Last Days in Laos

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One last stomach-turning six hour trip through the mountains brought us back to Luang Prabang, a city we were not anticipating seeing again for many years. It felt good, to step foot back in a favorite city where no map was needed to navigate, it’s as close to a homecoming as we can get abroad.
Plus, we were granted a clear (well, mostly) day to visit the waterfalls we missed out on last time. It was well worth the wait, the clear weather allowed us to swim in the turquoise swimming holes and traverse the muddy terrain with mishap. That is, until it did rain. But we managed to beat it for the most part, and in the rainy season that’s about all you can hope for. At least we’re accepting rain does not assure a ruined day, it simply means you might have to wait under an overhang for a bit until it stops. Continue reading

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Plain of Jars and a New Direction

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We knew when we were in Bangkok our plans moving forward would likely change. And thus far in every country we’ve either subtly or dramatically altered our plans. Laos in particular has been nothing like we expected. We had planned to bypass Vang Vieng, but we’re glad we didn’t. We were going to go to the capital city of Vientiane, but after travelers reporting it was really quite boring we opted to head instead to the Plain of Jars in eastern Laos. The plan was to then take the road to Vietnam. We knew it wood be arduous, but weren’t prepared for the complete lack of information or even conflicting information. If we weren’t on a tight schedule through Vietnam we would probably just go for it. But we want to optimize our time in Vietnam. The trade off is security at the sacrifice of some serious funds and likely a few tours/activities. It was the hardest decision we’ve made on the trip so far, and we’re still a bit sad about it. Both because we blew nearly a weeks worth of funds on the overpriced last minute tickets, but also because we felt like we were copping out. We were spending money instead of being adventurous when in all likelihood it would have been fine. We just don’t have good luck with busses, and didn’t want to risk it. And although it’s bitter sweet at least we get to go back to Luang Prabang, our favorite city in Laos and maybe get a second chance at seeing those waterfalls we missed last time! Continue reading

Vang Vieng for the Non Party Goer

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Oh Vang Vieng, for all your natural beauty you’ve certainly developed a bad reputation of late. Just google the name and articles regarding the annual death and injury count are abundant. Even better youtube it. It’s a backpacker right of passage, to rent a tube and bob your way down the river. Not so bad, given the stunning scenery of impossibly high green saturated lime stone cliffs that make this a postcard perfect destination. But because it’s a developing country with limited regulations, and because some young backpackers have a inclination toward debauchery it has become something akin to a non stop rave. Enter a bar on “the island” and you’ll be handed two menus. One is the regular one, the other, your choice of illicit drug. Everything is available here. So you combine no regulations, cheap and plentiful beer and drugs, a river, and your bound to get more than a few injuries. Every year people die here. It’s a wonder it still exists. Locals, in an attempt to capitalize on their sleepy town turned frat party destination have erected zip lines, rope swings, diving platforms, and the appropriately named “slide of death.” Resulting in intoxicated teenagers and twenty something’s to plummet into shallow water where sharp rocks are plentiful. And then, there are bars all along the river offering free buckets of liquor, or food, or anything to keep you drunk and spending money. Every corner you can buy a tee shirt that indicates your survival, and “necessary” completion of this legendary activity.

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Luang Prabang in Monsoon

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We narrowly escaped another downpour. And by downpour, I mean a thick, blanketing, vision obscuring, cacophonous affair that would render you soaked before you could take a step towards safety.
We were supposed to go to a waterfall today, and while it’s slightly disappointing we wont have such an opportunity, sitting inside a cafe drinking thick, dark Lao coffee and watching temples in the distance disappear behind a veil of rain isn’t so bad either. This is monsoon, after all. In exchange for lower prices and less tourists we must accept the occasional sequestering to cafes and disrupted plans. There will be many more waterfalls to be seen.

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