Greetings from Laos!

Nov 20, 2010

So we’re in Luang Prabang! We traveled from Chiang Rai to the Thai border town Chiang Kong and got a taxi boat across the Mekong to the Laos boarder town Huay Xai. From there we embarked on our 2 day(!) boat journey East along the Mekong river. We’d heard horror stories about the journey & overnight stop (Pak Beng) but on both accounts we were pleasantly surprised. The ‘slow boat’ was actually really cool with great views; the Mekong winds through a maze of mountains dense with jungle. The seats were wooden so we bought cushions from a street seller which helped a lot although we still had very numb bums!

Luang Prabang (the ancient capital of Laos) was totally worth the wait, it’s a beautiful city (the whole thing is a world heritage site!) and it sits in a U-turn in the Mekong River. There is a massive monk population here and temples are hiding on almost every street. When planning our time in Laos we thought we were generous planning to stay here for 3-4 nights and here I am writing this on our 6th night! Laos people totally live up to their reputation and have been the most kind & relaxed we’ve come across so far. There is a really good night market which is rife with arts, textiles & crafts; much more original than the mass-produced stuff in Thailand - we even bought a painting and shipped it home! Due to the history there is still a strong French influence here in Laos which is great as it means bakeries are dotted around the city selling fresh baguettes, bagels & cakes! Luang Prabang caters for backpackers as well as the A-listers who apparently frequent here for an off-the-radar break. There are plenty of swanky restaurants, spas and cafes for us to blow our budget on!

We’ve spent as many days relaxing here as we have done on activities. I wasted a day in bed & over the toilet after eating some dodgy meat off a street seller which was a bummer but these things happen! We’ve visited a few of the cities famous temples (there is one called That Chomsi which is on a mountain in the center of town with beautiful views at sunset), went swimming at an amazing waterfall (Kuang Si) and yesterday we did a one day Mahout course (elephant handling)! The course was at an elephant sanctuary (on the Nam Khan river) which takes in retired logging elephants. We spent the full day with our own elephant and learnt how to get on and off, how to instruct the elephant (speaking Laos!), how to ride on their neck and then we finished the day bathing them and getting very very wet! It was a great day and my elehant was amazing but Neils was an old grandmother who didn’t take his instructions very well! -lol

We’re going to have another day here in Luang Prabang and then head down to Vang Vieng. Everyone’s talking about it but the more we hear the less we want to go! It’s been hijacked by backpackers and is now a 24/7 party town where people regularly die (2 last week) in drunkard water activities (tubing and rope swings). We’ve been enjoying a few drinks and nights out with fellow travellers so far but we think Vang Vieng may be a little too full on! We’re planning to stay there for a couple of nights and then move on to Vientiane, the capital of Laos.

Speak soon! x

P.S We’re going to try and fit the Gili islands (near Bali) in to our schedule as we’ve heard that they’re pure paradise!

P.P.S Neil cut my hair the other day and it actually looks really good!