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In to Laos and Vientianne

September 4th, 2009

We crossed from Hanoi in to Laos via the mountains (I can’t remember the name) on the eastern border of Laos. One word can only really describe the view: stunning. Unfortunately the photos that I took really do not do the view justice. Having been to the Grand Canyon I would say that this view comes as close as possible to matching that. Of course they differ in composition but the sheerness of the mountains and the heights from which they rise and fall really does give the same sense.

In to Laos

Anyway, the journey was a long one, taking nearly the whole of a day plus a few hours the next. We stopped in Pak Beng (I think) which really is the middle of nowhere. Crap hotel and a restaurant that didn’t want to serve food and, when it did, it was barely edible. In all honesty we didn’t need the stop and should have just gone straight to Vientianne. Unfortunately there was also a bear being kept at the hotel for its bile, a practice that is being eradicated by the Laos government, just not very quickly. As a result I think that Gap (the company that runs the tour) will continue to use that hotel in order to pressure them in to freeing the bear. Nice for the bear, unfortunate for all Gap’s customers as they’ll have to stay there as well.

Vientianne means “Citadel of the Moon” or (!) “Citadel of the Fragrant Trees” and became the capital of Laos in 1563. It’s not a massive town but sits on a bend in the Mekong river and as a result has a great position, one that was capitalised on by the French towards the end of the 19th century.

Our time in Vientianne was mainly taken up by a day on bikes. As a group we hired bikes, in a somewhat sexist fashion, with the girls on pink bikes and the boys on red. We did the obligatory tour around the palaces before heading off to a market to find Charles presents for less than ~50p. Steve, Rav and I left the rest to go for a little “off-roading”Steve on a Bike! and preceded to make our way in to the countryside down by the river. It’s always nice to get off the beaten track and see the real lives that people live. Amusingly, in this instance, we found a group of 8 year olds who, in no uncertain terms, told us to “go home, go home”. We carried on riding and hoped that their older siblings were more understanding. That night we went to a restaurant and, with a lovely meal, made our way through some beer towers. At that point we also gave Charles his cheap presents before handing him some pink pyjamas that we’d had tailor made in Hoi An. He was not amused and I’m fairly certain he chucked them straight away (I was gonna swear here but I won’t.)

Author: Mark Jerzykowski Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
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