After our two-day trek to get to Laos via Thailand, we made it just over the border to Pakse in southern Laos!
Pakse is a small town with lots of French colonial buildings. We enjoyed walking this small town. We were thinking about getting a motorbike, luckily we did not as we would have seen the whole place in about 10 minutes! We stayed in a great guesthouse and we enjoyed the food at “our local” hang out. We had a very chilled out 2 days before we caught a VERY bumpy over night bus journey to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. The bus had double bunks. Dean and I were sharing one, however, as they were rather small doubles and the bus was not full we took a double top bunk each. We did not get too much sleep. I think the worst roads we have been on. I think worse than India, so many potholes. At least we were not going too fast and did not fly off the top bunks.
We made it early the next morning to the capital city of Laos. We got a tuk tuk from the bus station into the town center. Thanks to Dean we were able to get a great deal on Agoda for the Best Western in the town center of Vientiane. A great hotel with a pool and breakfast! What a luxury! It was great to tour around the city and then have a dip in the pool. We enjoyed the city more than we thought as we were told it was not really worth the stop.
We visited the Patuxia (Arch de Triumph), which simply is the victory monument. This monument along with That Dam (Buddhist monument), Presidential palace and the Chao Anouvong monument are the most visited in Vientiane. We found Vientiane to be very laid back with a definite French feel to the streets, mainly because of the French cafes!
After two days in the capital we headed off on a bus journey to Vang Vieng. The bus journey was rough! Coke sure does the trick when you are feeling bus sick! A windy and bumpy ride! Luckily it was only about a 5 hour journey. We arrived at our great guesthouse on the river. We wandered around the two main streets in the tourist area and tried to work out what we wanted to do in the two days we were there. The tubing was a must! Vang Vieng tubing draws thousands of travelers a year to central Laos. The tubing is set in the breathtaking mountains and countryside and because of this Vang Vieng has earned a reputation as a place to party, take a break from the road, and enjoy the best outdoor adventure that Laos has to offer.
Although Vang Vieng offers incredible mountain biking, caving, and hiking opportunities, the most popular activity here is to rent a large inner tube and float down the Nam Song River. Bars have sprung up all along the river offering cheap beer, rope swings, zip lines, and large decks for socializing. Tubing has become one big excuse to party in the river. Floating lazily from bar to bar with a drink in hand is a great way to escape the scorching afternoon sun.
We decided to get an early start on the Nam Song River, before anyone else was there and miss out on the drinking, rope swinging etc. and just enjoy the beauty of the mountains and river. The three-hour ride down the river was magical and it was made even better because we were the only ones on it - too early for any other tourists to be up drinking! It would have been fun to tub with a group of friends down the river and have a few drinks, but we ran out of time and needed to leave for Luang Prabang at 1pm today…
If you want a fun time tubing down a river and some wild drinking, make sure you make a stop in central Laos in Vang Vieng. It was also crazy to be asked in Asia if you wanted a tuk tuk, a “happy menu”, pot, and opium all in one breath! Well worth the stop before heading to Luang Prabang our next stop.
Another bumpy and windy road, it did help that this time we were on a mini bus and not in a large bus. The journey took about 6 hours. We finally made it, but it took a while from the bus station to find our guesthouse in Luang Prabang as we were staying at a place called Villa Merry 1 and there were four other places with Merry in their name! After the tuk tuk driver asked a few people along the way we finally found our place.
A great guesthouse on the river and we were the only guests staying there. The guesthouse was run by a local and his family. He had been to Switzerland and studied in Germany, so spoke fluent German and loved to chat. We enjoyed listening to his stories while we ate our great breakfast on the river terrace at his hotel. I enjoyed a fruit pancake and Dean enjoyed an egg sandwich on a fresh French baguette.
Luang Prabang is another place with noticeable French influence, great colonial buildings and as I had already been here when I lived in Thailand I gave Dean a FREE walking tour of the city. We walked along the cute, quaint streets, saw temples and pagodas and climbed up one of the temples to get a great view of the whole city.
The highlight for me of Luang Prabang was taking a cooking course run by one of the restaurants. The cooking course was in the countryside in an outdoor purpose built center. There were mostly Australians on the course as well as a lovely British couple. One of the Australian couples in fact are friends of the Hogan’s (Kathy and Craig, cricket coach and his wife who now live in Jersey, UK). What a small world! We learned how to make some fantastic new dishes and look forward to trying to reproduce these dishes for family and friends at some point (maybe when we come and stay with some of you).
It is crazy to think that anyone would miss cooking while traveling, but I sure do! The two things I miss are cooking and my yoga class! Of course family and friends, that goes without saying! A great course and then enjoyed tasting what we had made! For those of you who have done the cooking course in Thailand, this is a very similar set up, just not as professional.
From Luang Prabang we made a quick trip back to Geneva for David and Suzanne’s wedding. We flew from Luang Prabang to Bangkok. Then spent the whole day in Bangkok airport, enjoying Thai food before heading to Geneva via Abu Dhabi. After a long journey we made it back to Geneva without any problems or delays. We are so excited to be celebrating another family wedding this year and getting to meet new family members as well!