A Travellerspoint blog

Ten Days in Lao Lao Land

all seasons in one day 0 °F
View The Big Trip on tommydavis's travel map.

To view full size photos and captions click here:
http://www.travellerspoint.com/photos/gallery/users/tommydavis/

First of all, thanks to anyone who still reads these updates. I know the SE Asia trip has been quite long, pictures similar and the novelty of me in oppressive communist countries worn out. I'm back in Bangkok again and about to go to Japan, so expect a change of pace.

Anyway, the bus that was supposed to take me from Hanoi to Vientiane in Laos turned out to be a scam and it dumped me and about eight other (mostly American) suckers at the first small town in Laos to fend for ourselves. I sat with my head down, puking and hot from a fever at a dusty bus station while some of the others ambitiously setup a back-of-a-pickup / local bus combo that got us to Vientiane after a total of thirty hellish hours.

Most of the time in Vientiane was spent wandering around sick and trying to find a sad looking hospital. Thank science for antibiotics, which made me want to live again after only a day or so.

A few hours on a bus with surreal scenery and conversing with Megan from Seattle about traffic engineering brought me to Vang Vieng, aka Oakie Paradise. Picture this: sitting in a tube down a dirty river while various makeshift bars compete for your service by trying to one-up each other in massiveness of their rope swings (even Tony would appreciate this.) The trip included some Beer Lao, attempted back flips and a nice new scar on my stomach from a submerged rock. From the sickness and just being out here for so long, I have lost about fifteen pounds, which is actually quite nice because I find myself climbing mountains and rock hopping through caves with a lot more spring in my step than before.

The last stop in Lao was Luang Prabang, an old French town setup amidst green mountains and the maroon Mekong River. I actually stayed here about five days, meeting some of the most interesting world travellers yet, doing some mountain biking, swimming in some waterfalls, etc... I used a lot of the free time here to work on my photography and I might get an SLR for South America and start taking some gallery-quality photos to show off with Dusty's art in San Fran.

Tom

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Laos Landscape

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Black Stupa in Vientiane

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Vang Vieng skyline

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The electrical engineer

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Vang Vieng riverside

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View of Vang Vieng

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Blue spring water

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Local swimming hole

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Roadside market

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Scenery along a mountain bike journey

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Kuang Si waterfall near Luang Prabang

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View from the top of the falls

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Smaller waterfall

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Jungle waters

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Another nice swimming hole

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Streets of Luang Prabang

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Wat in Luang Probang

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The mighty Mekong

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Monks chatting in front of a temple

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Mekong Sunset

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Mekong Sunset (part II)

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Tad Sae waterfalls near Luang Prabang

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Tad Sae waterfalls

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Top view of Tad Sae waterfalls

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River transport

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Sticky rice drying in front of a Buddha figure

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Golden spire in Luang Prabang

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Chilies drying at a monastery

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Wat Xieng Thong

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Buddha images at Wat Xieng Thong

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Monks' quarters

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View from Wat Xieng Thong

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Bricks in the sun

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Statue by the river

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Hilltop view of Luang Prabang

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Golden Buddha on the hill

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Luang Prabang sky

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Village lao lao distillery

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Monk climbing a tree

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Cave of Buddhas on the Mekong

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Lazy cat

Posted by tommydavis 01:37 Archived in Laos Comments (1)

Around Sapa on a Hongda

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View The Big Trip on tommydavis's travel map.

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I took a night train from Hanoi to the mountain town of Sapa and was immediately greeted by smiling Hmong people and reasonable temperature. Actually, I think this is the first time in over two months that I have not sweat buckets just sitting down. (Some of my friends here claim I should see a doctor about how much I sweat, no joke.) I originally tried to put together a motorcycle tour of North Vietnam on a 125cc Russian Minsk, but the logistical support proved too expensive, so I settled for a three day, self-guided tour on a Chinese piece-of-shit.

About an hour before sunset, I rode in a small Dao Tribe village called Ban Ho. Of course their were no English speakers here (but strangely a few Spanish speakers) and people looked at me quite confused as to why big white guy just rolled up on a piece-of-shit Chinese motorbike. I managed to find a home-stay for $2 and met up with a couple of Canadian sisters (Mei and Mei Ling) that I had met the day before, doing a similar motorbike adventure. Dinner with the family included about 15-20 shots of various homemade rice wine / bath-tub gin concoctions that had to be preceded by loudly shouting, "Mot, Hai, Ba, YO!!!" I think we also finished all the beer in the village that night.

Day two was spent hiking to a tiny mountain-top village called Ta Trung Ho where we were greeted with a reaction more bizarre than I could imagine. Imagine some big, sweaty white guy and two Asian (but very much Canadian) girls showing up, pointing to their empty water bottles. Everyone just looked at us strangely and shook their heads no, even when I pulled out a few thousand Dong to demonstrate that we would pay for water. When an old women with two teeth kept staring at us and a drunk old man started chasing the girls, we decided we would rather hit the road and risk dehydration than stick around. We made it back okay.

Anyway, the next few days were as follows: saw some amazing scenery, motorbiked some awesome roads, got sick on the night train to Sapa, and went on a 30-hour, eight-vehicle marathon bus ride with a high fever and puking until I got into Vientiane, Laos.

As a final note on Vietnam: I am counting my blessings for being the hell out of this country. The South was a bit more mellow, but simply existing in the North permeates your soul with stress and I think I aged two years in the last two weeks. As a tourist, you must be on your toes every step of the way here to avoid being ripped off or scammed by someone on the street, guesthouse owner, or "reputable" travel agent. Also, I am not exactly sure, but I think the locals out here despise me and all other tourists (I did not get this feeling in the South.) Oh yeah, and Hmong guys have legs like Tom Platz.

Anyway, Laos is awesome and way more mellow. I'll get another update out in a couple of weeks.

Tom

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Scene from Sapa

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Bamboo Fence

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Dinner

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Chocolate waterfall near Sapa

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Kids n kows

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Some corn and rice

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Rice up close

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Kids keeping in the shade

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Some dirty Hmong kids

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Water-powered rice thresher

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Staggered rice paddies

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Sapa skyline

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With the bottle of gasoline strapped to me am I:
a: A suicide bomber?
b: Worried about running out of gas?
c: Stupid?
d: Both b and c

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This rattan bridge is a tourist gimmick

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More staggered rice paddies

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The great city of Ban Ho

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A couple of geese at the home-stay

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Another view of Ban Ho

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Bamboo canal

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Me, Mei Ling, and Mei cooling off during a hot hike

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Shallow waterfall

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Me hiking about

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The real bridge is far more dodgy than the gimmicky one

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Playing the harmonica near Ban Ho

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Sapa center at night

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Night market (no dog meat at this one, that's in Hanoi)

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Between Sapa and Lao Cai

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Motorbiking heaven

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Perhaps the perfect Sapa photo

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Native forests

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A Hmong kid in the road with two fighting bulls and a motorbike flying by: ha ha ha

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Mountains near Sapa

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Silver falls

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This bull isn't fighting anymore

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Volleyball net used to tie up goats

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Blue house in Sapa

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Sapa town

Posted by tommydavis 04:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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