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tappers’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 05 Oct 2006

Location: Laos

MapHere is an update of our past ten days in the beautiful country of Laos - which really is an untouched gem when compared to the rest of South East Asia.

We arrived in the capital city of Vientiane after a long and painful bus journey over the border from Vietnam. It was immediately evident just how small and isolated Laos is by the fact that the streets are virtually empty and have a real laid back feel. We spent one day in Vientiane taking in the sights which included the golden Pha That Luang which is really impressive as Laos' most important place of worship. Also visited the Patuxai which is a reminder of the days when Laos was a part of French Indochina - its is an archway similar to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, though intermingled with Buddhist and Hindu architecturaL motifs. There is not so much to do in the capital city but it is a nice place to stroll along the Mekong river and soak up the Lao lifestyle.

We headed to Vang Vieng for a few days which is probably the most chilled-out place that i have ever visited in my life. A small mountain town surrounded by karst mountain peaks which rise above you in all directions. The scenery here is fantastic - no matter where you look it is like a postcard. We spent our days lazing around in and taking walks out into the tribal villages and rice fields. The lifestyle here is so relaxed and the villagers were very welcoming as we passed through - we watched young boys fishing and practicing for the upcoming boat races. Yet Vang Vieng has a darker side and when you go into any bar/restaurant they give you a drugs menu - offering everything from magic mushrooms to opium! It is amusing though to watch the foreign tourists completely out of it and doing stupid things, though at the same time i can't help but feel that this must have some sort of corrupting influence on the local people!

From Vang Vieng we took teh seven hour bus hourney through the mountains to the ancient capital of Luang Prabang. The scenery on the trip was most powerful as we passed through huge mountain ranges and down into deep valleys, taking in remtote tribal villages along the way. The scenery is spectacular and is completely untouched by modern development, it feels as though you have stepped back in time to a jungle-filled world. There were very few people along the route purely because the landscape is uninhabitable. After seven hours of winding through the mountains myself and Lana were both suffering from extreme motion sickness and glad to eventually arrive!

Luang Prabang is the most beautiful city that i have ever encountered - its is such an ancient and amazing place full of old temples and buddhist monuments. Everywhere that you look there are orange robed monks always keen to talk to you and practice their English - there is something really nice about the lifestyle of monks and their whole demeanor. We spent our days i Luang Prabang visiting the many ancient temples which are crafted in gold designs, as well as shopping at the amazing night market for handicrafts. Visited the Pak Ou caves which contained hundreds of ancient buddah images and were accessed by a beautiful two hour trip up the Mekong River where we could see the local people working the riverbanks to make gardens. Also visited the spectacular Tat Kuang Si waterfall which cascaded down the mountain side into a series of deep pools for swimming - the water here was so clear and refreshing but absolutely FREEZING! Also got to visit some black bears and tigers which has been confiscated from poachers - so it was really nice to get close to these animals.

Am now back in the capital city of Vientiane waiting for a bus to take us on the thirteen hour journey back to Bangkok. We are returning to Thailand despite the current military coup in operation - but it all seems to be safe there at the moment, so i am sure that it will be OK for us! We are currently planning on heading to one of the southern islands for a week before we head of to Bali.

I am really going to miss Laos because it is an absoultely amazing country, with the most fantastic people. I just hope that it manages to retain its untampered image for as long as possible...