LAOS. 10 - 20 February 2019
I am on an 11 day trip to Laos with Trip a Deal with 2 nights in Bangkok.
The Bangkok stop would have been better spent with 2 more nights in Luang Prabang a more to the liking of everyone on this tour. It was chaotic, very hot and uncomfortable. The hotel was not in the best location but thankfully the aircon worked.
There are 11 of us - 4 from Sydney, 1 each from Canberra, Victoria and Port Macquarie, 2 Bundaberg and 2 from near Buderim on the Sunshine Coast. All probably 60 plus. Lovely very efficient guide. A very compatible group.
On the one whole day in Bangkok we went on a tour to several Wats and The Grand Palace. So hot and crowded.
So on to Laos and Luang Prabang, a much nicer place, laid back and a UNESCO protected site.
It lies approximately 300 km (190 mi) north of the capital of Vientiane and the population of the city as a whole is roughly 56,000 inhabitants with the UNESCO protected site being inhabited by around 24,000. It lies between the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers and shows a French influence from when it was part of the colonisation from 1893 until full independence in 1953.
Our hotel there, The Jasmine Luang Prabang was good, well located and had a much welcome pool. We are here 3 nights.
We climbed Mt Phou si for sunset and 360 degree views, then dinner and the large night market. Day 2 we took a 1.5 hour boat trip up the Mekong to Pak Ou caves where there are thousands of Buddha images of various sizes. Also to a village to taste whisky made from rice. A very basic process with 3 varieties and strength to 50%. Back to town and a bus to a The Lao Buffalo Farm started by an Australian woman who had been an corporate executive in Singapore and an American. I had not been that keen on going but was amazed at what they are doing there, improving the agricultural practices of the locals, involving them in all areas, employing 50 locals, free English lessons for the community. Etc. check out the website www.laosbuffalodairy.com
We also had a really great lunch there of local produce including their buffalo cheeses ( feta, ricotta, mozzarella,bocconcini), yoghurt, ice cream, cheesecake and ricotta cake.
Then to the Luang Si Waterfalls and a very welcome swim.
The next day to the elephant sanctuary where they rescue elephants from ill treatment by logging companies. Bareback rides for those with good backs and a short longboat ride and walk for the rest of us. A nice lunch there in very pleasant surroundings.
Visited yet again the night market and bought a table runner and in a shop a silk scarf and a buffalo horn bracelet.
On our last morning there we met at 5:30am to go to give alms to the monks..a small ball of sticky rice placed in each monks bronze bowl until it ran out. About 300 monks. This ritual is linked to a tradition where monks beg for their daily food as a show of humility.
So then off by minibus to Vang Vieng on a tortuous 5 hour trip to go about 180 kms on dreadful roads. Magnificent mountain scenery though.
Vang Vieng is a bit of a party town where many young people go for zip lining, canoeing, and various other sports. Until recently it was notorious for drugs but after about 47 deaths of tourists the authorities have clamped down. Still lots of loud music around our hotel till late. I opted out of kayaking and a couple of steep climbs so not as to aggravate my back so had a fairly laid back time here. This afternoon we went to the Blue Lagoon, rather overrated but had a welcome swim.