“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes….”

CategoryLaos

Border towns….

HELP! This is an urgent SOS from the Laos/Thai border! Come save me (you can leave Philippa behind)!
Just kidding, well, not really… but, we are surviving, I’m just complaining, again!

We arrived yesterday afternoon in Houi Xai, a little border town in Laos, just across the Mekong river from Thailand (with it’s alluring neon lights, fireworks and, if I squint hard a 7-11 and maybe even a McDonalds). More about Houi Sai later (I will need to de-breif).

Prior to our arrival yesterday, the past two days have been lovely… floating down (or up, or something) the Mekong from Luang Prabang. We spoilt ourselves and decided to go for the super luxary “slow boat” trip. Now, when I say slow boat – I really mean it. According to the GPS – the trip was about 320kms and over 18 hours travel time. The alternitive was the “fast boat”, which the secular Lonley Planet advises you “pray” before departure.

Starting bright and early on Saturday, we woke up at sunrise to see the daily monk parade. Luang Prabang is famous for their 70 or so Wat’s (temples) – 30 of which are still active. Every sunrise, Monks from these active Wat’s walk down the main street collecting food offerings from the local beleivers (and some visiting sleepy tourists). We have seen this procession elsewhere before, however due to the shere number of Monks in Luang Prabang – it was really impressive. Towards the end of the offering line were a group of beggers, and it was really touching to see the Monk’s give back some of ther supplies to those less fortunate.

Following the parade, we negotiated a rather expensive Jumbo (Tuk-Tuk) ride to the jetty where our boat was moored. We spent the following two days traveling rather slowly through some of the most beutiful countryside I have ever seen (will get the photo’s up sometime soon, hopefully). We stopped a couple of times at some minority villages and a small cave which was nice, however the majority of the trip consisted of chatting with the other tourists on our boat and waving to kids playing in the river along the way!

Upon arrival in Houi Xai, we nearly lost our bags as they were loaded onto a boat to Thailand with all the other tourists bags. Luckilly Philippa saw her bag on someones back heading towards the boat and managed to intervene after a quick sprint down the road. The locals all thought it was very funny (Hah hah, who on earth would stay here!!).

As it turns out, we stuffed up our airline tickets by a day – and we are stuck here for two nights.

Seriously though, the place isn’t all that bad. I just enjoy complaining, besides – I think we have been a little soft with this 3 star trip of ours! We managed to get some nice Indian last night and also managed to recover our lost mobile phone – I couldn’t beleive how honest the kid was who returned it!

I have developed a pretty serious heat rash on my arms, and managed diagnose and prescribe my own medication from the local chemist – 20 cents for some antihistimine (or sugar concrete, not sure). I haven’t died yet and I think the rash is going!

Back to Vientiane tommorow morning, we are flying – no more SLOW boats for us! Than we fly to Kumning in China! I can’t wait!

You know when there is silence, that the going is good :)

Sorry about the slack blogging of late, Matt and I have just been on holidays 🙂

At the moment we are sitting in a hot internet cafe, talking to our parents on skype (isn’t the internet great) and listening to live Laos music at an open air college graduation ceremony. At the moment we are in Luang Prabang in the North of Laos in the mountains. It is very beautiful here, hence touristy. It is were the Mekong meets the Nam Khan river. So much to say, mix of local politics and the way of life here…but not sure that I wanna be sitting on the internet for hours typing it all out or that you will want to read all of our rants and take on the local situation. In brief the Chinese seems to have their eyes on Laos for Hydro electricity schemes and there is also pressure to start mining exploration here…the promise of big $$$ seems to be more aluring than the small amount of money they can make from keeping the environment beautiful with ecotourism and local industry that relies strongly on the environment.

So more about us, we have turned a little soft. We are staying in a beautiful hotel with air conditioning and hot water on the river front. Tomorrow we board a 5 star boat and travel along the Mekong river towards the Thai border to a place called Huay Xai which is a two day slow boat trip away. So we off set our guilt by visiting and supporting some local NGOs by buying local produce, yes we have had to expand our packs, and maybe have to buy a second bag 🙂 We visited an NGO yesterday called Big Brother Mouse, that produces fun books in Lao to encourage children to enjoy reading. We have also bought up big in local textiles and visited the Laos versions of Friends which is a restaraunt that trains street kids in hospitality skills.

Any how we will bore you with more stories and photos in the coming weeks. Off to see the beautiful sunset.

49,000 Kip or 230Baht or USD10…#@$&*(&%???

Lucky the Lao people are pretty trustworthy as they could do a real number on us with the number of currencies they use here and the mental arithmatic that you have to do to work out which is the best deal. We did get quoted over USD2000 for a belt yesterday, I think that girl got her currencies mixed up or thought that we were really gullible.

So we’ve been to the Paris end of Vientiane (as Matt described yesterday), today we headed to the more typical southeast asian site of the Pha That Luang. Matt and I were not really expecting much, and did the obligitary visit as it is the number one tourist site. But it actually was something quite impressive and has been restored to what I imagine was its former glory. There are still works going on around the place, but is a national monument that the Lao people should be proud of. This is were I was gonna put a photo of a link to the impressive spire and surrounding temples until Matt can upload the photos, but he tells me this is illegal…this is what I will be telling him next season of 24 he downloads!

We went to a local place for dinner last night, thought that we would give the locals something to laugh at. No menu in english, infact no menu and only one man with a few english words to work with. I even left the guide book at home! So with our three Lao words (Hello/Goodbye, Thankyou and Delicous) and this mans five English words (no Menu, noodle salad, Beerlao [which I think is technically a Lao word]), we got a delicous you guessed it noodle salad with Beerlao (actually Pepsi) all for 12000kip, I know they really took us for a ride. That is USD1.20 for both of us.

Anyhow, better run and have some more fun.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes….”

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