After a somewhat chaotic departure from the murky border town of Vinh, we finally arrived after 20 hours by bus to Vientiane in Laos. After the rather hectic Vietnam, we were surprised and delighted by the relaxed atmosphere on the streets. Few people, no honking, smiling faces – just wonderful! After an extremely sharp papaya salad we walked a bit along the Mekong River and enjoyed the spectacular sunset.ergang.
Since in the capital there was not much to see, we drove the next day further north, to Vang Vieng. This small town on the banks of the Nam Song River is famous for one thing, the so-called tubing. This leaves you in a big tire drifting down the river and having in between stops in one of the many “beach bars” in order to warm up again with some homemade rice liquor (Lao Lao). A very fun task, but unfortunately we had to realize that on the last two kilometers of the river there were no bars and the flow rate of the river greatly decreased. So we had to take action ourselves. In addition to the tubing, there were other highlights, most notably the exploration of a cave about two kilometers long, including an underground stream, which was an unforgettable experience.
Next we had Luang Prabang on our map, which was beautifully situated on the Mekong River. This old colonial city especially impressed with its ancient buildings and temples filled with orange-robed monks. Also ther were the most beautiful turquoise pools and waterfalls in a nearby park, where we swam in as well.
By bus, we then went further into the mountainous north and a after a one-hour boat trip, where we had to walk a mile because of low water, we reached the picturesque village of Muang Noi. There we were able to stay only one night due to time pressure before we went down the rapids in a leaking boat to catch our connecting bus.
As a final highlight of our Laos trip had a jungle hike to one of the many remote mountain villages in northern Laos on the program. In Luang Namtha we organized a group of eight and together we went off into the jungle. After a very difficult climb on the first day we reached the village and were impressed by the lifestyle of the Lahu, the ethnic tribe living there. Of course, we were the day’s event for the many children, but instead of candy there was writing materials and books handed out to children. We had to find out that except for the “chief” nobody spoke Lao and the children were not attending school. But anyway, the gifts were gladly accepted and luckily one of our fellows had brought a large pack balloons as well.
On the second day it was real jungle hike and we learned lots about the edibility of various plants. Likewise, for dinner in our jungle camp we had boiled banana flower and rattan. Very interesting and tasty! On the third day we hiked back to civilization, and played some petanque together with plenty of Lao Lao. Then our unfortunately too short a time in Laos was over and we traveled with a bus down to the Mekong to cross over to Thailand.