Thursday, February 19, 2009

Travel in Laos

I'm writing from Tha Kaek around central Laos. For the past two weeks or so I have been hanging out in Vientiane and Vang Viang. There isn't much to say about Vientiane other than some mice ate some of my pumpkin seeds and I watched a lot of live music. Vang Viang was absolutely great and I probably could have spent quite a bit longer there. My friend Nolan and I travelled to Vang Viang and found a nice bungalow that is close to the river and has a hammock out front, from which to view the karst mountains.

We did a lot of looking around in caves and trekking on some mountains both on and off paths. Then there was kayaking, tubing through a cave, and some rock climbing next to a river. The only downer is that there is a lot of haze due in part to the large amount of logging done in the area (slash and burn), and also a bit from locals burning their trash. The haze does allow a direct view of the sun as it sets, so that is a nice by product.

After realizing we had spent a week there and having only about two weeks left on our visa's we decided to leave and head to southern Laos, where we hear it is beautiful and the people aren't so apathetic toward tourists. I'll try to get some photo's online soon, but the city I'm in has only one internet cafe that I have found and it is not very fast; so it might be a week or so before I can upload some stuff.

Take Care

Inside 7km long cave

Stopping after realizing the cities in the guidebook
might not exist anymore because of a
dam built that flooded outlying areas (central Laos)

Sunset in Vang Viang (stayed on the other side of this bridge)

Did some tubing through this cave

Using One Speed Bicycles to travel in Vang Viang

Nolan sleeping while being flanked by buffalo

The sandbars on the Mekong at sunset

Some cave swimming

Inside a Cave

Top of a Mountain hut (took a nice nap here)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Into Laos

I have spent the last week or so in luxury. Staying at the River Ping Palace in Chiang Mai, eating really good food and dining with ex patriots, as well as getting more massages than I can remember (slowly getting over the ticklish feet). I also went to the highest point in Thailand on a one day get-in-get-out of bus tour. The national park it was in was really beautiful and the pagoda's at the top were really nice with gardens that my friend said are Disneyesque. There was a part that I felt uncomfortable with, we saw a small hill tribe that lives in the national park and it felt like there were just standing around for us to take photo's of them and such. They didn't ask for money or anything like that, but I just felt that it was a bit demeaning for both parties involved. I took no photo's of them. I also went with Giles to a temple that his friend from London painted murals in after traveling the world for 8 years and then spending 3 more living in Chiang Mai. I made my way from Chiang Mai to Nong Khai (about 14hr bus ride) and spent the night. The next day I rented a bicycle and headed to a sculpture park only to realize when I got there that I forgot my camera. The sculptures were really interesting as they are a mix of Buddhism and Hinduism, plus they are made of concrete and really tall. While there I met a family that showed me where the sculptor's mummified body was and then took me out to lunch. They also took me to the border and invited me to visit their restaurant if I come back around that way. Right now I'm in Vientiane, Laos so I can get a visa for Vietnam. Not sure how long I'll be in Laos, the visa is for 30 days but I might not stay that long.

Tea Time

River Ping Palace

Mural painted by Giles' friend