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Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang, Laos

Hiya Everyone!

Dury and I are currently in Luang Prabang, in Laos!

Since writing last time, we caught the bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai and stayed a couple of nights there. Chiang Rai didn't really seem to be anything special. Just a smaller and less nice Chiang Mai really. We were staying at the Mae Hong Son Guesthouse which was nice itself, but backed onto what looked like the Chiang Rai council estate! Bit shady! But we were ok.

I was glad to leave though and make the journey to Laos. We got a 4 and a half hour bus to Chang Kong, but literally just jumped in a tuk-tuk and told him to take us to the immigration office immediately. The 'friendly and helpful' guy at immigration stamped our visa and sent us down the road where there were loads of tiny long-tail boats waiting. We thought we must have missed something because surely we wouldn't cross the river in one of those?! But then we saw a little hut with a desk, the woman sold us a ticket each and pointed to a boat! So we hopped in a crossed the river! That was pretty cool. At the other side, at Haoxyai, we got our visa and found a guesthouse for the night.

Even that night in Houxyai was really different from Thailand! Everyone is really laid back and everything seems to move much slower.

From Houxyai the next morning, we went down to the boat dock and got our tickets for the slow-boat to Luang Prabang. The trip takes two days, with a stopover in Pakbeng. There is a speed boat but apparently people have died on that so we chose to take the slow boat. Still can't decide whether that was even a good choice! The seats were tiny wooden benches with straight backs and a tiny little cushion. You would have thought the boat was full but then about 50 more people came down the hill and all got on. There weren't enough seats so people just had to sit where there was a space! In the end, most of us moved our benches to the side and sat down on the floor too cos it was much more comfy that way. The first day was actually pretty cool. The scenery was amazing, a group got a guitar out, people were chilling on the sides of the boat and everyone was in a pretty good mood. By the end of the second day though, I was pretty glad to get off. It was an EVEN SMALLER boat on the second day and the benches were attached so we couldn't move them aside.

Finally arriving at Luang Prabang was a relief and I really like it here. It's like no other city in the world. It's just like a big village, or loads of villages all together. There's one main street, they nickname 'Ferang Road' (foreigner road or something) with lots of restaurants and shops on. The end of the street turns into a night market in the evening which was really cool! We went last night and it was really different from Chiang Mai. All the people are really friendly and smiling and not pushing you to buy their stuff which is such a relief after Thailand which is all about hassling you to buy stuff! On the first day we went out with a couple of girls staying at our guesthouse to the waterfalls nearby which was pretty cool. We did some swimming and some jumping in! That night, we also enjoyed a burger at the Lao Lao Garden which is a cool restaurant on another road. Getting sick of veg and rice, tofu and rice or veg and tofu, a veggie burger and fries was definitely a good shout! Today we went up Phu Si Mountain and looked over the Mekong River which was pretty awesome. Couldn't take any photots though cos both our cameras have broken within a week of each other! Boo.

Tomorrow we are leaving for Vientiene to organise our visas for Vietnam and then will maybe go back up to Vang Vieng or go down to the Four Thousand Islands. So far, we're undecided.

Anyway, hope everyone is having a good summer back at home.
Missing you
Love Naomi

Source : Travelblog

For more information , please visit these websites:

Email: laosadventureguide@gmail.com, Active Travel Laos

Adventure tours in Laos: Bike in Luang Prabang / Kayak in Vang Vieng / Trek in Luang Nam Tha

permalink written by  activetravellaos on December 17, 2008 from Luang Prabang, Laos
from the travel blog: Active Travel Laos
tagged Adventure, Travel, Tour, Laos and LuangPrabang

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Lovely Laos: Trekking in the Nam Ha River Valleys

Luang Prabang, Laos

100% pure unbridled nature. That’s what we got trekking through the beautiful Nam Ha Valley in northern Laos. Two full days of rigorous trekking (most of it seeming to be uphill…) brought our group through three Lanten villages and up, down and across more hills and jungles than I can count. But with natures glory bursting with joy out from the ground, and beautiful mountain vistas awaiting at the top of every hill, things weren’t so bad.

The end of the first day of trekking up/down/around hills left our group staying at a lodge in a Lanten village near the Nam Tha River. The Lanten’s are an animist tribal group in Laos who still live off the land as hunter gatherers, and now to some extent, traders. To give an idea of how remote we were, the village had no road, power of any sort, and the closest town was a 5 hour WALK away (this village could only be reached by walking or on the river during the wet season). So we were out there. Although ethnically Tai, the Lanten are animists, meaing they believe in nature spirits, and are very superstitious. Some examples…they throw a bit of food into nature each time they have a meal as an offering…all their houses face down-stream…married women shave their eyebrows…water buffalo guts and other oddities are hung from the ceilings in the houses to ward off evil spirits. Kinda eccentric huh? Although you have to wonder what they say think about us ‘crazy Americans’.
(BTW, sorry about the few pictures. Look at the next entry to see what happened to my camera memory cards)

People may grow up and start expressing themselves differently, but our senses of joy and happiness inherited from childhood are all the same. I’m pretty sure that’s a profound thought, or else maybe I just have taken it for granted, but playing with the children in this Lanten village had to be the most fun of the entire trek. Craig’s (genius) idea of bringing bubbles paid off 10x its cost through the magical joy the Lanten kids expressed at these colorful, floating delights. We starting blowing bubbles too and for hours these kids couldn’t get enough. They thought our camera’s were pretty cool too, but it was as if bubbles were the best thing to come from Western culture for these children. Who knows, maybe they’re right! After that, the kids proceeded to play ‘tag’ and ‘boys chase the girls’ in the river sand naked, which was pretty funny, but nice to see that, although worlds apart, kids are still kids whatever circumstances you grow up in. Sometimes bubbles bring more joy than a Ferrari (if anyone wants to trade, I’m game).

(Our lunch) That night, our group had some very interesting conversations about Bhutan, with the one outsider who trekked with our group. From idolizing and creating religious statues and staffs of penis’, to over-the-top religious imagery (in temples) involving ‘sky-clad’ demi-gods ridings flaming tigers to earth, it sounds like a very…’interesting’ culture. Bhutans form of Buddhism has embraced the very toungue-in-cheek religious teachings of a famous Divine Madman, yet take these as completely serious. After two hours of fireside explanations, I think most came out more confused than not.

After a night of wonderful sleeping (for some), we all awoke to the heavenly song of roosters bright and early at 6am. We were treated to some famous Laotian tea or coffee (both very good) then trekked our way to where the vans were set to meet us. After my run-in with some leeches (we defeated them valiantly), we finally made it across the river, through the woods, and into the clear.

A beautiful taste of Laos, a lovely sup of nature, and a quaff of humbling, back-to-basics living left everyone in this group very happy to have been able to partake of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The guest lodge we stayed at the night before our trekking.

permalink written by  JohnJack_Crestani on February 15, 2009 from Luang Prabang, Laos
from the travel blog: I Meet the SouthEast
tagged Laos, JackCrestani, Johncrestani, Namtha, Lanten, Animist and Bhutan

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Luang Prabang and My Life as a Human Windshield

Luang Prabang, Laos

It all started in Luang Prabang. As the past capital of Laos and the French colonial capital, Luang Prabang is a small city with gorgeous architecture, a lively cultural life, and surrounded by plenty of natural beauty. Although in spite of all this natural beauty, I still managed to get myself into quite a bit of trouble, my clothes stolen, my motorbikes tire popped, and my camera memory cards lost in the netherworld.

Let me begin with the architecture. It is stunning and a welcome relief in an otherwise crippled third-world country. The french district (and tourist/nice area) of Luang Prabang lies between on a small but dense peninla between the mighty Mekong River and the Dam Thiong River.

In this area lies the royal palace, riverside resorts and beautiful gardened hotels, all for around 10-15 bucks a night. The first night our Pacific Discovery tour group got in we all went to their famous night market, where vendors sold everything from bracelets to tribal purses, and from spring rolls to bottles of rice wine with a dead cobra floating inside (really). Quite interesting although I still opted to spend my Kip on getting a much-needed massage ($5/hr, rediculous right?). One of the better experiences I had in Luang was playing pickup soccer with the local Laotian guys, it wasn't any different than back home, except the Laotians arent nearly as dirty players as you get in LA.

Clean air flying in your face, wonderful relics of nature in all directions, and complete freedom to ride; I love the open road. The fun started the next day when I decided to rent a motorbike ($20/day) and travel around the Lao locales with my friend who-will-not-be-named. It started off great, the excitement of riding, a gorgeous waterfall we wandered upon and open road in all directions. That was until the bike started shaking at 60 km/hr and I realized I had a flat. Not good when your in the middle of a foreign country, dont speak the language, the bikeshop owner has your passport, and you have the complexion of a walking-wallet. Shit. "Sabadee, You know where bike shop is?", I motion at the woman to my bike tire with my hands, make a circle and then do a popping sound. I hope this works. She smiles and gestures to the unreadable laotian sign and...biketires above the shop. It turns out I ended up right in front of a motorscooter repair shop. "1 broken chair - $5, 1 Laobeer - $1.50, 1 Coffee - $1.50, 1 Motorbike fix - $3" read the receipt. This is crazy I thought, I'm the man. Best...Luck...Ever.

And it just got better. After another 40 minutes of riding far out in the country we stopped for lunch at what looked to be a randomly placed touristarea, and chanced upon another waterfall, and it happened to be the tallest in all of SE Asia! SCORE! Things could just not get better, I really am the man! The Kuang Si waterfall is not only the tallest in SE Asia, but contains numerous natural springs, garden-of-Eden-gorgeous grounds, an Asiatic Black bear rescue center, swimming areas and rope-swings. A must-see location in Laos. After taking advantage of all of this, and after rope-swinging for a few, I return to put back on my underwear, shorts and shirt...although they are now gone.
Shit. Somebody stole them, it was near dusk, and it was a ways back to the hotel in Luang Prabang. I was a shirtless human windshield for the 40 minutes, complete with having to wipe-out flies trapped in beard every other minute. I was even less happy after the girl I traveled with told me she accidentally lost my trips worth of photos she-doesnt-know-where. SHIT.

Well life is a series of ups-and-downs, but seriously, that many in one day?! I arrived in Vietnam two days ago and just finished a 2 day trek of the tallest mountain in SE Asia, Mt. Fan Xi Pan (Mt. Fancypants) at 11,000 feet high. Blog on that soon. I hope everyone is doing well, and until next time.

-- John 'Jack' Crestani

Another example of French-Lao architecture

The gardened grounds of our hotel in Luang Prabang, the Xiang Muong Guest House.

Our flight on Valentines Day from Luang Prabang to Hanoi, where we would board a bus to Sa Pa Village between the dramatic Cat Cat mountains in Northern Vietnam.

permalink written by  JohnJack_Crestani on February 17, 2009 from Luang Prabang, Laos
from the travel blog: I Meet the SouthEast
tagged Waterfall, Laos, LuangPrabang, JackCrestani, Johncrestani and KuangSi

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