Thursday, 31 March 2011

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang

Well we left Chiang Rai early in the morning heading to Chiang Khong the place we would be crossing into Laos. We had planned on spending that night in Chiang Khong but upon arrival we soon realised that there was nothing to do there so decided to cross the "boarder" into Laos. Our boarder crossing was simple and all we had to do was jump in a little long tail boat and cross the 30m of Mekong between Thailand and Laos. I've never seen such a relaxed immigration office and they seemed more concerned with their $1 processing fee (tip) than anything else. Well no longer than 10 mins from Thailand to Laos and that included filling the forms out and waiting in line. We had made it, our fourth country and one that we had both been looking forwards to after hearing so many good things about it. After having a look around the small boarder town we decided rather than waste time we should get on the move to our first destination, Luang Pranbang. So we booked a VIP bus that departed that evening at 5pm arriving at 5am. The VIP bus that we had booked seats on was a complete joke! Possibly one of my worst all time travel experience's ever. Not only were there extra people sitting on plastic garden chairs in the aisle but the guy next to me (in the aisle) was trying to put his feet on me and we were in a constant battle for MY chair arm, that's not to mention that the roads don't go in any sort of a straight line for more than 5m. The journey was really rough and although only 12 hours it seemed like a lifetime.

Eventually we made it, well to a car park on the outskirts of town. It was about 5:30am and we had no idea where we where or were to go so we jumped in a Tuk-Tuk and headed into the centre. Luckily we found a guest house that was letting someone out to catch an early morning plane and managed to get the owner to clean the room there and then. The room was small but really clean and the bed was mega comfy. We had a much needed shower and then settled into a 3 hour kip.

We spent our first day wandering around the town in the baking heat stopping off for fruit shakes along the river and popping into some of the many tourist shops to check out some of the tours and excursions on offer. My first impression of Laos was wow, I mean the location and the buildings in Luang Prabang are so nice. There's like big french teak villas hugging the Mekong river. And it's so quiet compared to Thailand and there's loads of monks walking around the streets. That night we had dinner from one of the street stalls near the night market and went home for an early night.

The following day we decided to rent some bicycles from our guest house and explore the rest of Luang Prabang. Well what we hadn't realised was how small the town centre actually was and it soon dawned upon us that we had walked almost everywhere the previous day. So we headed off across a little bridge and had a cycle around the surrounding area. It was getting hot, too hot so we chilled for a bit near the river and then went to get ready for our dinner. That evening we went for a few drinks in one of the many quiet river bars and then went for a Lao style BBQ. Now a Lao BBQ is your own table BBQ were you cook your dinner, which consists of a spicy, garlicky vegetable noodle soup and lots of meat. The waiter simply shows you how to cook ur first bowl and then the rests up to you. It was well tasty!


The next day when we woke up it was raining. But it never rains this time of year in Laos, it's just unheard of. Well it does when me and Tracey are in town, as it has done with every country we have visited. So we had a late breakfast, chilled in our room for a bit and then visited the Palace Museum. To top off our super lazy day after dinner we grabbed some cakes and tea from the local bakery and watched a film in our room.

After a good rest and a super lazy day we decided to get up early the following day and ride to the waterfalls 35km outside of Luang Prabang. We had been assured that although it was going to be hot and sweaty that the journey should take no more than 2-2.5 hrs. Easy! So after breakfast we hired some mountain bikes and headed off out of town. We rode out down a long road and soon found ourselves in the countryside with the odd small bamboo village to pass through. It was getting hot now and the road was starting to climb, that's when it happened. Tracey's bike was broken! She couldn't get the gears to shift, after a close inspection I realised that the cable was broken and we would have to turn back. I reckoned we had made it at least halfway. We got back to the town about 11:30am and decided to get a Tuk-Tuk to the waterfalls instead. Am I glad that bike broke!! We probably made it about 1/3 of the way there and that was by far the easiest third. The Tuk-Tuk took nearly an hour to get there! Once we made it there we walked up a really steep trail to the top of the waterfall and then went swimming in the cool pools, there was also a bear sanctuary there which was pretty cool and the bears looked like they were pretty well cared for.

Our last full day in Luang Prabang and we decided to book a tour to the Caves & Elephant camp.  We were picked up and taken to the elephant camp where we were introduced to our elephant and helped onto her.  We sat on a bench type thing on her back and went for a walk on the elephant through the jungle for bout an hour, it was quite hilly and thought we might fall off (its higher up there than i thought) but managed to hang on. After heading back to camp we were taken in a boat to a cave.  There were lots of steps to climb and a few Buddha statue's but that's about all, its wasn't great.  The best part was after lunch, back at the camp we were back on the elephants, this time without the aid something to stand on or a bench to sit in, getting on an elephant is harder than it looks.  When we were finally on, they walked us to the river where our elephant got in to bath.  She got all the way in and sprayed water all over her back soaking us in the process. The boys from the elephant camp got in the river too and got the elephants to try to shake us off it was brill.  On the way back from the camp we stopped off at Whisky village to sample some local snake whisky it was disgusting!

The next day we got a mini bus to Vang Vieng.

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