So, about that bus ride….
We are currently in Vang Vieng but spent the last week in Luang Prabang (LP). It was our favourite city when we were in Laos 8 years ago and I would say it is our favourite again this time, even though the bus trip was interesting.
The trip started in a parking lot on The Mekong River in Pakse at what I would describe as a bus rave. I will admit that I have never been to a regular rave, let alone a bus rave. It was intense. I have never seen so many lights on busses in my life. First, these were not just headlights but rather strobe type lights. We eventually found our bus and our seats (read bed) and settled in for the 10 hour journey to Vientiane. I would consider myself an average sized male that can fit into most beds. The fact that my partner, who is a full 9 inches shorter than me, had to flex her feet 90 degrees to fit in did not bode well for me. Regardless we were both able to get some shut eye on the way there. The second half of the journey to LP was uneventfully long. It is the equivalent distance of driving to Penticton from Vancouver but takes twice as long. This can happen when you have to honk your horn to announce that you are entering a corner and hope that someone is not entering from the other side. The fact that it is on their most travelled highway makes it even better.
Our time in LP was taken up with exploring the city, visiting some waterfalls, riding elephants, learning how to cook Lao food and learning the 14 stages to producing rice, on the best tour I have taken in a long time.
The city was much as we had remembered it. Once we had oriented ourselves at The Ammata Guesthouse, our residence for the week, we knew exactly where we were. The city has not changed, in terms of where things are, however it is much more expensive. Eight years ago we could eat at the market for 50 cents. This time around it would have cost $1.40. That is some inflation. It may not seem like much more but that’s a substantial percentage increase. There are also many more higher end establishments and more mature travellers. This is probably due to the international airport that opened in 2008. Many more people are coming that, in the past, would not have wanted to take a very windy 10 hour bus ride from the capital. It is still a great city.
I mentioned above that we visited some waterfalls, which is also where we rode elephants, which was fun. Being from BC, we are quite jaded when it comes to beautiful landscapes. The waterfalls were pretty minimal to what we see in BC but were still nice. The cooking class was really fun and I hope to blog when I recreate some of the recipes. The best tour was the Rice is Life tour. It was a half day that taught us the 14 stages to producing rice. Yes, there are that many, however, step 14 is sampling rice wine and could be omitted but, when in Laos….. We planted rice, separated rice and even ploughed the field behind the water buffalo named ‘Suzuki.’ Our guide, Lao Lee, was amazing and really made the day great.
We are now in Vang Vieng, which is a city that has changed immensely since our last visit. Had we not noticed the sign for the guesthouse we stayed in back then we would have not known where we were. It seems there was no city planning during development here. If a hotel wanted to go up, it would, each moving closer to the river and obstructing each other’s view. It is a shame because the natural setting is very nice. With a little work this could be a world class city. They have kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking, tubing, hot air ballooning and many other outdoor activities. Unfortunately, they also have heaps of young backpackers that love to party. This brings in drugs and things that the local population are not too keen on. Was it the same 8 years ago? I would like to say no but who really knows.
We are off to the capital tomorrow and back to Vancouver on Sunday. I hope to post 1 more blog before we are home. Until then.