I decided to enter Laos through the northern border of Thailand on a slow boat. A decision that I would soon regret. The slow boat is…well, slow. Very slow. It takes two days from the Laos border to get to Luang Prabang. These boats used to be the sole method of traveling for Laotians but a few years ago, I think in 2008, they built a paved road through Laos cutting travel time drastically. The slow boat exists mainly for tourists who are willing to spend two days floating on the Mekong River as opposed to a few hours on a bus. Go figure!
- Laos/Thailand border…very official
Once you go through immigration in Thailand, you cross the river into Laos.
Kids would come on the boat along the way trying to sell beer and snacks. It's sad as they should be in school but they know that the kids are more likely to make a sale. It's hard to say no!
We stopped in a little town called Pak Beng for the night. There was no internet connection, one bar which advertises, "We're the only bar in town!" and electricity was only recently acquired. It really gave me insight as to how new Laos is on the SE Asia tourist bandwagon. That being said, I'll never ever visit this town again. The entire guesthouse I stayed in heard me scream because the hostel employee thought it was a good idea to step on a cockroach spreading its insides everywhere while both the head and backside ran in opposite directions. The entire town just seemed nuts and kept offering us opium. There was also a gecko skeleton in my room. Yea, never going back.
The village children come to watch the foreigners leave.
I was so bored on this boat.
I spent four days in this city and I could have spent longer! The food….so good. The prices…so right. The architecture…so French!
Kuang Si Falls
Traveling in style.
Typical street view.
Wat Xieng Thong
I woke up at dawn (ew) to watch Takuhatsu, the traditional form of alms where monks chant in excahnge for food and money.
The monks would walk along the streets to collect rice and other staples from locals.
We decided to take a boat to go the Paku Ou Caves.
Saw some elephants along the way!
Then the weather took a turn for the worse...we had to stop 😦
But we found a way to have some fun in the storm 🙂
3 hours later, we finally made it to the caves. Hundreds and hundreds of Buddha statues. Everywhere. Some without heads...
I ran into Merrick! Just kidding, we planned it. After our crazy dinner with our new friends we went to the bowling alley. The only place open after the city's 11:00pm curfew!
Driving down Laos's sole paved road really gave me a great insight as to how the majority of the population lives. If you look closely you can see little huts on the mountain.
Vientianne was pretty boring but it did have the biggest French influence of any city that I visited in Laos. There were boulangeries, French restaurants, French signage, French-inspired architecture and some people spoke the language.
Patuxai, meaning Gate of Triumph, was built to celebrate the country's independence from France although it highly resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The major difference is that it's adorned with Buddhist mythological figurines.
The view from the top. C'est très français, non?
My gorgeous beef bourguignon before my 20-hour bus ride outta Laos! It made my tummy oh so happy all the way to Cambodia 😀