Tuesday, July 05, 2005

kop chai lai lai

Yes, I really haven't talked enough about the wonders of Lao. It is an incredibly beautiful and yet strange country. Luang Prabang is a gorgeous town heavy with French influence, right down to the cafes along the Mekong, and yet also resplendent with wats in a similar style to those in Thailand. The most obvious French influences are in the coffee, which is strong and dark, and the baguette that comes with so many meals. After so long without bread in any form, these are a welcome treat. A baguette with fried eggs is a breakfast of champions.

One of the highlights of Lao so far has to be the waterfall about an hour outside Luang Prabang. We took a tuktuk out there, and something I have now learnt is to not look at where you are driving, because the speed at which the driver whips around blind corners is rather scary, to say the least. Still, we surveyed both the journey there and the journey back (although there was an unfortunate accident involving a chicken) and also a great hike up to the top. Of course it turned out there was an easy path up, but we took the veritable scramble which ruined my oh-so-lovely havainas and gave me umpteen bruises. Still once at the top there was a fantastic swimming hole with a couple of different jumping off points - a nice easy one which was about 3m high, and then a more challenging 5m one. I did end up jumping from the 5m, but it took a long time to psyche myself up. I wasn't helped by the crew of Israelis who were chanting "jump jump jump" - it seems I don't perfom well under pressure. Once they left it was easy enough to propel myself into the water.

The bus ride from Luang Prabang to Vang Vien was a fastastic insight into Lao life. The Lonely (aah - traveller speak - referring to the Lonely Planet as the Lonely) has one of those little boxes warning of the dangers of route 13, but still, what are you going to do? Riding along I saw countless chickens and pigs wandering hamlets, along with groups of kids with few to no clothes on, usually peeing in the road. To top it off, boys aged 14 and up would be walking along the road with AK-47s strapped to their back. There was also a kid on the bus with one, but I was reliably informed that it was missing the vital ammunition holder, and therefore was nothing to really worry about. Great.

And so we have settled in Vang Vien for the next few days. I am still travelling with Ori, and we are trapped here for the next couple of days whilst we wait for our Vietnamese visas. Still, its a nice place to be trapped - plenty of things to do, if you like the great outdoors. The landscape is blow your socks off amazing - wild limestone karsks rear out of the landscape, covered with dense forest. Yesterday we took a caving and kayaking trip. I have found a sport I am fairly confident in saying that I don't want to be doing again - just not a caving kinda gal. Especially since I nearly got swept down river and a Ori had to grab my lifejacket. However, the kayaking was a total blast, and we didn't even tip over. This is a good thing, in that we were being trusted with cameras and wallets.

Vang Vien is also a little bizarre in that there are a couple of places which just show "Friends" back to back for what seems 24hrs a day. Its like living in a strange vortex. Today's going to be a chilling out day, so I'm sure to be sick of the kerazy six by the end of it. Once that happens, it will be time for Ori to watch Star Wars for the first time. How can a 25 year old not have seen Star Wars? A situation that needs to be rectified if ever there was one. Luckily, to help me I have Josh, who travelled through the islands with when I arrived in Thailand, and he is a man dedicated to the cause if ever there was one, even getting soaked up to his knees last night in a vain effort to fix the sound system on a tv. A bar which was partially submerged - quel Lao.


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