🇱🇦  LAOS  -  2015  🇱🇦

 Laos is a land locked country in Southeast Asia.  However it is traversed like the Mequon River which forms a natural  boundary with Thailand.  The country also shares borders with Vietnam, Cambodia and Burma.  It is well known for its mountainous terrain and French colonial architecture. It became a French protectorate in 1893j and gained independence in 1953 under a  constitutional monarchy.  This was short lived as the communist party came to power in 1975.  Laos is now a Socialist Republic governed by the People's Revolutionary party.  More than 50% of its population live in cities like Vientiane, the capital, Luang Prabang, Savannakhet and Pakse.  The rest of the population, nearly 40%, lives in  settlements in the mountains or its foothills. Laos is still ranked as a poor country in this world.

 What is this when known and publicised about the history of the fact that the US dropped 270 million cluster bombs during 1963 and 1974 (2 million tons of bombs). Many are still unexploded and only 1% have been destroyed !  These unexploded bombs cause 50 casualties a year mainly in children.

to find out more about the Secret `war in Laos please go to

http://legaciesofwar.org

Laos finds new life after the bombing

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2015/08/laos/allman-text

 

Chang Mai (Northern Thailand)

London -  Dubai - Bangkok - Chang Mai  was the itinerary.  I left with great anxiety  as I was worried about my transfers in Dubai and Bangkok.  I flew Emirates all the way  and couldn't fault the service on board.  The staff were attentive  and helpful.  However no special assistance was available in Dubai  so I refused to leave the plane !  Eventually one of the crew decided to help me  and topknot me to the terminal  where my flight to Bangkok was leaving.  I  arrived in Bangkok early evening and then the fun really started.   I had to transfer from the International airport to the local airport  (1 hour by bus) bu nobody spoke English to direct me to the shuttle bus. To this day I have no idea how I made it !  And then I had to walk through a  badly lit tunnel  to my hotel  for an overnight stay  before my flight to Shang Mai at 6 in the morning.

I made it in one piece !  We didn't stay in Chiang Mai but proceeded to take a bus to Chang Rai -  a border crossing between Thailand and Laos.  The two countries use the Mekong River as a natural border. 

 I cant tell you much about Chiang Mai except for the airport and the bus station !!! and the fact that it is very with gap year students and  back packers.

  • A well deserved cig...

  • Local taxi from the airport to the best station

  • Where is our bus ?

Chiang Rai

 

 

A delightful little please lying along with the Mekong River. Our hotel was overlooking the Mequon which was really nice.  We had a good shout in a lovely meal  on a walk along the Mekong.

 I gave Olivia  a present - a block of cheddar  !  But as you can well imagine it didn't survive the trip !!!

 

 

Nak Nakara Hotel

Border crossing between Chiang Rai (Thailand) and  Huay Xai (Laos)

 

 

 

 A beautiful building and this certainly make you wait before allowing into Laos !

And the journey begins

Nagi of Mekong at www.nagiofmekong.com.

 

With a two day trip on a slow boat cruise downstream along the Mekong river. It is by far the best and perfect way to discover Laos in a tranquil atmosphere. 

 The slow boat was incredibly comfortable  and as we were only seven passengers on board we had bags of space.

 Food was served throughout the day  Who is a variety of dishes on offer and plenty of fresh fruits.

Life on boaed "Nagi  of Mekong" 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼

Meandering down the Mekong

Overnight stay in Pakbang

 

A most extraordinary village overlooking the Mekong.  Our accommodation was very adequate and our room had the benefit of a balcony which was great as we enjoyed the sunset over the river.  The hotel does not have the restaurant so we had to walk down the main street in search of food.  There were a number of little cafes and restaurants and weChose to eat Laotian food. An  evening to be remembered. 

Mekong Riverside Lodge hotel

Well worth a visit to experience the true feel of Laos. The Mekong Riverside Lodge is is superbly located on a hillside  overlooking the Mekong River.  Although a little rustic the magic of the river 

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I couldn't be bothered to walk up the hill !

Another day on the mighty Mekong

 I have always been fascinated by the Mekong. Having travelled the Mekong River upstream in Vietnam I was quite happy to take another cruise down this majestic river.

The Mekong is the 12th longest river in the world and the 7th longest in Asia. Starting on the Tibetan plateau the Mekong is estimated to be 4,350 km in length and is a major trade route between China and South East Asia (Burma, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia). It can be quite a challenge to navigate at times as the flow during the rainy season is so fierce it is almost impossible to go upstream in places ! 

Stopping for lunch  in a typical riverside settlement

Tam Ting caves

 

Before reaching Luang Prabang we stopped to visit the mysterious Tam Ting caves.

The caves are located 25 km upstream from Luang Prabang.  They contain 5000   Buddha  statues and statuettes  and are a great pilgrimage destination for Buddhist 

Luang Prabang

Once the capital of Laos, Luang Prabang is a popular destination in Laos. It nestles between the Mekong and the KH rivers. It is a very spiritual city  🙏🏻 full of Buddhist temples. The French colonial influence can be felt everywhere whether in the cuisine or the architecture.  A definite must do if you visit Laos.

Le Sen boutique hotel

Le S'en is a boutique hotel situated about a mile from the old part of Luang Prabang.  You can walk the distance but as it is often hot and humid, the hotel offers a regular shuttle service to town  and even picks you up from your restaurant after dinner.  The staff is extremely attentive and always smiling.  Although we only ate there once in the evening do food was very good The pool was very clean and offered  relaxation after a days sightseeing.

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The famous bamboo bridge

Best way to protect yourself from the sun

Spot the monk...

The night market 7 to 11 pm

The temples of Luang Prabang

The mighty cat !

L'éléphant restaurent

Excellent

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A trip to the Kwang Si waterfalls and bear rescue centre

Located about 1 hour's drive from Luang Prabang lies this natural park with beautiful cascading waterfalls.  Because of its formation over limestone grounds the water is so crystal  clear as to be almost turquoise in colour. The water flows and forms stunning pools where you can enjoy a swim and a picnic. I didn't go for a swim as there were many fish nibbling at your feet !

The park also houses a sanctuary for the Asiatic Black bear who have been rescued from poachers. Here they have been offered a safe environment. 

En route to Vang Vieng

The trip from Luang Prabang to Vong Vieng  was an adventure in itself.  Instead of taking four hours in an aircon minibus took eight hours in a decrepit vehicle with no air con !!! We collected mail on the way and had a long pit stop for lunch where nobody dared to eat what was on offer let alone use the facilities !!! But we eventually made it in one piece including the minibus whose cracked windscreen was in serious need of TLC !

Finally Vong Vieng

Located on the Nqm Song river, Vang Vieng is famous for its limestone karst hills. It is a popular destination for tourists and backpackers. It dates back to the 14th century. 

Vang Vieng is a great place to go for  can you yakking on the river, tubing and hiking on the hills. 

Riverside Boutique Resort

Time to explore...

That Nam water cave

A place enjoyed by the locals as much as the tourists

And then we got lost ...

But thanks to Google we managed to find our way back

En route to Champasak province

Champasak

The River Resort

Located on the banks of the river Mekong, across an area known as the 4,000 islands, The River Resort is the most amazing resort I stayed at.  If you do not have anything planned and you want to take a week relaxing in a beautiful location overlooking the Mekong river this is the place to stay.

 It offers everything you want; well appointed, luxurious bungalows dotted around rice  paddies and  a stunning infinity pool,  delicious local food  and staff  (mostly local villagers) who cannot do enough to please you.  We were upgraded to a  bungalow overlooking the river which was a real treat as we were able to sit on the balcony  to enjoy the most wonderful sunsets.  

River Resort is also one of the best eco-friendly and self-sufficient resort in the Champasak province. It grows it's own rise, has a vegetable garden and buffaloes to provide milk. Everything you will eat in the restaurant is pretty much home-made and delicious .

River Resort is highly acclaimed by TripAdvisor and quite rightly so.

The house pets are so cute and include a pair of water otters.

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The house pets visited us every day !

Wat Phu or Vat Phou

 About an hours motorbike ride from… lies the ruins of a Khmer Hindu temple  at the foothills of mount Phu Kao. Although not as spectacular as Angkor Wat it is definitely worth a visit  if you happen to be in the area.  The architecture of the temple is very intricate and is believed to date back to the 11th century.

Voted as a World Heritage Sire by UNESCO.

 Be prepared for a long walk to the site as local buggies are not always there to give you a ride.  If it is a hot and sunny day take plenty of water as there are no refreshments available and also take an umbrella to protect you from the 🌞🌞🌞🌞

By hook or by crook to 4.000Islands !

The River Resort have their own little boat to take you to the 4,000 islands to a small village called . The journey took about an hour wandering through islands - very pleasant indeed.

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