Tag Archive | laos

Day 14 and 15 – G Adventures’ Cambodia and Laos Mekong Adventure

Day 14 and 15 – Saturday May 31 / Sunday June 1   

In the morning we had breakfast then took a medium tuk tuk to a temple of course, an Arc de Triumphe look alike and the COPE museum which is an agency that helps kids with disabilities like club foot. There were a few of these kids there and it made the experience uncomfortable – I’m not sure why. They also showed us an hour long documentary on the leftover bombs from the Vietnam War and how an Australian man was training the Lao people to deactivate the bombs and bombies (little bombs). It was really terrible to see how my country had ruined these lands for decades. People are still dying because of the war and the US is doing nothing to help. They haven’t even signed an agreement like other countries to help get rid of the bombs. I really should research and read to learn more about these things. Traveling makes me realize how uneducated I am about life and history.

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After all that we went back to the room for 45 minutes and then had to say good-bye to the Italians and travel on the bus for 45 minutes to the train. We had to pay 10,000 kip to leave the country. We walked through a checkpoint to be in limbo between Thailand and Laos and then took a free transfer bus to the overnight train station where we waited another hour.

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We finally boarded the train and it was worse than I imagined (I had pictured private rooms like I had in Egypt). It only had a curtain for privacy and the bed was very tight. In general the bed was comfy but it was so noisy from people snoring and walking that it was hard to sleep. (Yes, I realize to other travelers I sound like a whiny brat, but by this point of the trip, I was so hot and tired and fed up with everything that everything felt like torture.) Roomie and I watched part of a movie but were falling asleep. I spent another 2 hours in the middle of the night watching another movie. We got woken up early with people mulling around and the crew putting the beds back into chair formation.

From there we walked underground to the street the Centra Hotel was on. We dumped our bags off then most people went to a restaurant for breakfast but a few of us went downstairs to the grocery store to eat instead. Nothing looked appealing to me but I settled on Frosted Flakes and milk. It was good enough. Roomie and I spent most of the day sitting, reading and chatting. I wanted to go to a place where you could pet lions but she didn’t want to spend the money and I didn’t want to go by myself. (Yes, I know they are drugged and probably tortured……I am a terrible person and wanted to do it anyway.) We tried to find a spot for lunch but it was too hot so we went back to the grocery store where I had a sandwich. The tour operator loaned us his room to shower which was nice. We had ice cream on the roof deck then said bye and took a taxi to the airport. We checked all of us in then went to my gate. Took a selfie then said bye and kept waving until we couldn’t see each other anymore…. was a nice time.

The first leg of the flight was good. Had an empty seat next to me. Started to feel stomach sick during the flight so couldn’t really eat. Got off the plane and had to go through security again. The Abu Dhabi airport was really odd. It’s shaped like a circle and there aren’t many places to sit – just lots of places to eat and shop. Then all the terminals are offshoots and the bathrooms are blocked off to passengers only. It’s very strange and inconvenient. I went through security again and then was blocked from the bathroom area again – not fun! Luckily my belly behaved itself. Got on the second leg of the full flight. Couldn’t eat most of the dinner because it made me nauseous. Watched lots of movies and slept some.

Overall, I think I had a negative experience because I did not research this trip at all prior to booking it. I booked it solely on the facts that it was somewhere I had never been before and the tour matched up with the dates that I wanted to travel. It was also the hottest it had been in that part of the world in a long time – even the tour guides were sweating.

Had I planned better – packed different/more snacks, somehow been prepared for that unbearable heat (I think a different kind of sunscreen would have helped), massive bugs and rats, perhaps I would have had a different experience. Because I have been on tour that maximized time better and were more forthcoming in what you were doing and when, this experience was knocked down a few stars right off the bat.

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Day 12 and 13 – G Adventures’ Cambodia and Laos Mekong Adventure

May 30 (Maybe) Day 12 – This morning we were supposed to go see the monks collect food on the street in Luang Prabang but my roomie and I woke up and were both stomach sick. Fortunately, we had 2 hours to feel better, but we were still sick all day on the 6 hour bus ride to Vietvienne. Fortunately at the rest stop there was a really nice bathroom that had stalls – one of which was western. The stalls were open on one side overlooking the mountains in the distance. It was private but gave you the illusion of doing your business in public – yet had a beautiful view.

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Our hotel room was okay. No major visible bugs, just a few geckos including a dead one being cooked by the sun on our balcony. There were several rat droppings all around the room so again we slept with the lights on. Dinner was at a restaurant down the street but I think I had food poisoning so I only got vegetable soup and then there was a bug in it so I didn’t eat it. I went back to the room and was sick all night. Fortunately, the TV started working but the AC never worked. It was a pretty unpleasant night.

The next day we went to see the elephant cave then tubing into Tham Nam water cave. The elephant cave was very simple but when we were standing there, a dog came running and slipped on the floor and flew right into the back of my legs…..it was pretty funny.

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My buddy. I wish I could have saved them all.

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Elephant Cave

Then he followed us – actually led us to the spot where we were going to tube into the cave. The walk to the tubing spot was pretty long especially since it was all in the blazing sun. The cave itself was pretty neat. The water was cold but refreshing. It was convenient to view the cave from a lying position. There were a lot of interesting formations. The only issue was the guide was going so fast that it was hard to absorb the beauty of the cave.

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From there, we walked back to the truck and drove to the kayaking spot on the Nam Song River. Supposedly it used to be a big drinking adventure, but I only saw maybe 5 spots along the way and they were all empty – perhaps because it is not high tourist season.

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G Adventures has its tours screwed up because in this town there was another good cave and the blue lagoon but there was only time to do one option. They really should figure out how to time things better. We don’t need to drive to the next spot in the middle of the day. Curfew isn’t until midnight in this country, so there’s plenty of time to drive off-hours. There also isn’t enough time after tubing to grab a proper lunch before you have to head off to the next city. Random but in the drive to the next spot, there were several trucks full of army men. I wonder who Laos is planning on getting attacked by.

I also started sharing my money with my roomie and ran out so I had no money for food. I kept reminding the CEO that we need to stop for an exchange but he told me we stopped at an ATM last night. I tried to explain that it is not the same thing and the ATM wasn’t even working but he liked to ignore me. At this point in the trip I figured I would cut his tip in half. At the beginning of the trip, I thought I would give him a huge tip but my liking of him dwindled every day.

On this day we had a crazy driver who drove really fast and hit all the bumps so we literally flew off the seat. By this time, I only had two days left on this trip but felt the end couldn’t come soon enough.

On Friday night upon arrival to the hotel, we showered and got ready for dinner. We went to another charity spot where the food was okay, but the prices were high. It was our last dinner with the Italians. I thought that perhaps we would stay out late or drink or have a toast or something but there was nothing. After dinner most of the group wanted to go for a walk – a walk to nowhere. Roomie and I declined and they had us walk back to the hotel ourselves even though we weren’t sure where it was. We went the right way but weren’t sure, so we had to ask directions. Luckily we were right down the block from the hotel. The night consisted of rat shit on roomie’s headboard, and she thought someone was breaking into the room so she woke me up for that as well.

Flying back early was a bit consideration at this point, but it was just another couple of days so I toughed it out.

Day 11 – G Adventures’ Cambodia and Laos Mekong Adventure

May 29 – Day 11 – (Honestly, the days start to get fuzzy with my pics and notes at this point, but you’ll get the gist)

We had breakfast then hopped on a bus to the elephant sanctuary where we rode elephants (in a chair on their back – two people per elephant). It was pretty fun. Even on the head, you never really felt like you’d fall off. Before riding them, we fed them which was cool because they were right next to you eating. After the initial ride, we were able to ride them on their head into the Mekong River to scrub them clean with a scrub brush. It was cool, but you got covered in poo because when an elephant’s gotta go, he’s got to go!

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We were able to rinse off and change then we drove to a dock where we took a boat across the river to the Pak Ou Buddha Caves (Tham Ting and Tham Phoum) which as you would guess, had lots  of buddhas. The caves were okay – nothing spectacular.

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From there we took the boat to a Ban Xang Hai (Whiskey Village) where they make wine and spirits. It was basically a tourist trap, and they sold jars of liquor with all kinds of insects and animals in them – even a bear cub. It was really horrible. Bears are endangered in Asia, and they kill them for profits. Complete monsters! At first I was going to purchase a scorpion liquor but decided I didn’t want to contribute to people with that mentality. (Yes, I realize it’s their culture and heritage, but I don’t have to like it or agree with it.)

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After that we took the boat back downstream to a spot closer to the hotel where the bus picked us up. Roomie and I showered then went to the night market again and bought some stuff. Then we joined the group at Lao Lao restaurant which had a really nice atmosphere with plants and jungle-like things. The only problem was that it was very dark, and we got a hot pot where you cook your own food on the table, so we couldn’t really see what we were doing. There were also a lot of bugs. For dessert we went back to the market and got 2 crepes to take back to the room and made tea.

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Day 10 – G Adventures’ Cambodia and Laos Mekong Adventure

May 28 – Day 10 – Breakfast was in an area a couple of doors down from the hotel. They served eggs, breads, juice, tea, water – overall good meal. Make sure to take a couple of tea bags to save for later as they supply a tea kettle in your room but no tea.

After breakfast, we took an open air taxi to a museum where they showed us how certain Lao people lived. A video showed us how they abuse and kill animals for sacrifice when they marry: it was terrible.

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Tourmates watching the video. I’m glad I didn’t

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Fortunately we had a nice change of pace and visited a beautiful waterfall with many levels. We swam in one of the lower pools and had a really great time. We should have packed a lunch and just ate there on the bank, but we ate at one of the cafes there instead. The food was good and cheap. Also, on this journey we saw bears that were rescued and are now being cared for. They were really cute..

 

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After lunch, we came back to the room and rested for a few hours then roomie and I dressed up nicely and went to the night market for an hour – where we sweated through our nice clothes, and I became a hot mess. Then we joined the group for karaoke; it was really fun. (This was our only night out of the whole trip. Quite depressing!)

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Karaoke always has interesting pics to go with videos but this one topped everything

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Day 9 – G Adventures’ Cambodia and Laos Mekong Adventure

May 27 – Day 9 – The morning of the homestay is a complete waste of time. Since you get woken up at the crack of dawn with the roosters and then the island is so noisy, you have no hope of sleeping in. Everyone just sits around and waits for the ferry. My roomie and I watched a movie on my phone. This whole day is a complete waste of time.

Finally, at 9:30am we boarded the boat back to the mainland. We then went to a market that was both indoors and out, but it was more of a local market with day-to-day clothes and food and lots of fancy jewelry. We didn’t buy anything and ate ice cream instead. Next we had lunch at a place with AC, Wifi and a Western bathroom. The food was okay – not great. There was a mall down the block so we went there to kill time. It was nothing exciting either – it mostly had stuff for locals. There was a supermarket there too so that at least that was interesting.

There was also a cage on the street with animals in it. It was really sad.

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From there we went to the airport for our flight to Luang Prabang. The airport is small but efficient. Once through the security area it has air conditioning. The plane was small but nice. They even feed you on the 1.5 hour flight – a fish stick in a bun with brownie and fruit. Upon landing we went to our hotel which was pretty nice – although anything would have felt nice after having a rat invade your bedroom! But really, I think this was the only room I took pictures of because I was so impressed. It was within walking distance to restaurants and the night market.

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CIMG1205Right after check-in, we went for dinner at an Australian pub. The food there was good and the atmosphere was fun. Afterwards, we went to the night market, but I wasn’t feeling well, so I sat on the floor and didn’t shop.

At least I got to sleep in a nice room that night!

Day 8 – G Adventures’ Cambodia and Laos Mekong Adventure

May 26 – Breakfast was across the street and not included so it was self-pay. It was very slow but good; I had french toast sans syrup. After breakfast it was back to the bus to the ferry to a temple then to the home stay.

On the way we went to see Wat Phu (mountain temple) UNESCO World Heritage site –  that had a lot of steps (77 at one point). We ate fresh mangoes off the tree. At the top, there was a fountain that claimed to have holy water. They had us put some on our heads 3 times and made a wish – which is kind of odd because if it was truly holy, we should have prayed or something instead, I would think. The experience was all very hot; my skin felt like it was literally melting off. I have never been that sweaty in my life. During the hike, we saw rocks that resembled an elephant and a crocodile.

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After we finally dragged ourselves (okay, maybe I was just dragging myself) back to the bus, we took a people-only ferry to the home stay. Well, “ferry” is generous.  It was a very skinny boat that only held 4 people. From there, we walked a long way on the beach to our homes. My roomie and I ended up with a house on stilts that we thought would keep the snakes and rats away. Instead a rat ran at the foot of our bed in the morning and roomie had heard them scratching all night in the wall by her head.

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We were lucky and our bathroom had a western toilet and was overall decently nice. Our beds were in a corner of the room where the owners slept in so that was a bit weird. Our house had no walls so it felt like modified camping. We slept under mosquito nets but bugs got in roomie’s bed anyway. We could hear the bats all night. Early in the morning the roosters began singing and all the people got up. When they walked, the whole house shook. Breakfast and dinner were served on the floor in a communal room.

When we arrived first arrived on the island, we walked around the island for a tour. Overall the houses and properties were well-kept. There was a resort on the island that was several hundred dollars per night and was very beautiful.

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I feel homestays are always a waste of time. You don’t socialize with the residents – they don’t even eat with you. My owner came with me to the bathroom in the middle of the night to turn on the lights and that was all the interaction we had. You are basically there to give them money and gifts.

Side note: Bring pens and paper from home so you don’t waste time and money hunting for these things during your trip. Anything you have that you aren’t going to use anymore bring it with you and stop letting it take up space in your house.

Day 7 – G Adventures’ Cambodia and Laos Mekong Adventure

May 24 – Day 7 started with breakfast in a building outside of the hotel but no one could tell me where it was. I found it only by finding another tourmate. I almost shouldn’t have bothered. There was only a small fried egg, bread with jelly. No water or juice, just hot tea and coffee. I was starving afterwards. Thank goodness I still had snacks that I brought from home!

The drive to Laos was a very bumpy road so no option to sleep. What should have been a fairly short drive took several hours longer because the driver had to go very slowly (although sometimes he didn’t and we literally fell off our seats!) These roads were paved only 3 years ago by the Chinese but cheap materials plus wear and tear makes it seem like they were never improved in the first place. We also had to do our first and only pee in the bush stop. After all these squat toilets, we were pros! During the ride, we also had our first taste of sticky rice that was made in bamboo chutes – was quite tasty.DSC01631

The Laos border was interesting. One bus drops you off, you hand your passport to a guy in a building through a window, pay your $10 or so and then you walk down a road to the border crossing. then you get on another bus.

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Our first Laos hotel had a gecko and a million ants in the bathroom. The AC also didn’t work. Soon after arrival, we went bicycle riding for 10 miles to the beach where we watched the sunset then quickly rode back in the dark. The road was full of holes, so it was dangerous and painful to ride. You also had to ride at a fast pace, and it was very  hot. Fortunately it was not as hot as it was during the day. The bugs came out and I ate at least one and I felt like a human windshield. I don’t know if I have ever felt that dirty in my life – bug spray, sunscreen, bugs and sweat. Awesome! At least the sunset was very nice.

We had dinner at the restaurant across the street which was okay. I  had banana pancakes and two big beers so I got a little tipsy which led me to ask to get our room switched. Our new room had working AC, was bigger, had a television and had no bugs. This didn’t prevent my roomie from waking me up to tell me there were geckos walking in the ceiling. The electric went out in the middle of the night so the room got hot again and was unpleasant. Since I was awake anyway, I went across the street to see the sunrise across the river. It was very nice. Then I went back to bed. We had to pack an overnight bag for the home stay.

I love how the boat is right in the rays of the rising sun

I love how the boat is right in the rays of the rising sun