Category Archives: Laos

In Search of: A Kayaking Adventure

With a river like this literally steps outside my door, I simply couldn’t resist a possible river adventure.  And seeing as how number 2 on my bucket list had sort of been taunting me for months, I knew there was no time like the present.  Kayaking it was.

I signed up for a day-long kayaking trip with a guide and three others.  My new friends were all men.  It would seem not a lot of women were interested in trudging through knee-deep mud while pulling a surprisingly heavy kayak behind them.  And although I got one nasty spider bite on my foot before launching into the river, I must say — it was pretty freakin’ awesome.

Our first stop was at a village only accessible by water.  The village was surprisingly untouched by modernity and absolutely amazing.  Chickens wandering the roads, children climbing in trees, women cooking in homes with dirt floors.  The people were incredibly sweet and so welcoming.  But between my camera battery issues and not wanting to exploit the sweet people, I didn’t take any pictures.  No worries though; I won’t forget them.

After the village, we stopped at a waterfall for lunch.  We swam, we ate delicious Laos food, and we wandered.  In a word, it was perfection.  And although each prior day in Luang Prabang had been filled with rain, this day started perfectly sunshine filled.

And then I climbed a tree over the river, further covering myself in mud!

I wandered off down the path to see what I could see, which turned out to be lots of lush scenery and forest.  Of course, my new-found friends didn’t exactly appreciate me wandering off alone without mentioning where I was going.  But as you can see, all’s well that ends well.

After a couple of hours lounging by the falls, we set out back down the river.  It started to rain and suddenly seemed as if the world washed away.  It was just me, my guide and my three new friends.  Rapids caught two of them and flipped them over for a moment of excitement.  But other than that, the kayaking was serene.  And the day was quite perfect.

Also posted in Outdoor Adventures, Southeast Asia Tagged , |

In Search of: Some Rest for the Weary

Once upon a time in a land far away, a nervous girl stepped on an overnight bus in Vientiane, Laos headed to a land called Luang Prabang.  She was excited to go, but scared to be going it alone.  (It was her first solo trip, after all!)  She unknowingly sat next to a middle-aged pervert and found herself up through the wee hours of the night protecting her “personal space.”  But then suddenly, the bus stopped.  It sat at the side of the road with no air conditioning for two hours.  The nervous girl thought perhaps the bus driver was tired and needed a nap.  But, alas, this was not the case.  The nervous girl would soon find out the next town over was flooded, and the streets had become a river.  Of course, before she would figure that out, the bus ran into a ditch and nearly tipped over.  The sleepy passengers jumped up in unison and ran out of the tilted bus, into the night rain.  There they stood for nearly two more hours.

The nervous girl started to wonder why men walked around in the middle of the night with rain jackets but no pants.  “I know it’s hot, but why won’t they put some pants on!” she thought.  Once the bus was towed from the ditch, the nervous girl got her answer.  The men with no pants were guiding the bus through the flooded streets, water up to their wastes!

Just when she thought the worst was over, the bus took yet another unexpected stop.  She sat and she sat.  But after an hour, she decided to get off the bus and see what all the fuss was about.  This was what she saw:

Two men and a shovel stood on top the dirt and started to dig.  The nervous girl knew this was not good news.  Twenty-fours hours, one bag of sticky rice, many trips to the “jungle” bathroom and two bug bites on her ass later, the nervous girl was back on the bus, finally on her way to Luang Prabang.

In total, the nervous girl spent 32 hours on a very dirty bus.  She started to wonder if this little adventure would be worth it.  She sort of wished she were back in familiar Rangsit.

Alas, she would not give in.  She arrived in Luang Prabang at 4 a.m., nearly two days after starting her seven hour bus ride.  She was exhausted yet somehow unwilling to fork out an extra ten bucks to find a guesthouse and go straight to sleep.  So nervous girl became sleepy girl as she trudged with her new-found Canadian friends up a mountain to watch the sunrise.  And she only fell down one flight of stairs in front of her new friends before reaching the top!

Yet, there’s more bad news for sleepy girl.  The battery in her camera died just as the sun began to rise.  The mountaintop was beautiful.  But you’ll never know.  Because this was the only picture her dead camera would take:

Back down the mountain, sleepy girl began her pursuit to find the best guesthouse her money could buy.  Which didn’t turn out to be much.  Sleepy girl walked and walked and walked.  She looked at guesthouse after guesthouse after guesthouse.  She considered changing her name to Goldie Locks, as she searched for the bed that would be “just right.”  After more than a dozen tours, she nearly gave in.  She bought a room by the river that was “good enough.”  But as soon as she set her bag down and heard the neighbors blaring music, she marched right back out and demanded her money back.  Okay, may she didn’t demand it so much as ask for it in the best sugary-sweet voice she could muster.  She headed back to the streets in search of that just-right bed.

And then a man stepped out of a beautiful house she was sure didn’t fit her budget.  But to her surprise – it did!  She booked the room right away and set about moving in to her new home.  She thought about sleeping but figured she might as well just stay up the rest of the day – she made it this far, didn’t she?  So sleepy girl showered and made herself pretty and headed out in search of food.  This is what she found: the perfect tranquil view of the perfect, muddy-chocolate river at the perfect restaurant.

Sleepy girl was happy.  And the memory of the perv, the ditch, the flood and the mud completely left her memory.

Also posted in Southeast Asia Tagged , |

In Search of: A Visa Run

As promised.  The story of my trip to Southeast Asia continues…

After three days in Bangkok, it was time for a visa run (not for me).  So the next logical step obviously meant heading to Laos.  We took the overnight bus from Bangkok to Vientiane.  One thing I wish I took more pictures of was food.  When we reached the bus station in Bangkok, we had time to spare and spent that time gorging on street food.  It was total YUM.  But anyhow, here’s the story of Vientiane in pictures.

We reached the border between Thailand and Laos without visas, which meant we spent a few hours waiting for the border to open in order to get a visa on arrival.  My dear friend, the master of sleeping anywhere, continued his slumber on the plastic chairs at the border using a plastic water bottle as a pillow.  Somehow this worked for him.  I was envious.  After sleeping on a bus and hours spent at the border, it was good we made friends with a monk named Sien that helped us cut in line, avoid extra fees and catch the cheapest bus to the capitol.  Sweet man, that Sien.

An evening walk in front of the river after having reached Vientiane.

Vientiane was once a French colony.  Lots of buildings are left over from the French, including this mini Arc de Triomphe.

Drenched in rain each time we stepped outside, we opted to spend a lot of time at this juice shop.  I believe this marked the start of my fruit shake obsession.  Dragon fruit.  Avocado.  Mango.  Triple-yum!

On the plus side, all that rain forced me to relax and enjoy the moment.

After four days of overeating and lounging around in a fruit shake induced coma, we decided it was high time for a little culture.  The day before my very first venture alone, we visited Wat Si Saket, the oldest Buddhist temple in the area.  Yes, I know it’s a temple and you’re supposed to be all solemn or something.  But hell, I was excited!

Next time: a flood, a ditch, a mudslide and a 32-hour bus ride.  Find out why I fondly refer to my time in Laos as Adventures in Transportation.

Also posted in Southeast Asia, Thailand Tagged , |