Tag Archives: beer lao

Whizzing through world heritage, Luang Prabang, Laos (April 26, 2007)

Finally we managed to get out of Vang Vieng. That place just sucks you in and days fly by without you even realising. Just 2 days before our Laos visa ran out we arranged for a bus to Luang Prabang. The transfer arrived and drove us the 2 minutes across to where our bus was waiting on the old airstrip. Two rather budget conscious Israelis rocked up 10 mins before departure and managed to bargain down their ticket price a couple of bucks while delaying the rest of us.

Finally, we got going and soon past Kasi the scenery and winding roads really kicked in. The road zigzagged up and down through mountain range after mountain range. Clouds often hung in valleys and draped like cloth across peaks. The spectacular landscape still did not help the numbing pain in my bum. As we were in the seats at the very back of the bus we felt every little bump and bounce on the road.

We stopped en route and I happily escaped to stretch my legs. I soon realised that the wheel on the bus needed replacing. With only an hours delay and new wheel in place, we drove on again towards Luang Prabang. We stopped once more at the side of the road for a toilet break. However, with no facilities in sight, I crossed my legs for the duration.

7 1/2 hours after leaving Vang Vieng we arrived in Luang Prabang with a full bladder and sore bum. Touts tried to push there business on arrival in the bus station but being Lao they were gentle and polite. So we hopped in one of the Tuk Tuk’s and for a dollar per person arrived at Muong Lao Guesthouse. Located across from Visoun Temple. Friendly helpful staff showed us to our cosy en-suite a/c room with balcony for $12.

20 minutes before the travel agent closed we managed to book 2 seats for the next day to Chiang Mai costing $85USD plus a $10 departure tax to be paid at the airport. So the next mission was to find a bank that was still open so we could pay the tax. On the Sisavang Rd. beside Nisha’s Indian Restaurant there is a bank that for a 3% charge made a cash advance for us. There was also an ATM outside that accepts Mastercard and Maestro but they charge $4.50 per transaction and you can only withdraw a maximum of 70,000 kip ($70USD) at a time.

Starving we went for a pizza at the popular “Pizza Luang Prabang”. Eating outside we soaked up the atmosphere of this world heritage town. It has a strong colonial influence which is evident in the architecture but this is also mixed in with a traditional Lao style. Coming from Vang Vieng it was refreshing to see a lack of neon signs which have been replaced by aesthetically pleasing wooden ones. Knowing that we would return to this beautiful town I didn’t feel guilty for replacing the heritage sights for a large slice and a beer Lao. Next time we can do the cultural stuff, this time it was back to the guesthouse for a much-needed rest.

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Mama, Mr Happy & Four Thousand Islands, Don Det, Laos (March 31, 2007)

On the banks of the Mekong, we waited for our skinny longtail boat to arrive under a makeshift shack to hide from the afternoon sun. The mesmerising Mekong scenery soon made up for the cramped longtail boat journey. We passed tiny green islands reflected in the tranquil waters and navigated through a maze of sandbanks and narrow streams some seemed only ankle-deep until we reached our final destination ‘Don Det’. Coming from Cambodia I was expecting hoards of touts to await us however no one seemed too bothered that some tourists had arrived as the boat pulled up to the small beach. On arrival, the pace of life seems to have gone back a few notches and you feel a wave of relaxation wash over you.

It was getting dark and the island only has electricity for a few hours in the evening so we decided to check into the unappealing guesthouse with an en-suite western toilet for the night. Only a few minutes into the bungalow I looked up and backed out of the room slowly. I showed the lady who had checked us in a brown spider that was the size of my hand and she laughed and walked away. A few minutes later she returned with a broom. It took several whacks of the broom to kill the creature. With no hesitation, she picked the creature up in her hand and dangled it in front of me much to Alex’s and her delight.

Meanwhile, the English couple noticed what looked like a chocolate biscuit in their room which was stuck to the shoddy curtain and poked at it. It opened and fell to the floor it was full of maggots that then began to crawl over the floor. When they returned from dinner the ants had started to eat the maggots. We all decided it was our mission to get the hell out of there first thing the next morning. However, my other plan was to get very drunk so armed with cans of Beer Lao ( the only beer brewed in Laos) we sat on the porch in the darkness with eccentric characters and discussed the meaning of life and how to live it until the wee hours of the morning and I hit my bed snoring.

The next morning the English couple had risen early to check out the accommodation and recommended a place called ‘Mama’s Rasta Cafe’ with recognisable by the inflatable fish hanging outside. So with bags packed we happily escaped to the refuge of our new abode. On arrival, I was greeted by the burly Mama with a hearty laugh and a smack on the arse her way of being friendly. Her character made our stay in Don Det. She was our adopted Mama for the duration of our stay and the bungalow our home rather than just a place to stay. Being a hammock junkie I immediately fell in love with the communal balcony that displayed several hammocks overlooking the Mekong and the other uninhabited islands close by. Underneath the balcony is where Mama kept her beloved pigs which she often untied and squealing threw into the water for fun and our amusement as we looked on.

Eventually, we stirred from the comfort of our hammocks and rented bicycles to explore the island. We headed towards the bridge which used to be an old railway line in the French Colonial days now it is used as a toll bridge to get to the other island of Don Khon. After lunch, we cycled to the waterfall. We weren’t expecting much as it was dry season however nicely surprised as it was spectacular. Several streams splash down rocky cliffs and over boulders to the river rapids. Meanwhile, truckloads of Thai tourists in authentic bamboo hats and big cameras snapped away at each other enthusiastically. So much so that Alex got swept into a photo with a whole Thai family with a backdrop of the waterfall. As the sun was low in the sky the scenery really came to life and the sound of the gushing water was captivating.

That evening we discovered the ‘Reggae Bar’. It is tucked back from the road down a short pathway where sleeping bodies were lying outside under a mosquito net. We sat at a table amid the drunkenness and ordered a Vodka & Tonic. Mr Wath otherwise known as Mr Happy showed us the ‘happy’ menu. (‘happy’ on a menu in Laos normally means that there is some weed or other intoxicating substance in whatever your eating or drinking) on the menu among the usual stuff happy shakes, happy cakes etc. was a happy wedding party for $150, hangover breakfast including 500mg of paracetamol and 5mg of valium and for and for a little extra they will make anything ‘happy’ for you. As all electricity is run for only a few hours from generators every time someone ordered a shake the music died and the lights dimmed. Soon the candles came out as the generator was shut down for the night and a French girl started strumming on her guitar and sang sweetly to a hushing crowd, within minutes everyone was silent, mesmerised by the music. We all had happy dreams that night.

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