Laos

4000 islands where life is so relaxed

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The sleeping bus from Vietanne to 4000 island had to be one of the worse experiences. Not only was it a long journey through the night. We had no sleep due to the terrible uneven road. The bus consisted of 20 small beds, which looked like an single bed in my eyes. But two passengers share this small area.

My advice book the whole bed if a solo traveller as you may end up sharing with a stranger. Luckily for me being small, I had no problem curling up, but Markus found it so uncomfortable. The roads were extremely bumpy so every position was just painful. I was so happy to finally get off this bus.

Unforunfately we had to face another bus for several hours, along with a truck pick up to the islands. We arrived in the area, to only later realised we got off to soon and were heading to the wrong island.

Tiredness and Hunger combined I was just over the whole experience.

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We decided to check ourselves into a nice river front hotel for the night on the island of Don khong. Due to this island not having much to offer other than cycling around to the local village. We decided the next day to travel to the island of Don Det.

4000 island is a beautiful place, consisting of many small Islands dotted inside the Mekong. But only three are inhabited. Don det, Don Khon and Don khong.

Don Det has a reputation for being more lively, whereas Don Khon is a little quieter with higher prices for places to stay. We decided to visit Don Det first and wander around for accommodation. Passing through the tiny villages, farms and children playing.

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Don Det has accommodation on both sides of the island  known as the sunrise and sunset side. We found a nice bungalow right on the river front for 3USD a night on the sunset side. A bed, with a hammock on a balcony was just prefect to enjoy the hot days and the sunsets. It was away from the main township and actually was peaceful besides the cockrals.

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Life on Don Det is so laid back, the locals will work briefly in the morning and chill during the day when the temperature is at its highest.

We decided to spent 3 days relaxing on this lazy island. It was good to find somewhere to stay for a longer period of time. We hired bicycles for several days to cycle around the island. Being so small it is manageable within one hour or more.

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Accommodation and food being so cheap it was a great saving point. The sunsets were just magical. Probably the prettiest I had witness on our trip.

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Most days we found ourselves returning to the same resturant each day, with a lovely and friendly lady cooking some great meal we couldn’t resist. I personally fell in love with the three small kittens she had. Many hours were spent here.

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It is definitely a place you could get lost in. Don kone being a short walk via a bridge it provides accommodation for a higher price but you also pay a fee to visit the island.

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It was a nice place to recharge our batteries and just relax before our crossing into Cambodia.

Laos

Vientiane coffee and temples 

Vientiane a small city, with much protential, set along the Mekong this sleepy captial, is home to some vibrant cafes and pretty temples.

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A short drive but crowded bus journey from Vang Vieng we arrived into Vientiane early afternoon .

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We found ourselves wandering around looking for accommodation, with much to offer, we checked ourselves into the Garden City hostel, with an original plan to only stay one night in this city as a stop over for our route south.
We decided to find a place to eat, this was an easy task. So many cute French style cafes, and cosy pubs. We decided upon a nice pub garden hidden off the main street. The prices were much higher but the selection of dishes were decent.

Afterwards we enjoyed walking up to what looked like the Champs- Élysees of Paris. Climbing to the top of the tower provides great views. 

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Vientiane has many beautiful temples scattered around the city, which are free to visit. Our afternoon was spent walking around some of them. I found them not to crowded by tourists, but did often see locals praying. 

We booked ourselves a sleeping bus for the following day to head further south to 4000 islands. However this didn’t go to plan and we found ourselves waiting two hours for a bus which never came.

Much dispointment and annoyance we managed to find a place to stay for the night at the cost of the travel company expense along with getting a full refund. They had only gone and booked the wrong day for us.

So the following day we decided to make use of the time by exploring more.

It saddened me to walk pass young puppies caged up on the streets for sale.

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We spent an hour visiting the COPE visitor centre.The Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) is a non-profit that runs rehabilitation centres aiming to provide care and support to UXO survivors, including orthotic and prosthetic devices and physiotherapy. This place gave great insight to the history of when the USA dropped over 270 million sub-munitions over laos during the Vietnamese war.

We spent a good hour here, and would definitely recommend visiting it. It is also free to visit. 

Wandering around a city I always find the best way to explore and discover. Visiting locals markets, aswell as strolling up along the river. This city definitely has a strong influence of france. With many beautiful and sacred temples place around its easy to make use of your time here. 

We decided to treat ourselves by going to a pizza restaurant for lunch, very similar to the Pizza Hut chain. The prices werent to extreme, but it was nice to eat someone more western than the usual vegetables and rice.

After a nice relaxing day exploring the city we were ready for round two on getting the sleeping bus to 4000 island.

 

Laos

Vang Vieng where beauty meets adventure

Vang Vieng one beautiful wonder of Laos, known for being party central since the 1990s, this small town has drawn in many travellers with its limestone cliffs, blue langoons, and mysterious caves to explore.

Setting off early from Luang Prabang in a mini bus, we were in for a crazy journey. Traveling on the badly maintain roads we passed some of the most stunning scenery.
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After a rough bumpy ride we made it to the Vang Vieng, we booked ourselves into a nice cute bungalow for 8USD a night just outside of the town.

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We had done much reading prior and heard this riverside town can get pretty crazy. By foot we decided to wander into the town which took around 15 minutes. The views surrounding this place are just magical, with the Song river passing through it makes a beautiful picture.

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Our accommdation provided bicycles so the following day we decided to explore a little. Withing minutes of cycling we were outside of the town. This definately is the best way to experience the true Laos countryside. We found oursleves in a peaceful world going down dusty tracks, whilst passing farms, small villages and even monks.

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We found some beautiful and calm spots to sit along the Song river that afternoon. It was just enough to admire the views.

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The following day we booked ourselves to do a full day tour of kayaking, tubing in a cave and a visit to the blue langoon. We were picked up around 930am from our accommodation and taken for a short drive out of town.

After a short walk passing a village, rice fields and crossing a suspension bridge we came to a cave. Provided with life jackets and a head torch we all jumped into our inner tubes and headed into the cave.

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Personally wasn’t my favourite experience being in a dark, cold and confined space but was an experience. The kayaking down the Song river was incredible the formation of the cliffs was jaw dropping. With a slow current we drifted down the river passing some beautiful scenery. Finishing back in the town of Vang Vieng, we were driven in a open truck to the Blue langoon.

The blue langoon was pretty touristic, full of people, build up with restaurants and little bamboo hunts to chill out in. The  water being the main attraction provides a refreshing cool off.

We enjoyed a quick swim and some diving off a tree. It took me a lot of courage to do. Quite an embrassing experience as I had many people cheering me on, but I did it.

In terms of eating in this town, there wasn’t a lot of tradional Lao food, but many cheap resturants, providing rice dishes to italian food.

Vang Vieng in my opinion is a beautfiul place, and would recommend visiting, whether it be a stop over between the north and south, or wanting a little adventure it provides everything.

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After a nice relaxing few days in Vang Vieng we found ourselves getting onto a very crowded bus to Vientiane the following morning.

Laos

Luang Prabang magical in many ways.

Luang Prabang is so picturesque, with all the charm of a quaint European town mixed with the wonderful, magical essence of Asia. It once was the capital of Laos, but now stands as a beautiful well preserved destination to visit . A popular pastime is simply lounging in a quiet cafe with a baguette and coffee.

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We decided to check in into a quiet guest house for 2 nights, giving us a few days to explore the cute township and the surrounding area. First on our list was to explore the night market as soon as we arrived in the evening.

Markets in Asia, are so interesting so many things to see but also a lot of unuseful things too.

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Our aim was to find some Street food, this wasn’t hard. Admiring the colours and presentation whilst taking in the smells. I was easy tempted by everything. Sampling a delicious chicken breast on a stick, vegetables spring rolls, noodles, stir fry veggies and a smoothie. In total spending around 50,000 kip around 5.50USD for both of us.

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The weird and wonderful of street food in Laos

The following day after an early night we wandered around the morning market. This town has such a french influence. You will find crepes and baguettes sold everywhere.I had to purchased a chicken and avocado baguette for breakfast for 1.10USD .

I was happy to be eating my favourite sandwich combination for the first time in the last 7 Weeks. Laos has definitely got something good going compared to Thailand!

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We invested in hiring a scooter for the day. Setting us back 80000 kip to explore the countryside and also a visit to the Kwang Si waterfalls. This was a short drive away from the town and a highlight of our stay.

It was a stunning area, the aqua coloured water was so enchanting with the cool water flowing over the limestone formations. Many people were swimming in the main area, a hot spot for backpackers, which we avoided and decided to wander further up to a beautiful and bigger waterfall.

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In the afternoon we drove our scooter through a village, where we received many stares of fascination. We seemed to be the only travellers around. We flew our drone over the Mekong, giving us some beautiful footage. It also attracted local attention. Spending some time with local farmers whilst helping them build a fence for crops. They laughed and giggled at Markus when lifting giant pieces of wood.

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This adorable little boy showed me a collection of bracelets.

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Millionares.

After a few chilled days in this beautiful town we decided to head further south the following day to Vang Vieng also known as the party town.

Laos

Spectacular Journey down the Mekong by slow boat 

After crossing the Thai boarder from Chiang Khong. This was a straight forward proceedure. Catching a tuk tuk for 100baht to take us to the passport control, we got our passports stamped and got onto a bus for (30baht) which took us across the 4th Friendship bridge.

To enter Laos you have to pay a fee between 30-35 dollars for the visa, depending on which country you are from.

After taking a tuk tuk to the boat pier in Huay Xai where we boarded a slow boat around 1130am which takes two days to Luang Prabang. The price at the pier is 210000kip per person.

Known for being the 12th biggest river in the world, approx. 4350km in length and stretching across 6 countries the Mekong boat journey was breathtaking.

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We were unfortunately quite late getting to the boat at 1130am,  for a departure at 12pm. Definitely recommend getting to the boat atleast 60-90 minutes before to guarantee a good seat. Sitting at the back next to the engine for 6 hours is not pleasant.

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Markus protecting his ears from the noise of the engine.

Cruising along the river, the sights are stunning. Passing a landscape of mountains and forest. Occasionally seeing fishermen, villages along with buffalos chilling in the water and cute families of pigs beside the river.

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A few locals use the slow boats for transport to get to tucked away villages. Often we pulled up along the shoreline to be welcomed by small groups of children selling bracelets and other craftwork they had done. It was quite sad to witness as these children do not get an education but are forced to start working at a very young age.

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After 6-7 hours we arrived in Pakbeng for the night. After getting off the boat we were approached by many locals trying to sell a room for the night.

Hopping onto the back of a truck with a few others we decided to check out one guest house to spend the night.  40,000 kip (another currency to get our heads around) it’s around 5USD per night. We couldn’t moan: a bed, bathroom and a decent restaurant connected to it.

The following morning it was our mission to board the boat early to guarantee a good seat. At around 745 am many people were already down by the boat waiting to board. We slowly departed at 9am to continue our journey down the river.

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The scenery was so beautiful, with a back drop of mountains it really was scenic. They provide some refreshments on board, cans of drinks, noodles, hot drinks and snacks but they are a little pricy. I found myself eating some noodles for 15,000kip and some tasty food offered by a nice french guy we had become acquainted too.

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Arriving into the boat pier which is 6 km outside of Luang Prabang, we walked this distance due to not having enough cash for a tuk tuk.

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For the first time we found ourselves wandering around just to find accommodation for the night.

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With little battery and limited wifi we stood in a hotels reception using there wifi, whilst we researched to find a nice guesthouse. We managed to book Phanthasone Guesthouse  for 13USD a night off the main streets.