Hey Blog Readers, long time no chat. I spent the last two weeks in Laos. In the northern part of this country, where I spent much of my time, there is no internet (or much electricity for that matter), hence my delay of this post. Anyway, I really enjoyed Laos. Definitely one of my favourite countries so far. I was told it was a laid-back place with friendly locals. These things held true. Laos is quite undeveloped compared to its neighbors Thailand and Vietnam. I think this is a good thing. A random fact: Laos is the most bombed country in the history of the planet. During the “Secret War”, more bombs were dropped on Laos than all of World War II combined. Crazy. When trekking, stay on the trail and watch out for UXO (Unexploded ordinance).
Anyway, I arrived into Laos in the popular city of Luang Prabang. This place is well-touristed, with its French-Lao architecture, nice guesthouses, and pleasant cafes. Nearby they have, possibly, the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen. Ther are in the dense Laos forest, multi-tiered, with cool, turquoise blue water. They demand frolicking. I challenge you to visit these falls and not go for a dip.
Postcard-perfect waterfalls. If only my photography could do it justice.
After this, I visited the my highlight of Laos: the sleepy town of Muang Ngoi. Years later, when I look back on Laos, my days hanging out here are what I will remember. Muang Ngoi is fairly undeveloped, which is part of its charm. Only reachable by boat, it has no cars or motorcycles. It only has electricity for a few hours each evening. To bathe, just a tap of cold water. For $2, you can get a simple bungalow along the river with a balcony, a mattress, a mosquito net, and a hammock. What more can I ask for? No internet. If I wanted to email my friends and tell them how great the place was, quite simply, I couldn’t. I’m not sure if they even have phones. There is one dusty road that is frequented by as many chickens as people. I spent my days trekking to the local hill-tribe villages, reading a book on the hammock, watching the lazy river meander its way through the jungle, and swimming from its sandy banks. And, of course, enjoying a few Beer Lao’s, the country’s finest (and, I think, “only”) brew. Maybe I have gone on too much about this place, but it was great, and the other travellers I met there (great people) agreed.
I hope it never changes. I hope they never build a bridge across the river and cut a road through the jungle. But, I know it will happen. There will be cars and motor-cycles.. The dusty road will be paved. Electricity will dominate. The people will get TVs. Internet cafes will pop-up everywhere. The rustic bungalows will get torn down for big guesthouses with hot water. Then dance clubs. The classic slow-boats used for transportation will become unecessary because the bus will be faster, cheaper. Progress is plowing ahead, for better or worse, even in Laos. Every passing day, the world will never be the same.
Spending some quality time on the hammock in Muang Ngoi.
Here is a pretty random video from Muang Ngoi. The place where I stayed was trying to build a deck. As they have no machines in town, so they get all the men together and do things the old-fashioned way, which was quite entertaining for me and some friends. Apparently there are no building codes here. As long as the structure stands, people seem to be happy.
During my time here, I went on a 2-day trek with an overnight stay in local villages. I have now done this a couple times on this trip. As usual, I found a top-notch crew of travellers to join me. Obviously, there is no running water. There is one pump which the whole village uses to bathe. They served us a chicken dish. This took some time to prepare, as the need to go find a chicken and kill it. A great experience. Here are a few pics from that one:
A typical home in the village.
Some of the village children. They love to have their picture taken and see themselves on the digital camera. I noticed that most of the young children don’t wear any pants. I think this makes the potty process easier for them. If they need to go, they just get it done anywhere. No need to deal with pants or toilets. How convenient. (pic from Remi)
I sense this post is getting long and dragging on, so I will wrap it up with a few more comments about Laos:
– Boats in Laos are *the* way to travel. A Romanian girl and I chartered a boat for a 5-hour journey north of Muang Ngoi. The whole time you get treated with landscapes like this:
– The bus rides in Laos are awful. Simply, the infrastructure for decent road travel in the north does not exist. It takes forever to get anywhere. The buses are crammed. I typically have a couple Lao guys on my lap. Also, most times a local vomits. My friend was unlucky enough to be sitting behind a puker and got covered. Yucky. So, watch out for this when you travel Laos.
I’m now back in Thailand and feeling some culture shock. Here they have lots of electricity and 7-11s on every corner. Lots of cars motorcycles ripping around everywhere. They have “traffic”, which I hadn’t missed.
My game plan is to go to Myanmar (aka, Burma) next. To do this, I need to travel to Bangkok to get a visa and flight. It seems, in SE Asia, all roads lead to Bangkok. Talk to you again soon :)
PS: Btw, wow, I really nailed the alliteration in the title of this post. Check out all the L’s. I don’t think I will ever be able to top this one…