, shirt. He speaks no English but is knowledgeable about not only Chelsea, but Southampton’s position of second place in the English Premier League despite having sold many leading players at the end of last season. There is no language barrier in football and it interesting to see that the Chelsea website has Thai as one of the half dozen Asian languages they support. Asian supporters of English football are big business.

The border is only 100km from Nan and a good road, we climb higher and start to run along the ridges of the mountains. It’s glorious, superb vistas unfold before our eyes as the road swings right and left up and down, no traffic and a great road as this was upgraded to support construction of a lignite power station over the border in Laos. There is little traffic and few turn offs which makes me wonder how locals travel in this region and how populated it is.

Approaching the Thai-Laos border crossing at Thungchang

Approaching the Thai-Laos border crossing at Thungchang


Our border crossing process is the simplest and quickest so far and as usual, is documented in our visas section. The good road continues up to the power station at Hongsa, which is still under construction but looks to be well on the way to completion in 2015. This is 80% Thai owned and will export 1500 MW of its 1878 MW capacity to Thailand. Local currency, always a problem when you first cross any border and is resolved with an ATM, but with a 8% withdrawal fee! We are still not sure if the exchange rate is 3,000 or 30,000 to the US dollar, turns out to be about 7,000 – so much for guesstimating.
Our first example of French influence in Laos

Our first example of French influence in Laos


The road now splits and we have a choice of 4a or 4b: 4b is more direct, but we have heard bad reports from expats and locals so 4a it is. The road is narrow and has many short sections of compressed dirt or gravel, mostly on sharp or hair pin bends but apart from the occasional scare on gravel going down hill, we are ok. The roads are steep in places with quite a few 15% slopes to negotiate! We enjoy the ride and the views but are glad to arrive at our destination of Sayaboury, Sayabouly or Xaignabouli depending on which map or road sign you look at, before dusk. The people here do not seem to be able to pronounce ‘R’ hence the different spellings. We find a clean and very cheap guesthouse and, with no tv or internet, get an early night.
4b road to Sayaboury, Laos

4b road to Sayaboury, Laos

High plateau heading to Sayaboury, Laos

High plateau heading to Sayaboury, Laos

Heading to Sayaboury, Laos

Heading to Sayaboury, Laos

Heading to Sayaboury, Laos

Heading to Sayaboury, Laos

Heading to Sayaboury, Laos

Heading to Sayaboury, Laos


We only have 100km to travel today to Luang Prabang, which is a tourist destination on the banks of the Mekong river. We are looking forward to crossing the Mekong river by ferry, but when we arrive, a new concrete bridge spams the river. We stop for breakfast and have to decide between small roasted animals that look like frogs or fish. A close call but the fish wins, and rewards us with dozens of bones. As we sit, an old Russian cab-less truck converted for logging trundles by. I had seen it earlier and wondered how it worked and where it was going. Should we follow it and see? This journey is a bit like Alice in Wonderland, having followed the white rabbit down the rabbit hole, us leaving the UK, and being each day in the long hall with many doors, none are locked and we can enter anyone without potion or cake. The outcome of each daily decision, such as to follow the Russian truck or not will have consequences in experience, time etc. if we had opened every door we saw we would probably be still in Europe after five months, not practical when our insurance finishes on the 26 December. There is no specific way to undertake a trip like this and for all we may have potentially missed, it is more than compensated by the experiences we have had across 18 countries to date.
Breakfast stop by the Meekong, Laos

Breakfast stop by the Meekong, Laos

Preparing our green papaya salad for breakfast, Laos

Preparing our green papaya salad for breakfast, Laos

Enjoying our roadside breakfast by the Meekong, Laos

Enjoying our roadside breakfast by the Meekong, Laos

Ingenious Laos goods carrier

Ingenious Laos goods carrier

The mighty Meekong, Laos

The mighty Meekong, Laos

This Laos ice cream van also plays music as it drives along, like 'back home'

This Laos ice cream van also plays music as it drives along, like ‘back home’

Not far from Luang Prabang, Laos

Not far from Luang Prabang, Laos

Anne has identified an old French hotel in Luang Prabang.. We ride up and are greeted with cool drinks and towels in a huge lobby. They promise to get give us a good price and come back with a 10% discount on the standard room rate of 560. I ask what currency and am told US dollars, but does include breakfast, eek! We quickly refold the cool towels and beat a hasty retreat. Not quite, they are helpful with hotels more in our budget range including backpackers when he knows how much we are willing to spend! As this is a small town, very popular with tourists and high season, accommodation prices are not comparable with Thailand. We reach town and start to see so many tourists, but that said it has a good feel and unlike many places, you are not pestered with hawkers and touts. We end up at the 3Nagas Hotel which has a great feel and central location. Food here is excellent and the availability of good coffee and French croissants add to the pleasure.

Our hotel in Luang Prabang, Laos

Our hotel in Luang Prabang, Laos

We will stay three nights and explore the town and surrounds and enjoy the excellent less spicy (hot) food.

– Anthony