Sabiadee from Laos!
Straight off from the airplane, we had a bit of a snafu at customs coming into the country. We have been relatively prepared for the most part, despite some of our last minute planning. However, coming to Laos we made a big mistake of not having enough cash with us to pay for our visas. The immigration guy told us to go out and use the ATM outside of customs, which we attempted to do except it wouldn’t accept our card. And that was the only ATM until you get to town and the currency exchange at the airport was closed. So we went back to the immigration area and this wonderful Canadian couple, Paul and Cathy, asked us if we needed some help. We asked if we could borrow some money and pay them back once we found somewhere to draw money that would work with our card. Luckily they had enough extra cash. We were SO grateful!! So we got through immigration and we all headed into town together. We stopped at about 3 different places all of which wouldn’t take our card… Now we were starting to really stress! But Paul and Cathy were so wonderful and said, don’t worry we’ll either meet up again tonight or tomorrow morning and see if you can get cash by then. So we swapped emails and headed to our hotel. And what do you know, about 100m down the street we were able to get cash. We met up the next morning and paid back our debt. Thanks again Paul and Cathy, you saved us!!
We spent the last few days in the wonderful little town of Luang Prabang. This place is largely influenced by the French and as such has lovely little cafes and restaurants lining the lane ways. There are lots of tasty bakeries and cute little French style villas as hotels. Tourism is a very big industry here and many of the guides, hotel workers, travel agents are also enrolled in the local school studying tourism. Some people have come from villages 300 km away to study. The main part of the town is on a peninsula set between a large bend in the Mekong River. We stayed on a cute little street, where surrounding us were Laos homes. Every morning we’d wake up to our neighbor rooster letting everyone know that it was time to get up. This actually was ok because when you wake up that early here, you could walk down the steps from our room to see the monks collecting alms. There are over 200 monks and novice monks here each dressed in a saffron colored robe. Every morning they walk to the temple through the streets of the city and the local people give them a handful of rice or other traditional food as they walk past. It’s a beautiful ritual to watch.
We spent an afternoon at the Kuang Si waterfalls where you can go swimming and to Adam’s delight, swing into the pool below from a rope swing. There are several levels of pools here and at the very top there is the grand finale waterfall!
We spent another full day kayaking down the Mekong where we passed several villages with people collecting river weeds which are then dried, spiced, and sold at the markets. It’s very pleasant, relaxing kayaking, no rapids or major obstructions in the river. We did some swimming, stopped at the 4,000 Buddha cave and got to bathe some elephants before they went trekking with some other people on our tour. We continued on down the river finally stopping by the whiskey village where they make whiskey from sticky rice. Some of the whiskey was 50 proof and some had a snake in the bottle, we are not quite sure what that added… our guide said it was for strength. We climbed up to the Phou Si temple on the hill to watch a great burning red sunset and browsed through the night market. And we enjoyed a delicious street dinner for just over a dollar!