Laos · 28 Days · 160 Moments · January 2019

Laos...2019...January 24th to February 22nd

20 February 2019

Our last night in Laos. The hand grenade ash tray. BBQ Pork & wonton soup... delicious.
A beautiful day.
The Buddhist Monestry is part of the complex.
The museum surrounds the stupa.
The Pha That Luang is a large gold covered Buddhist stupa. It is thought that it was first established in the 3rd Century but has undergone several reconstructions due to invasions of the area.
The Buddhist Temple and ancient Bodhi tree (brought from India in 2500BC by a Laos Patriarch) near the Pha That Luang Stupa.
The World Peace Gong. Chicken salad for lunch.
The elephant sculpture made from crockery.. . fantastic.
The stairwell in the tower as well as more details of the ceiling & an inner wall detail. Opium pipes & ivory for sale in one of the towers shops.
The view from the tower, taken from many of the 7 floors.
Beautiful reflections & fountains. Watching the models, the enterage & the tuktuk driver's around the tower.
The stunningly beautiful ceiling....
We walk Lane Xang Avenue (the Laos Champs Elysees) toward Patuxai (the Laos Arc de Triumphe).

19 February 2019

After eating an amazing Spicy Chicken Salad with sticky rice, we walk toward the Mekong River past the sunflower & vege gardens & we find some new animated friends.
Looking out the windows of the pumpkin....
Entering the 3 story pumpkin through it's mouth... & a stunning view over the whole complex from the roof of the pumpkin.
There are over 200 statues....
The details are incredible....
I feel so small....
A lovely water feature adds another dimension...
The gardens are beautiful as well...
Indra is the head of the Hindu goods who rides a three headed elephant.
Such huge statues....
BUDDAH PARK..... Built in 1958 by Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat, a monk who studied both Buddhism & Hinduism.
On the way to the bus station...

18 February 2019

An evening on the river front with locals exercising & the busy night market.
Chao Anouvong (1767-1829) led the Laos Rebellion as the last monarch of the Kingdom of Vientiane. The Lao people make offerings to his statue. Some very creative wiring.
A walk around Vientiane...with the Presidential Palace at one end of The Lan Xang (Laos Champ Ellysee) & Patuxai at the other (Laos Arc de Triomphe).

17 February 2019

We went to the huge Night Market. Locals enjoyed the sugar cane juice.
We take a walk at the waterfront and see Thailand over the Mekong River. Locals exercise as the sun goes down.
VIENTIANE... Monks doing maintenance on the Wat..... wow, look at the power lines.
We have our last walk down by the river before catching a bus from Vang Vieng to Vientiane.

16 February 2019

We watch the Hot Air Balloons rising as we relax on our balcony.

15 February 2019

Out for a night of dancing with Luis & Squeak, our mascots.
A delicious Korean meal of Tofu Jelly Soup with 10 tapa size dishes of condiments. After dinner we for a walk down by the river and watch the lanterns rising into the sky.
The scenery is stunning. We have to negotiate a couple of small rapids. The most amazing day in paradise.
We see people Zipline over the river. We have water fights with the kayakers.
Such a relaxing day.
We stop at a couple of bars on the way for a Beerlao.
OUR TUBING ADVENTURE......We are taken 4km up the Nam Song River at 10am, given a couple if tractor tyre tubes and told we have to return them by 8pm.
I eat the most delicious chicken, avocado, fried onion & garlic baguette for breakfast from one of the ladies at the sandwich/lotee/fruit shake/burger stand, while watching the locals heading to work.

14 February 2019

Dinner time on the banks of the Nam Song. Raw prawns with chilli for me, firey & delicious.
Such a buzzy town, much to do, so much to see.
Walking along Vang Viengs river banks.

13 February 2019

We head up the road to have dinner by the Name Song river.
We walk a few doors down from the bar and find accommodation at Central Backpackers, which to me looks more like a hotel. The sign posted on our deck. Our great view of the kastes.
We arrive in Vang Vieng and our first stop is the Rasta Bar where we are offered this unusual menu. I love the Sarawak poster. When we walk out of the bar we see two Hot Air Balloons rising above the town.
This morning we witness the Monks collecting their alms while eating breakfast, then we take a 7hr minivan trip from Phonsavanh to Vang Vieng. We pass Patty fields & kaste mountains and see children heading home from school holding umbrellas to keep the sun off.

12 February 2019

We go to Nish's Indian Restaurant for a delicious meal. I had Fried Dahl & Garlic Nan and Janene had Tofu Masala & Garlic Roti... Yum.
NAPIA SPOON VILLAGE..... the villagers can make up to 1000 spoons a day out of aluminium collected from downed aircraft & shrapnel that litters their land. Locals simply melt it in a ladel over a wood fired stone oven & pour it into ash coated wooden moulds .
SITE 3....this site is a 2km walk over a wooden bridge, through rice paddies and up a hill. The 150 jars are near the village of Ban Xieng Di which has a small monestry. A sign here informed visitors that NZAid funded the clearance of UXO's from this area.
I enjoy time alone here.
.... but for me the most stunning site was on the adjacent hill of Site 2. The jars we're scattered amongst the trees, some covered in moss... a couple of the trees had grown through and split jars apart.
The views from one hilltop over the surrounding countryside was great.....
SITE 2.... About 90 jars spread across two adjacent hillsides.
This natural limestone cave has 2 man-made holes in it's roof along with burnt bone fragments, charcoal & other grave goods, which led French archiologist Madelain Caloni to believe that it was used as a crematorium. The cave was also used as a shelter during the Indochina war. Trenches, foxholes, tank hides & if course the bomb craters attest to this.
SITE 1.... The largest site which has over 300 jars, most of which weigh from 600kg to 1 tonne each. The one that looks like it has a lid, actually has a ground grave marker on top. Many of the jars have several underground graves around them which are marked by either white quartzite rocks or these disk 'gravestones'. Bones, teeth, charcoal and glass beads have been found in the jars while, additionally pottery, metal & Stone objects have been found in the graves around them.
THE PLAIN OF JARS... represents a huge area of Xieng Khang Province, scattered with thousands of limestone jars dating back to between 500 BC to 500 AD. They are thought to be funerary urns. There are 160 sites of which only 3 are UXO cleared & so can be visited. SITE 1...I am standing next to the largest jar which weighs approximately 6 tonnes & is said to have been the victory cup of mythical King Jeuam, and so is called Hai Jeuam.

11 February 2019

A collection of decommissioned UXO's. Between 1964 & 1973, the USA conducted the largest sustained aerial bombardment in history, flying 580334 missions over Laos & dropping 2 million tonnes of bombs, costing US$2.2 million a day (a bombing mission every 8 minutes, 24hrs/day for 9 years).There have been 50000 casualties since the war ended because 30% of the bombs failed to detonate when dropped.
Walking around the town we see street art and older traditional houses alongside new plastered brick buildings. We saw this beautiful butterfly at our Guesthouse.
... there are pig snouts & ears, sheep entrails & eyeballs, dried goods including turtle Shell's and tonnes of rice.
At the market we see fermented Swifts, Bamboo Rats & bats. We see a huge area covered in fruit, vege & noodles....
This dusty old town has a rugged charm, it was hastily rebuilt after being decimated by US bombs during the Secret War.
In Phonsavan, stoic locals make the most of decommissioned unexploded ordnance (UXO's), using them to decorate their houses & business'

10 February 2019

The 10 hour , 260km bus trip from Luang Prabang to Phonsavan was slow & painful. I was squashed into the back seat so that I couldn't move an inch, (the guy in front of me ended up sleeping on my legs).

9 February 2019

For dinner I had fried spring rolls & Mango Lasi, Janene had Or Larm, then we went out to a Story telling, where traditional stories were told accompanied by traditional music, it was great.
Then we return to Luang Prabang over the Nam Khan River & relax by the Mekong for a while.
... and this is what we saw.... the woman is making & drying rice cakes.
We head over Bamboo Bridge, ( which is rebuilt every year after the rainy season ), to explore what's on the other side of the Nam Khan River....
The mosaics around the whole site are incredible.
Fronted in lavish gilt work, the Hohng Keep Mien stores a ceremonial carriage designed to carry the golden funeral urns of the Lap Royalty. It also houses many artifacts sacred to the Bhuddists.
The complex contains 3 chapel halls called 'hor'.
Wat Xieng Thong is Luang Prabang's best known monestry which is centered on a 1560 sim, with it's stunning 'Tree of Life' mosaic set on it's Western exterior wall.
Meat drying in the sun & a woman heading off to sell her dried river weed .
.... pig skin, rice porridge, and Mekong River fish of all shapes & sizes. As well as the most amazing fresh fruit and veggies & pancakes and fruit juice.
The morning food market.... bats, garden snails, river snails, smoked fish, buffalo hide for stewing, kingfishers & sparrows to BBQ....

8 February 2019

....Luang Prabang is such a picturesque place.
We wander back through town, admiring the French Colonial architecture, the bamboo bridge & the Mekong River...
.... we follow the Mekong, passing a cave, sleeping Monks & villagers going about their daily lives before catching the ferry back to Luang Prabang.
.... we enjoy exploring....
On the other side we wander past the local market & through the village....
We catch the vehicle ferry across the Mekong River ....
The views of the town & the Mekong River from the top are lovely and the monestry is very peaceful with shrines & statues nestled amongst the trees & rocks. There is a little cave that is reported to contain Bhudda's footprint.
... through the monestry up to the viewpoint on Phu Si Hill in the center of town. We climb the 329 steps 100m up the hill.
Walking through Luang Prabang.....

7 February 2019

Another Mekong sunset & an evening in the Old Quarter.
A nice walk down to the river.

6 February 2019

The mascots Squirt (aka Loui) & Squeak meet a new friend, an old wooden bear who came with the room.
.... then we go to the night market.
We sit on the banks of the Mekong River and watch the sunset....
CThere are 2 bamboo bridges that cross the Nam Khan River before it flows into the Mekong. They are washed away every year when the river floods then are rebuilt by the locals. The posts are weighed down with bags of rocks.
There are many charming little alleyways & stalls sell their wares along the Mekong River waterfront.
The Old Quarter has many French Colonial era buildings. There are bakeries selling French pastries, coissants & bagettes.
We walk to a short distance to Bou Pha Guesthouse, passing some temples on the way. We stay in the UNESCO listed Old Quarter, our room is very large & it has an ensuite .
We pose on a motor that was used during the Vietnam War.
We wake up to another misty morning then catch a minivan from Nong Khiaw to Liang Prabang. Then we take a tuk tuk from the bus station to the Old Quarter.

5 February 2019

A walk around Nong Khiaw, over the French Colonial Bridge, then relaxing by the river.

4 February 2019

We pose for photos next to a bomb shell, a Beerlao sign & a papaya tree. We book our bus ticket to Luang Prabang, the seat at the ticket office is made from a bomb shell casing & 2 Beerlao crates. The map shows the Chinese dams on the Mekong & it's tributaries.
We watch the boat builders as we sit by the river.
This morning we have breakfast overlooking the Nam Ou River then catch the boat back to Nong Khiaw.

3 February 2019

Muang Ngoi in the evening.
.... stopping on the way for a game of petanque. The map shows our walk.
Then we start heading back to town....
We have lunch here, looking out over the paddy fields & kastes. I have a Laos Papaya Salad which is delicious but quite different from the Thai version.
We walk to Ban Na Village.
The limestone kastes, paddy fields & the river all offer a stunning Vista.
These caves were used as bomb shelters by the local tribes during the Vietnam War.
We explore Tham Kang & Tham Pha Kaew Caves.
This morning we head through town, down the main Street, toward the misty hills. We cross over a wooden bridge and see a stoney construction in the river that looks like it could be a fish trap.

2 February 2019

After dinner we head home. We see some of the local transport & another weaving loom.
We watch the boats on the river below us as the sun sets.
The sunset from the restaurant deck is amazing....
After checking in we take the short walk back to the waterfront for dinner. We see a local woman weaving.
Muang Ngoi is a small riverside village wedged between mountainous limestone kastes & the confluence of the Nam Ngoi & Nam Ou rivers. This area was heavily bombed by the US during the Vietnam War (as was most of Laos) & bomb casings are now used as garden ornaments. We check into Achudara Guesthouse, a private room with ensuit in a nice garden.
We see local people going about their business on & beside the river, whether it be gardening, fishing or transporting goods.
Water buffalo wallow in the river to cool off.
The 1.5hr trip up the river is stunning.
Next morning we head down to the boat landing to take a local narrow boat upstream on the Nam Ou River to Muang Ngoi.

1 February 2019

Back to our restaurant for happy hour, majitos... buy 1 get 1 free & more Beerlao on the deck.
The sunset over the river with the limestone kastes as a backdrop is stunning.
We stand on the bridge to watch the sunset.
Back home to enjoy a couple of Beerlao on our deck.
We see a water buffalo being led across the bridge. A view from the bridge back to our Guesthouse & Restaurant, our room is the closest on the right.
The properties & lifestyle seem simple but the locals look hardworking and happy.
We enjoy exploring the side streets & watching the local kids playing soccer.
From our deck we watch the mist rise over Nong Khiaw & then go for a walk around the town. We see raw materials being dried ready to be made into brooms destined for China & the local market.

31 January 2019

We book into Sunrise Guesthouse overlooking the Nam Ou River. Our deck looks onto the historic French Colonial bridge, the river & the towering limestone kastes. The restaurant downstairs has the same view.
We catch the local bus from Luang Namtha to Pakmong then a public van to Nong Khiew. We stop at a market on the way & pass many local villages as we cross over the ranges.

30 January 2019

Once we're home sweet home, back to Tai Dam Guesthouse... we clean up & head out for fun with the locals... we were having dinner & the shop next door was having a party so they invited us over... great fun dancing in the street.
Then it's time for a swim, another amazing lunch, a couple of kayak river crossings & transfer home...( with very sore feet. )
We head off from our camp for another day of tramping, 7km through beautiful jungle.

29 January 2019

Pon has caught us some fish as his helpers continue preparing dinner. The meal is delicious with spicy tomatoes, chilli raw fish paste, pumpkin & pork, the stuffed flowers, the BBQ fish & sticky rice.
The camp & our crew. Pon, his assistant & a man from the village start to prepare our dinner.
First we go for a swim....
We climb up & down steep jungle paths finally reaching an amazing view point then heading back down to our camp by the river... Day 1 we tramp a gruelling 12km.
We tramp through primary rainforest...
The woman is collecting poles to make a new pig sty. We pass rubber plantations. Pon shows us the villagers cotton plants & collects flowers that he stuffs with herby mince & BBQs for us for dinner. The spiders are big here.
The men are building a new house & the children are playing. The pigs, chickens, goats & dogs roam freely around the village.
We visit a Lanten Village.The woman sell their hand crafts & make bamboo paper.
Today, on a misty morning, we set off on a 2 day/1 night trek through Nam Ha National Protected Area 'NPA' with Pon (our guide), an Israeli couple & French Mother, son & friend. This NPA covers 240,000ha & 24% of the Namtha Province.

28 January 2019

We go to the huge local market.... I buy a coat

27 January 2019

We stop to buy a beer from a local shop before the last leg of our ride. The lovely shop owner named Gal shared his lunch with us.... Laab, greens & sticky rice.
We arrive back in Luang Namtha & I have Eggplant Jeow, a local ethnic dish made up of roasted eggplant dip with blanched veges & sticky rice, then a Pork Laab (minced pork with herbs & spices). We then head home & look at our view off the deck & watch the upside down half moon rise.
The local transportation...
We ride through local villages.
We sit down by the river, have a beer & watch the local woman doing their laundry.
We cross over a wooden swing bridge...
More of what we see on the ride... our beer shop, grazing buffelo, the beautiful blues of the sky and surrounding hills & greens of the paddy fields & trees.
We ride through paddy fields for many kilometers.
The Luang Namtha Stupa was completed in 2009. It was built with donations from the local people & government departments.
We ride to a rubber plantation owned by the Temple & harvested by monks. Income from the rubber plantation has been used to build the new temple next to the stupa.
We cycle 35km around the Luang Namtha Valley Route.

26 January 2019

Our accommodation in Luang Namtha, Tai Dum Guesthouse has lovely rooms with a bathroom & deck overlooking paddy fields & a fish pond....
We take a local bus from Huay Xai to Luang Namtha (180km), through beautiful ranges indispersed with paddy fields & thatched villages. The bus driver spent quite a lot of time on the wrong side of the road but it still took us 4 hours.

25 January 2019

.... & the Mekong by night.
More boats on the Mekong River & around Huay Xai during the day.. Peanuts drying on the footpath in the sun.

24 January 2019

The Thai /Laos overland boarder crossing from Chiang Khong to Huay Xai over the friendship bridge... Then sitting by the Mekong River from the opposite bank, we've done a lot of that from the Thai side