Laos, Vietnam · 14 Days · 23 Moments · October 2017

Life in Laos 05.10.2017 - 19.10.2017

20 October 2017

Just a couple of amusing things we learnt in Laos... 1. Police don't work on Sundays, they have the day off. So watch your belongings as it's basically a free ticket to do what you want!! 2. The government didn't pay the electricity bill for 3 months so the street lights were switched off meaning it was pitch black in the evenings! 3. Police don't really get involved with anything unless they can get money from you. You can basically pay the police off for anything!

18 October 2017

Our last night in Laos. We went down to the Mekong River where we saw the sunset. The land the other side of the river is Thailand which encouraged us to reminisce about our time there. The sunset was beautiful, very bright and a lovely way to end our final day. Once the sun sets a zumba class starts next to the river, a lovely view as you're working out. On our walk back to our hotel we heard a band playing a Coldplay song so we thought we would check it out and it was preparations for Oktoberfest which is in a few days. Who'd have thought they have Oktoberfest in Laos?!
The journey to Buddha Park deserves it's own post. Buddha Park is about 30km out of the town centre and the roads in Laos aren't the best!! Potholes galore and a serious lack of tarmac as you can see. The tuk tuk driver stopped several times on route to buy fruit, have a drink and to have a wee at the side of the road!!! We bounced around like nobodies business attached to the back of a moped with a few pieces of wood! We made it nonetheless and saw some locals going about their daily lives which is always nice. We also saw lots of cows and goats just wandering across the road. The pictures don't really do the roads justice but trust us when we say they are pretty horrendous!
Today was our last full day in Laos so once we collected our passports and visas 🍾👍 we headed to Buddha Park. This was a pretty quirky place with a range of different statues.

17 October 2017

So today has been fun... NOT! It has consisted of us trying to get our Visa for Vietnam sorted. We wanted a 30 day visa which requires us to apply before arriving and also paying in US dollars. But in a country which accepts either Lao Kip or USD could we get USD anywhere? No, that would be too simple. Once at the Vietnam Embassy we filled in the necessary paperwork and gave them our passport photos. Playing dumb to the USD and trying to pay in KIP, their exchange rate was laughable so the challenge of finding USD was on! Of course you exchange 2,000,000kip at the 'Morning Market' nothing dodgy about that?! By this time it was 11.30 and they close for 2 hours for lunch, bloody typical. So we wasted 2 hours walking up and down before finally being able to pay for our Visas. We are hopefully collecting them tomorrow morning which means we can then fly on Thursday. Wish us luck!! P.s Laura had a lovely pad thai tonight, too bad it hit the bowl of the toilet faster then it did digesting it

16 October 2017

COPE & MAG. Over the last 2 days we have visited both of these visitor centres to learn more about the bombing on Laos during the Vietnam War. Laos is the most heavily bombed country per capita in the world. They have calculated that bombs were dropped every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day for 9 years. 240million cluster bombs were estimated to have been dropped but could be more. A third of these did not detonate at the time meaning about 80million clusters are still active decades after the war finished. The 2 charities we visited are working so incredibly hard with the worst hit provinces and sadly these are the poorest provinces in the country. Many bombies are detonated by children playing with them thinking they are toys or by families making fires over the ground in which they lay. They cause devastation to individuals, families and communities. MAG work to clear areas where bombies are found making them safer. COPE work to help the injured by providing prosthetics and rehabilitation.
Patuxai Victory Monument This building resembles the Arc d'Triomphe in Paris. The French influence is very clear in the architecture of this building, very different to the traditional Asian buildings we have been seeing. It was built in 1962 but unfortunately it has never been fully completed. Parts of it up close looked pretty unloved which is a real shame as from a distance it appears so grand. We paid 6,000kip to climb to the top of the building where we could get some nice views of the city.

15 October 2017

My day has been made!! Receiving these wonderful pictures from Tay over Facebook, his little brother enjoying the book Kyle and I bought for him. It's the small things in life 💛 To top it all off he also sent a voice clip of his brother saying thank you so much!! Heart literally bursting 💚

13 October 2017

Tubing in Vang Vieng...could we get more touristy?! We were both pretty dubious about tubing as you hear lots of horror stories but we thought, we really should do it while we are here. So we did. We met our friends Ffion & Ryan and we spent the afternoon tubing down the Nam Song River. We stopped off at a bar where we were all given a shot of Lao Vodka, petrol sprung to mind, it literally burned your lips and throat! Kyle and Ryan started to play basketball until Kyle slipped over and basically lost his little toe nail! Literally 50 tubers came to our bar, half of them so drunk they couldn't get out the water & one bloke as he slipped over on the bamboo raft decided to bring me down with him! Then back to the river where we continued floating with the current, watching out for the rocks & the locals splashing us with water. We then met Ffion & Ryan for dinner where we had a lovely last meal in Vang Vieng. Off to Vientiane tomorrow, the capital of Laos.

12 October 2017

First we visited 'Water Cave' we didn't really know what to expect all we knew was that we would be tubing (floating in big rubber rings). It wasn't until we saw the water that we knew what we had got ourselves into. Can you see a cave in the side of the rock? Well there is one and that's how we got into the cave. Kyle took lots of photos and videos on his go pro so unfortunately we can't upload them on here. We basically were in a cave, sat in a rubber ring and we pulled ourselves along a rope which took us though the small, dark cave. We then went kayaking down the Nam Song River. The current was pretty strong which was great as it made our job easier until it chucked it down! Torrential rain, probably the heaviest yet, whilst kayaking - great!!! Nevertheless we saw some stunning scenery and it reminded Kyle of the film King Kong! We were very glad that we invested in an ocean bag which kept our valuables dry!

11 October 2017

Another early start for us today as we left Luang Prabang for Vang Vieng. We had a '4 hour' bus journey in front of us which turned into 6 hours! Lots of winding mountain roads covered in thick fog and debris from lots of land slides made this journey somewhat tricky. At one point I literally couldn't look and Kyle's face 😮 said it all!! We drove through some beautiful scenery which was very different to that in Thailand. It looked like the Scottish highlands not South East Asia. We also drove past what we think were army barracks despite being bamboo huts as men in military uniform were cleaning guns. It's times like these that your glad you have a local driver!! We safely arrived in Vang Vieng, we have 3 days here and we think that will be plenty! Very touristy so hoping to get out of town tomorrow for some laid back exploring!

10 October 2017

So last night at the night market we spotted the founder of Big Brother Mouse selling dual language books (Laos and English). We couldn't resist and I bought a non-fiction book about SeaLife and Kyle bought a story about a buffalo (they love buffalo here!). This morning we decided to try and find the children we worked with yesterday to give them their very own books. The girl in Kyle's group was back at the charity this morning practicing her English again. And the 11year old novice monk from my group was at monk school so I couldn't see him. But after walking in the rain we found his older brother who is going to pass the book on for us. Both were extremely grateful for something which in England is just a given! The novice monk also wants to add us on Facebook- we love that!!
We woke at 5am this morning and walked down to the town centre to witness 'The giving of the alms'. Locals cook food as an offering to the monks and novice monks who then walk along the street in a meditative state at dawn collecting the offerings. These offerings are in essence their lunch however if they collect a lot they will share it with children and or families who cannot afford food. It was a very peaceful experience however some of the tourists were rather annoying with their flash photography and hot pants. When it states that both these things are offensive! Also a couple of them practically put themselves in the parade in order to get a 'good' photo. Despite this it was still great to see a Laos tradition!

9 October 2017

The culture in Laos is hard to describe we can only go for weird and wonderful. There is a real fusion between Asian culture, the night markets and street food and French culture, boutique hotels, cafes and bakeries. The stool we ate at last night was 15,000kip (just over £1) for one bowl which you could fill up as much as you want but just the one time. Obviously Kyle saw this as a challenge but it defeated us both. My attempt was embarrassing!! The last picture shows a beautiful strip, what we call the posh bit where slightly older visitors stay, a vintage car and twinkly lights. We have definitely enjoyed our time in Luang Prabang!
Unfortunately we don't have any pictures of this morning's activity as we were both busy and enjoyed it so much. We went to a charity called Big Brother Mouse in Luang Prabang. This is a charity which is hoping to turn Laos from a country that can't read to a country that can. It provides books to children as many village children have never seen a book let alone own one! We went along and spoke English to local children and teenagers who come along to improve their English. They can borrow books like a library from there too! I had 3 novice monks in my group who were inspiring with their dedication and willingness to learn and improve. Kyle had a large group of girls who discussed films and music with enthusiasm. These children openly state that to make something of themselves they need to speak English and therefore they are doing everything in their power to do so! They were keen to show their ability to read and would ask us to help them when they got stuck. We loved every second!
We grabbed lunch in a lovely cafe and met this gorgeous girl!! We hope you like the family photo, Kyle won't let me bring her back to England though 😣 Then we went to the UXO museum where we learnt all about the unexploded devices left from the Vietnam War which were dropped by the Americans.The effect these bombs and bombies have is truly chilling. We both left pretty gobsmacked after seeing some horrendous physical injuries and staggering figures. These UXOs are still injuring and killing people today despite the war being finished for decades!

8 October 2017

Sunset in Luang Prabang. We climbed Mount Phousi, more a hill than a mountain! But in the heat it was still a mission. It was ram packed with tourists as expected but once the sun set they all left so we could enjoy the views in the dark without the crowds! The night market also looked pretty from above too!
Laos culture.... Some Laos children despite having nothing and we mean nothing are some of the happiest children we have ever seen. They get hours of amusement out of an empty bottle, or an empty cigarette packet (pretended it was a mobile phone). Some of the sights in the local village have been quite a shock to us. Families with literally nothing, made us feel pretty greedy to be honest. Here are a few snaps of some people going about their lives in Laos.
Wow what a hidden gem this was. The owner of our hostel told us about this restaurant for lunch. The locals go to it and there were no other tourists, heaven!! You sit on bamboo rafts and the locals, especially the children, are playing and having fun in the water. Locals here come together as a big family to enjoy food and each other's company. The most magical place.
You all know by now that we enjoy a waterfall! So yesterday we went exploring this beautiful place... Kuang Si Waterfall!! The water was crystal blue due to the limestone particles from the rocks. There was a very heavy rainstorm the night before so the waterfall was full of water and very powerful! We climbed behind the waterfall into the tiniest cave but having the water falling on your head is such a wonderful experience. The water was very cold but extremely refreshing which is just what we need in Laos. It's not as humid as Thailand but it's much hotter in the sun.

6 October 2017

Fire Boat Festival... Lai Heua Fai 🛶🔥 Our first night in Luang Prabang has been lovely and we feel as though we have had a real glimpse into the culture of Laos. Every family makes their own boat which is then put in the Mekong River and they all float down. There is a competition for the best boats. We saw these floating down the River tonight and it was great! At the temples there are hundreds of lanterns which are being lit by monks, families and children. A real sense of community and a nice relaxed feel. Looking forward to our next 3 weeks here!! Also look at that chocolate banana cake!! It cost 8000kip (sounds like a lot but it's only 73p). So delicious! I think we might adapt nicely to the French influence in Laos. Lots of bakeries, cafes and cake 🐷
We called STA many times, not looking forward to seeing my phone bill! But still no luck so we decided to go to bed and try the card tomorrow when we get to a bigger town seeing as we were staying in the smallest/ dodgiest village either of us have ever seen. It consisted of one road which when you walked along you were constantly being asked if you want drugs. Pak Beng we will not be returning anytime soon. Day 2 on the boat, beautiful scenery! Children playing in the water, locals farming and fishing and a lovely breeze! We were rather sleepy and had 8 hours in front of us on the water. But reading our books and a few sudokus passed the time nicely. We then arrived in Luang Prabang where a parade was going through the town. Students from the local university had a large Chinese Dragon and an Air Asia model plane. We're not sure why this was happening but it was quite a nice way to start our Laos adventures. Let's see what Laos has to offer... P.s. we've found a cashmachine that works
After a rather eventful 48hours we have safely arrived in our second destination... Laos!! We took a slow boat along the Mekong River from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang which has taken 2 days! The first day on the slow boat took 7 hours where we saw lots of buffalo in the water and we were surrounded by hills full of dense greenery. We got chatting to a few different people and ended up playing some games to pass the time. We arrived at Pak Beng at 5pm where we then had the joy of finding accommodation for the night. We were bombarded with offers and a 12 year old boy (definitely on drugs) put his hand in my bag to try and take food and then ran off with another girls Pad Thai. We found some accommodation for the night which was clean and had air con. The local children were out in the street playing with fireworks (not sparklers, full blown fireworks). To top it all off neither Kyle nor I could get any money out on our cards they both stopped working! TBC...