Laos travel info
26 days summer 03
Kind of travel:
alone in a wholly independent travel
heart of the wet season (2003 summer)
by minibus, by bus, by pirogues and by moped
in dormitories and huts
few countries in the world are as cheap as South Asia. If you
come from the western world everything'll be just peanuts. 10$
each day can be enough for a low budget travel. But watch out
for the visas: they're expensive (Laos 15 days, 40$)
baking and sweating, this'll be the worst.
I would say that Laos is quite safe, even the capital Vientane
seemed a calm place. I read about some guerilla in the north,
but I didn't have problems.
"not pushy at all" attitude of the people, feel a laid-back
country, its safety, the low clouds on the green montains, tubing
on the rivers, bathing in the waterfalls, hanging out by moped,
the fellows I met....
the f...ing superhumidity and hotness, that made my brain melted.
you do need:
nothing more than few T-shirts, some pants, and, if you wanna
enjoy the travel, don't bother for the hygenic local conditions
and for the water snakes!
THE TRAVEL IN LAOS
don't really know why it's years that the idea of hanging out
in Indochina buzzes in my mind; attracted by this cluster of nations
so known as stages of some past human madness (from the '65-'73
war to Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge), on the opposite so few mentioned
in their actual situation.
At the beginning I was mainly focused on Vietnam and Cambodia,
but then, for several reasons, despite already handing an expensive
Vietnamese visa, I swapped the Hochi Min country with the earth
of the elephant: Laos.
To fly to Bangkok rather than directly to my goals was the only
way to save bunches of euros and if you add I had to wait
the Laotian visa for 5 days in the north of Thailand you figure
out why part of my travel passed through the former country.
"Laid back": definitely
it is the right word to define Laos. When I crossed the border
with Thailand in Huay Xai I felt to live a thirty years gap back
to the past. The Thai tractors to cultivate the rice fields were
substituted by the plough pulled by an ox, the well paved road
by the rivers and the soft seats of the buses by steel benches
fixed in the back part of the camions, but unliked Cambodia there
was no confusion in all this.
While the north part of the country is characterised by
steep and impenetrable mountains, the south is as flat as Cambodia.
I think generally the north being wilder is more charming, but
in the south there're place like the four thousand islands archipelago
that is worth to be visited. I was impressed by the safety of
this country despite its poverty: I've never had or heard any
problem as concerns stealing or scams, and the attitude doesn't
lead you even to suspect about it. Also the capital, Vientiane,
that usually is the less safe place of the country, is calm and
pleasant. Further the country is so cheap that hardly you'll have
to bargain like hell to save money, unless you are broken.
My best memory is the tubing, I mean floating down a river
by the inner tube of a tractor, in a wild tributary of the Mekong
in the north of Laos.
In conclusion to enjoy Laos you must go there with the
purpose of admiring the atmosphere more than looking for some
highlights, otherwise the risk is to get disappointed, instead
of being charmed, by the simplicity of the country.
prepared this trip for months before leaving: first of all reading
pages and pages of funny reports to plan my itinerary and at the
end I completely changed my way following my instinct and some
funny fellows known on the road (thanks Leigh, thanks Enn). But
this is the fun of travelling. "Travellers don't know where
they are going, while tourist don't know where they have been"
Moreover I straived to carry just the indispensable stuff on my
shoulders encompassing gears for my daily fight against supposed
However evidently they were on holiday somewhere else and, as
every travel (maybe even more than others), I utilised just a
part of my 19 Kg bag... this freaks my out every time I come back!!!!!
I've promised myself next travel just two pairs of slip and a
toothbrush (I'll borrow the paste) in a plastic bag ;-))
Chiang Mai I spent some relaxant days waiting for my Lao visa
and getting my feet massaged (read
the funny story). My passport wandered through Thailand for
four days before coming back to his worried daddy in Huay
(the Lao border) at 7 am brought by a moped-boy coming from "whoknowswhere".
Right here I crossed the Mekong river getting in Laos and experiencing
a 30 years gap of development in 500 meters of water. No more
roads here in Laos, in particular in the rainy season! That's
why I had to get packed for two days in a crowded (and touristy)
slow boat to reach Luang Prabang. But I had fun, especially because
most of the guys on the boat where travellers plenty of interesting
stories experienced around the world. And what about the nice
village of Pakbeng where the boat stops for the night?
No way to describe the charming Luang
Prabang and the sublime noodle soups I had for breakfast,
lunch and dinner. Definitely it's not the most off-of-the-beaten-track
place I've ever seen, it's really worthwhile though! I think it's
here I had my best days during this travel. In fact I knew Leigh
(canadian no-fear guy) and Enn (dutch tough girl) who I travelled
with for the next two weeks. Me and Leigh tasted every sort of
thing was sold as food: the "snake
juice" and even the unchewingable fried hen legs; but
the point is that we appreciated most of them.. uhm. left alone
the stinky dried rats; frankly I felt to throw up just glancing
(and smelling) at them (read
the funny story). The three of us decided to get to north
to the Muang
Ngoi Neua village where we sweated for some days, tubing down
the river, swinging on the hammocks and watching the village kids
playing,. I mean such things like hunting 3 m long water snakes
about our life there). Then back to the civilisation, namely
to the "built just for tourist" Vang Vieng and the nice
Vientane. And south again till the four thousand
island arcipelago at the border between Cambodia and Laos,
where we settled down on an island for a bunch of days.
Here my travel fellows got caught by the idleness of sucking coconuts
and drinking Lao Lao whisky laying down on a hammock overlooking
the Mekong. If I had time. I'd be still there.. but Cambodia was
waiting for me (bye bye dudes, I'll miss you). It has been an
hassle to cross the border and I immediately experienced how these
two countries differ...
If you've planned to go to Laos or to the North in July or August
I hope you like sweating as hell. I mean that kind of humid hot
that doesn't let you to sleep unless a fan blows on your body
the all night. Good luck!
the paragraphs INTRO, PREPARATION and ITINERARY are equal
to those in the Thailand and Cambodia chapters since the travel
was the same, while the last one about the IMPRESSION differs
for the three countries