Expedition to Laos 2011
All travel reports are translated electronically although minor improvements are sometimes made.
Expedition to Laos 2011 – travel report
My trip: Houai Xai, Luang Namtha and expedition to Nam Ha jungle, cruise on Mekong river from Huay Xai, via Pak Beng to Luang Pra Bang, Hmong village, Tad Se and Kuang Si waterfalls, Vang Vieng and nearby caves, Vientiane, Kong Lo cave, Savvanakhet, Pakse, Tad Lo, Champasak and Si Phan Don- “the land of 4000 islands” (Don Khong, Don Det, Don Khone, Ban Nagasang and Don Papheng waterfall. Trip to Cambodia to see Irrawaddy dolphins is described here).
In addition to the detailed description of the listed places, this report also contains many practical tips, personal feelings about Laos, curiosities and stories from the road.
Characteristic things about Laos
♦ Older people speak French and to this day are very popular are the baguettes, sold in every town. Apart from the French colonial architecture, the French left so much good in Laos.
♦ Unfortunately these are “tragic” news but according to the Laotian law foreigners cannot sleep with Laotian women. However, if this happens a foreigner goes to jail until he marries her. I therefore advise you to be careful with the very nice girls who don’t want anything in return. To warm your soul I will add that many Laotian girls are even pretty.
Border crossing from Thailand to Laos
In Chiang Khong town, on the Thai side, I boarded a boat and sailed across the Mekong to Laos. I think that for those who are not on a visa trip (Bangkok-Vientiane) this way of crossing the Lao border is the best because it allows the best in my opinion the tour of Laos (south-east). After about 10 minutes I got to the shore in Huay Xai. This pleasure cost me only 40 bhat.
Huay Xai and the visa process
After I got to the bank I had to pay for the visa first. The happy company in the border office pasted a sticker into my passport for only $ 30 and I was officially in Laos.
Huay Xai was once one of the main drug trafficking sites, but today it is a pleasant border town, where locals have done harmless business. Every house on the main street has already been converted into hotels, bars and restaurants where you can buy tickets on the way. Huay Xai guarantees that the tourist will be able to handle all formalities with ease. Cheapest room and even in a decent hotel I found for 40000 Kip which is the norm though you can get cheaper. The meal is about 15000 Kip. Besides the relaxed atmosphere of the town, eating, drinking and sitting on the Mekong, I also recommend the beautiful temple of Jom Khao Manilat, which dates back to 1880 and is built on top of the mountain. To this temple are led high stairs beginning with the heads of dragons and their “bodies” lead up to the top. Wat Jom Khao Manilat is a typical Shan style architecture with impressive roofs and paintings of Buddha and many other attractive decorations. This temple is a magnificent viewpoint on the Mekong and neighboring Thailand, although monks can sometimes be found here seeking contact. In love with couples, I recommend this place as a romantic nest to observe beautiful sunsets. Huay Xai is also usually the first place where tourists try Beer Lao or the national pride of Laos. This beer has made it all over Southeast Asia.
Huai Xai is also a great base for Luang Namtha (80000 Kip 3,5h) and also boats to Luang Pra Bang (2-day boat ride 950 Bhat). I returned to Huai Xay after returning from the northern jungle. Besides this town is also a good base for the Gibbon Experience, but this adventure is for people with a higher budget.
Transport to Luang Namtha
Minibus was supposed to wait in front of the hotel, but the driver forgot about me, so with the lady who bought the ticket we caught up with her car. The trip led through nice views of banana trees, rice fields and wooden huts protruding from them. In addition, there was a lot of primitive wood, bamboo and thatched villages with children running after the pigs. My rainy trip through beautiful scenery took me 3.5h and cost 80000 Kip. Upon reaching the railway station near Luang Namtha, pick up I got to the town under the hotel for 10000 Kip.
(Detailed description of the town)
Luang Namtha leży w bliskim sąsiedztwie Chin i Birmy i podczas wojny amerykańsko-wietnamskiej było ciężko bombardowany przez wjska amerykańskie. Dziś jednak na szczęście jest to bardzo popularne miasteczko wśród turystów, znane jako centrum trekkingu po dżunglii Nam Ha NPA i dolinie Namtha. Oprócz tego region ten oferuje też wizyty w prymitywnych wioskach daleko w dżunglii, spływ rzeką na tratwie i kanu oraz wspaniałe widoki i piękną przygodę. Przewodnik mówił też o dużych zwierzętach żyjących w dżungli lecz ja byłem tam całe dwa dni i widziałem tylko mrówki. Opis mojej wyprawy do dżunglii w następnym rozdziale.
Po dojechaniu do miasteczka zamieszkałem w najtańszym lecz przyzwoitym domu gościnnym. Był to Sinsavanh gdzie pokój kosztował tylko 30000 Kip. Jest to przyjemne i zaciszne miejsce blisko głównej ulicy gdzie już w holu wiszą plakaty z podobiznami Lenina, Stalina, Marxa i Engelsa. Poza tym wszystko było w porządku.
Luang Namtha is a very small, pleasant town where there are two nice bazaars. One of them is on the main street and it is the main meeting place in the evenings where you can eat good soup for only 10,000 Kip and grilled duck and many more. Right next to the hotel there is a bank with currency exchange and many nice pubs and trekking offices offering jungle trips. There is another, much bigger bazaar where the whole village supplies basic necessities. Travelers should be interested in eating for the road, which anyway buys a guide, fruit, flip flops, flashlights and raincoats. For 18000 Kip you can buy one that is certainly not wet. Other items worth noting were, for example, large pig ears and buffalo horns and hooves.
Although Luang Namtha is considered as the only base for jungle, you can spend a nice time without knocking out your budget.
Expedition to the jungle near Luang Namtha
(Description of a beautiful, challenging adventure in the Lao jungle, crossing the river in clothes, mosquitoes and leeches, slides on the mud, primitive villages, bamboo cooking, and many other things)
About travel agencies, how they work and about our expectations:
In Luang Namtha there are many travel agencies offering practically the same though for different prices so before making a decision you should be well informed. In theory there should always be a limit to the number of participants in the expedition so that it does not have a detrimental effect on nature. In addition, the travel agent should be free to say what percentage of our money goes directly to people living in the jungle and what percentage of the conservation of nature. One of the most recognized trekking offices throughout Laos is Green Discovery, although I do not want to specifically recommend them because other companies do it well and cheaply. Remember that even the best offices do not employ qualified guides because there is no need. Every local paddy rice field will gladly take your dog for a walk in the jungle if the office explains to him where to take us. That’s what it looks like and it works great. Also remember that more participants minimize costs.
The choice of my expedition
I had only a friend from Japan and therefore we chose the trip for two days and one night for 460000 kip between 2 of us. It was a grueling, difficult and rainy trip, which was very satisfying, but it was very bone-deep. On our way we had such things as: visits to primitive villages hidden far in the jungle, wetting to dry thread during Laotian monsoon, multiple landing in mud, natural slides on mud and desperate catching of trees, night in bamboo hut, meals on leaf banana, cooking dinner in bamboo and making mugs and other tools, also bamboo. What a fun !!!
About 8.30am the tuk tuk took us from the office and first went to the bazaar so the guide could buy food for us for two days. It was a good time because I spent time with people and took photos of them. There were stalls with home-made items, fruits, buffalo meat and one of the most interesting fish. Then we drove about 20 minutes for Luang Namtha until we reached a small village on the edge of the road. It was a typical village consisting of wooden houses covered with bamboo walls and thatched roofs. This village was very much in Laos and in this part of the world. Dirty, cheerful children ran in the yard, chasing pigs and each other and women breast-feeding. In addition, in a small barn they had a pair of porcupines. This village lay on the river, was covered with banana trees and was the beginning of our interesting adventure. After we crossed the wooden, shifting bridge, we began to wander.
Our first day was the heaviest since we walked 10 km through the unspoilt jungle and it was mostly uphill. For this we were hot and humid all the time, so even without the monsoon rain we were so wet and tired. It started very sharply because before the ground leveled first about 2 km we had to go up only.
After about two hours of walking one of the guides decided that it was too hard for him to cut the banana leaf from the tree and decided that it was time for dinner. The leaves were thrown in a row: salted fish, clashed rice, some chili grass and chopped bamboo with garlic. Especially the bamboo was outstanding. After dinner we returned the leaf of nature, we broke up a bunch of bananas and went up the hill again.
The place was so muddy that we collapsed in it to the ankles, and when a strong, monsoon rain began, we could only stand and melt. At that moment, I realized that we were not in the jungle themselves. We were always accompanied by mosquitoes and leeches, which we removed with lighters. Rain appeared often, was always strong and did not last long but caused it to be very slippery. Many times when we walked in and descended from the mountain we landed in the mud. Sometimes we made such slides, that we were riding a large piece of desperately catching the protruding trees. This may of course look good to me but it is better to stop because we do not know how this ride ends. Sometimes it is possible for us to wait for the stone and sometimes the gulf. The possibilities are many and one should not expect a light landing. The guide from time to time cleared the plants in front of us so that we were able to pass though sometimes we had to descend from the most convenient route to avoid meeting the bee nest. So overall it looked the whole day of our march. At the end, just before entering the hut, we had to cross the river but we donated ourselves to undress or even take off our shoes. I just walked in as I stood because after all day we were in such a tragic state that any care had no meaning. My clothes changed into a dung and leech here and there, so the transition through the cold river brought me some refreshment. When we reached the camp I was relieved and I sat down with pleasure. That night we slept in a bamboo hut covered with palm and banana leaves. The guards fired the fire, spread the mats and hanged the mosquito nets. After a while they also began to prepare a meal consisting of rice, vegetables, chicken and soup. The beauty of the whole operation was that all these dishes were cooked inside the bamboo on fire. When it was ready, they cleared the tall grass and suddenly a bamboo table and two benches appeared, holding on.
We slept at night under the stars, somewhere in the Lao jungle. I lay down to sleep at 7 pm and they woke me up until 7 am – I was so exhausted.
We got up at 7.30 in the morning. When the guides were preparing breakfast in bamboo I got through the river for a second time and went to a waterfall that was only a few meters behind the river. Although it was close to getting to him it was not easy because I had to walk on sharp rocks and on the road there were also many trees and other plants to overcome. The waterfall was beautiful and lay in a very secluded mansion in the green. I used it to take a quick, cold shower and then very carefully returned to my side of the river. Just after breakfast we set off and started again hard because about an hour we went uphill, breaking through a thicket of dense plants. In the meantime, we have avoided the nest of bees, we planted the plants in the heaviest parts of it, and of course it did not rain and slipped on the mud. After about three hours of walking we reached the river through which we had to cross, so we used it again for a swim. It was not easy because the current was very strong and it took away, but on the other hand it was part of our beautiful adventure. Besides, we did not have to worry about mosquitoes, just leeches. We carefully moved all the equipment through the swift river, put on my wet clothes and shoes, just after the water had poured out. Then we walked about an hour up and after getting to the top we had a beautiful view of the rice paddies, bamboo huts protruding from them and grazing buffalos. We walked through the fields and then carefully taking the next steps to not fall on the slippery pavement we moved forward. We fell down several times, but fortunately there were banana growers who helped to maintain balance. Shortly after, we reached a very primitive village, which was the best for cultural shock during this expedition. The village consisted of several wooden thatched cottages and surrounded by rice paddies, and chickens and pigs ran in the yard. This village was a beautiful show of life away from civilization, which I was looking for in Laos. The village host invited me to the hut where the whole family was sitting. All generations lived together under one roof, in a house without floor, windows or ceiling. We were given a cooked bamboo with sticky rice and then asked the host through a guide. We asked mainly about how they live here, what they said was very good. I have also made a lot of interesting pictures, capturing all the realism of the surroundings. I believe that visiting such places when traveling in Laos is necessary to have a better image of the country.
Then we went down a bit but also on the slippery mud and then crossed over the river in all our clothes. I was getting tired of the heat and high humidity, though the second day was easier. Although there were more crossings across the river we walked less uphill. In the next part of our march again we had to cross the river but this time through an uncertain bamboo bridge that collapsed and I fell into the water. The current took me by a small piece, because the guide threw me a bamboo stick, which I caught in time. Then after the last hill that tired us more than the largest mountain once again we reached the river and over the long hanging bamboo bridge. This bridge, however, hung high above the water and was more secure because its structure was based on iron ropes. We walked slowly all the time while we were rocking, but this time without accidents. On the other side there was a village but it was by the road and although still very primitive it was in a better condition than the previous one. It was the end of our march, which was much heavier than the trek in Burma about 2 months ago. We sat down on the road in the shade of banana trees, and then bought the guides to BeerLao. Soon after, the pick-up took us to Luang Namtha.
Summary of my jungle expedition
Trekking in the Lao jungle gives a great picture of what Laos really is. I believe that for the full experience of our trip this is necessary. It is hard but fatigue passes and only our experiences and memories count.
Trip to Muang Sing
Muang Sing about 60 km from Luang Namtha is rarely visited by tourists because it is an undeveloped town is even more descent from the tourist route. Muang Sing is another beautifully located village where jungle tours are organized, and the fact that it is only about 40 km from the Chinese border brings income to the local Laotians. In Muang Sing there are several guest houses and trekking agencies, a neglected temple and a dirty street and bazaar that is muddy during the wet season. I think the town is still more authentic than the places on the worn-out trail. Chicken fried rice in a local pub can be eaten for 15000 Kip.
A trip to Muang Sing took us all day. Together with a Japanese colleague, we rented mopeds and did not mind that I did not have a driving license. In Luang Namtha moped hire costs 45000 Kip. Getting out of town was not easy, as electricity was interrupted and gas stations did not work. So we bought gasoline from a moped rental (1 liter 11000 Kip) and finally we went on the road. We often went to admire the most beautiful views (mainly rice fields) and the most interesting, primitive villages. Every time there were people who sometimes posed for photos. The kids were making fun of us, but I think it was mostly curiosity. On the way there were also many interesting places and meetings, such as the traffic jam caused by a herd of buffaloes and the poor peasants carrying the brush on their shoulders. People in particular are far away from the civilization of places, and the word “money” has probably entered the Laotian dictionary. Nearer to Muang Sing there were more wooden houses and traditional Laotian settlements and throughout our trip paddy fields. On the way back we also stopped at the entrance to Nam Keo Noi waterfall. We bought tickets for 5000 Kip and then walking 780 meters through beautiful nature we reached the waterfall. In the meantime it rained but the waterfall and views around it were so beautiful. On the way back, it was raining all the time, so I returned to Luang Namtha after dark, completely wet. My trip was definitely beautiful and worth every minute but I would recommend it to those who have some more time. On my return I once again spread the things to dry and fortunately I still had new clothes that I bought occasionally in Thailand a few days ago.
Around Luang Namtha is full of small villages and nice views. For those who do not have the time and desire to drive to Muang Sing I recommend to rent a bike and just go to the town to spend time in one of the villages or on the river. Definitely a good experience!
Return from Luang Namtha to Huay Xai
(Beautiful landscapes and observation of people)
As before I paid Kip 80000 but this time I had to make a bit of a bargain. The drive lasted 3.5 hours and led through rice fields and wooden villages, built on their edge or on the border between the road and the abyss. Great experience not only in terms of outdoor activities but also because of the people watching. Partially their lives are deprived of privacy because every passing car sees what they do. For example, I saw an old generation sitting on a bamboo balcony peeing in the nose and how young girls were doing laundry on the road. One was so unconcerned that when we stood there for a moment, she took off her mother from under her long dress and began to soak. Full relaxation in Laos!
Mekong cruise from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang
Mekong cruise is a popular tourist attraction in Laos, which is carried out by most tourists. There are two ways to beat this boat route: free boat and fast boat. When I was here in 2004 I was traveling by speedboat, whose exact description is here. In 2011 I wanted to try something new and so for only 950 bhat with port transportation included, I took a relaxing cruise across the Mekong. It takes two days with a change in the village of Pak Beng for the night and guarantees a very peaceful, relaxing “pain until” experience. Impatiently, I suggest the boat fast although both versions have their unforgettable charms, which means that Laos has to visit at least twice. The cruise itself is obviously beautiful and very relaxing. I saw wooden huts on the shore, built on tall bales and thatched. In addition, children and buffalos bathed close to each other and adults were fishing from their tiny boats. From time to time we were on the shore to take passengers from the surrounding villages, so that you could better watch life in tiny villages. Mekong itself varies depending on the section. Sometimes it was calm and we went without a hitch, and another time, rocks and very strong currents and whirls came out of it. There was plenty of space on our large boat so you could always come. There was also a toilet and an expensive bar with coffee, soup and of course Beer Lao, which reliably maintained good humor on the boat. However, I advise you to take food with you because the boat does not have a specific food.
On the first day from Huay Xai to Pak Beng I went 6h and the second day from Pak Beng to Luang Prabang 7h. In this direction it flows faster because we are going with the current but the same cruise in the opposite direction would take about 10-11h per day.
Night in Pak Beng
Pak Beng is a compulsory stop for a one night cruise on a free boat. Immediately after mooring to the shore awaited many people offering cheap accommodation, but they had to bargain. Five minutes walk from the Mekong I found a beautiful room with private bathroom for only 30000 Kip. At Pak Beng I only spent one evening but definitely enough. This village has a nice view of the Mekong and many restaurants. That evening I sat down in a few pubs overlooking the river and watched the nature. An important event was a sexy girl behind me, who wanted me to spend money with her at the bar and wanted to sell me drugs, which is unfortunately a common phenomenon.
I got the impression that all the residents of Pak Beng are bored with the place where there is only one street and complain that everyone stays only one night. That is why the business is bad because people are very short and every resident has a pub or shop.
Luang Prabang was the capital of Laos and the “Pearl of the Orient”, nicely situated on the Mekong River and Nam Khan, full of history and Buddhist temples. There is also a colonial architecture, you can eat well, treat yourself to a massage and arrange trips to two wonderful waterfalls, although the cruise options are much more. As in many places in Laos, you can also swim, kayak or go on a mountain adventure. Luang Prabang is undoubtedly the most popular and most visited place in Laos.
To Luang Prabang I arrived about 5 pm and after a short time I found a very good and pretty cheap room – 30000 Kip. I lived in a guest house, which was run by an older French speaker. So it is in Laos that older people speak this language, and even today, baguettes are very popular.
That evening I went to the Hmong night market, which I can not see here. The tents begin to be set in the middle of the street at four o’clock and roll around the 11th. The night bazaar is the best way to see Laotian art in the LP. After dark, with the light of the lights, you can bargain for interesting bas-reliefs, figurines, paintings, tea rooms, necklaces, sticks and probably any possible souvenir. If tourists are shopping here is the biggest choice and the price depends on perseverance. There are also many food stalls. At a very bargain price you can buy a baguette (10000 Kip), fresh fruit juice (5000 Kip) and an absolute hit of the evening or grilled fish stuffed with delicate bamboo sticks (20000 Kip). Culinary possibilities are of course many.
The next day I went to visit temples and stopping for juice and fruit I traversed all of Luang Prabang. I was also on the river and did many photos of monks.
On this day I saw many temples and below I am going to describe most of them:
The first I saw was the Temple of Phu Si, where it was necessary to climb because it was on top of the mountain. Right after entering the first rank there is a small chapel with nice but faded frescoes and a large Buddha statue. At the next level you can admire the beautiful nature, including among other things a few hundred-year-old tree walled in the shape of a flower lotus. The place is also a very good viewpoint for the beautiful komples temple museum Haw Kam. After buying a ticket for 20000 Kip, climb up the stairs leading through a number of branched trees. Climbing takes only about 15 minutes, but the heat and humidity cause even after passing a small piece of sweat is poured into streams. At the very top the temple is very small but also very pleasant. It is covered with a golden, sharp end and in the middle there are monuments of Buddha and flowers, candles and other gifts around it. However, the best thing to recommend here is the panoramic views of the river and the surrounding area. The good thing is that from the top you can see landing aircraft from a relatively short distance.
Leaving in front of me I had the Royal Palace and Museum also known as Haw Kam. The 1904 object is undoubtedly the biggest tourist attraction in Luang Prabang. The two main objects on its territory are very different from each other because one is built in Laotian style and the other in European. There is also the third building closest to the monument, but this pales in comparison with the palace and the temple. Visible from afar, the first object is a palace built in a characteristic oriental way, so for tourists this is the most impressive. I think it is best to compare it to one of the temples in Wat Phra Keo in Bangkok. Here you can admire the roofs of the same style as the gold and carved walls. The difference here is the dragons along the entrance, which are also characteristic of the northern Thai style. As we walk through the alley, the palm trees reach the museum, decorated with a tall gold spike. In the middle there are wonderful religious objects, including sculptures from India, Laos and Cambodia. The museum itself is small but has a lot of beautiful, valuable and rare exhibits in its collection. This is a great value for money.
Then I walked the main street of the town, took pictures of the monks, and thanked the overwhelming children who pressed the bracelets to my hands. Soon after, I got to the temple of Wat Xieng Thong, one of the most spectacular in Laos and so well known that it was immortalized on the 20000 Kip banknote. Built in 1560 and characterized by typical architecture for Luang Prabang with decorated columns and bas-reliefs. Wat Xieng Tong Temple is located between the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers.
Then I went over the Nam Khan River where I sat down and took pictures of nature. It is interesting to see that, just across the river from one of the most well-kept cities in Laos, I saw a kind of “return to the roots”. On the other side of the bank lived a few families in a traditional bamboo hut covered with thatch. Next to banana trees and mango trees, and at the entrance to the jungle were running pigs. The host also had a small canoe for half fish and the net hung on the shore. I understood that despite not always the fortune of the world, in Laos I still can count on the view of hundreds of years. Then I went in the river but unfortunately it fell apart for good. Fortunately, I sat in one of the pubs and for a magical $ 1.5 I was served a delicious banana pancake and a mango cocktail. The food was very good but just the price is another thing here that allows for stress free traveling. Next to it was the temple of Wat Wisunalat (Wat Visoun) which was built in 1513 and is today the oldest working temple in Luang Prabang. There is also a temple surrounded by palm trees of typical Luang Prabang architecture but this place is different because of the stone stupa. There is also a bodhi tree surrounded by a wall and covered with prayer flags, but the most attention is drawn by a huge stone pagoda, with a circular top and a square at the base. There are, of course, many statues of Buddha and many other religious objects, even from the 15th and 16th centuries. The whole thing has its own mood. It is a very secluded place where you can meet monks and buy small souvenirs. Just walking around Wat Wisunalat is free but entrance to the temple costs 5000 Kip.
Then I went to the far end of town to sit down for tea every now and then watching pitchers and other wolfcraft. I also visited the Phosy bazaar but as for me it was too new and therefore not interesting for tourists. In the meantime, I did a couple of other temples along the way, but the one I remember best was Wat Manor. I came across this object quite accidentally and it was a very good experience in terms of contact with the monks who tried to talk to me and gave me bananas. In addition, it is a typical Buddhist temple as I described earlier with golden bas-reliefs and colorful paintings on the walls. Nice place.
When I returned to the center, the Hmong bazaar was already open so after mandatory mango juice I bought some souvenirs. Time flies fast because it is very pleasant and for hours you can choose here paintings, sculptures and much more. I finished this day with grilled fish which was great too. The next day I made a trip to Luang Prabang and the day after I left. Time here is one of the best spent in the whole of my trip and I strongly urge you to visit.
For those who do not have enough Buddha statues, boat trips or caves in the vicinity of Vang Vieng, I recommend a short boat trip to Wat Tham Xieng Maen Cave!
Waterfalls Kuang Si and Tad Se and Hmong village
There is one tour for Luang Prabang, which must necessarily be realized. There are two phenomena of nature, namely the Kuang Si and Tad Se waterfalls, and it is also worthwhile to go to the Hmong village. From the main street you can buy this trip from the office but then it costs more, you see less and you are like a herd of cows. The best option is to make an appointment with a taxi driver, but it is very expensive to drive yourself. Fortunately for the cost division I had two Czechs so we paid only 85000 Kip per person. I had this trip already in 2004, but as it turned out, for 7 years a lot has changed.
We first went to the Kuang Si waterfall and after a short time we noticed that we were driving on the asphalt. Seven years ago there was only sand and protruding stones, which made the road much more interesting. On the way however, the views were all the same. We saw rice fields and traditional Laotian wood houses and thatched roofs, though there were also many brick houses. I know that from Laotian’s puntu view it is undoubtedly improved but for a traveler like me it takes a bit of old, good realism.
Our first stop was the village of Hmong, which is a typical example of Laotian “detachment from the world”, but on the other hand it is not in my opinion the truth. The Hmong Village is on the direct route to Tat Kuang Si, one of the major tourist attractions in Luang Prabang, and although it still retains its realism, I was somewhat doubtful about it seven years ago. In general, it is a great experience in Laos, as very poorly dressed people live here in wooden and bamboo thatched roofs. As soon as I entered the village, poor children ran up to me to sell my wrist straps and wanted money for taking pictures of them, and adults had a stall with handmade materials. Girls around the age of 7 wore younger children in their arms and all the time they were following me to sell something. Dirty, probably hungry and with a “gilem” under the nose emanated the misery that struck the consciousness. This village was located among interesting vegetation such as banana trees, mango trees and many others. I also noticed that there were no floors in their huts but bare land, but on the other hand, in the 21st century there was concrete spilled over the main road and some houses. Was the electricity that I do not know though I doubt.
At the same time, the main point of the day was the magnificent Tat Kuang Si Waterfall. Situated about 32 km from Luang Prabang, Kuang Si is a magnificent complex of waterfalls and turquoise natural pools. The whole is in a beautiful, clean and rich vegetation park where the great waterfall is at the top of the trail. This place is so great that you can swim in the pools, sometimes struggling with the strong current of the river. Under some waterfalls you can make a nice massage and in many secluded places simply sit immersed in blue or green water and relax in the beauty of nature. The biggest waterfall is unfortunately too dangerous to swim under but it guarantees a wonderful view. The absolute hit of this place is to jump from the tree with a hanging rope straight to the cold water, near the waterfall. At the bottom is also a fenced area with black bears, which have been saved from poachers.
Compared to seven years ago, things have changed and it’s not always good. First of all, the entrance was free and now cost 20000 Kip. Besides, it was quieter and less people. Today there are a whole lot of pubs and souvenir shops and in 2004 there was one pub under the thatch and nothing else. From the very beginning it was felt that we were alone in the jungle. Now Kuang Si waterfalls are business.
Then we went to the Tad Se waterfalls and it was also a beautiful experience. After getting to the village by the river we had to pay 10000 Kip for a boat to the mouth of the waterfall. We arrived quite late so we were lucky because the cashier went home and that’s why I saved 15000 Kip for the entrance. Tad Se is quite different from Kuang Si although it is also a series of many waterfalls. It is located in the jungle and the water flows down the rocks, avoiding the trees growing between them. Rocks are the natural slides and sitting on them and letting the flowing water hit me, I had free water jets. From here, you come to the only safe place to swim, which is a large flat-bottom pool. The water is a bit cold but very nice and the swimming as I would recommend. This has also changed and the price of admission is not the only thing. For example, you can go on elephants and travel on ropes placed over the waterfalls. For this there are a lot of bamboo bridges thanks to the very good view of every part of this wonderful element.
Although I traveled most of Asia and saw many waterfalls, Tad Se and Kuang Si were the most beautiful. Here you can feel really happy and no problem to spend whole days.
In the evening we returned to Luang Prabang for another grilled fish stuffed with bamboo.
Road from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng
(Description of the nature and also the way the waterfall supplied the village in water)
I drove the minibus for 115,000 Kip and although the trip was supposed to take only 6.5h, it took 8.5. For that, when I reached the station at VV I paid another 10000 Kip for getting to the town.
During the ride I had beautiful views of the mountains and primitive bamboo villages and people living near the road. The Lao people living in wooden houses on the slopes of the mountains made laundry and smiled at us and the women took a shower along the road. I mean, when the water ran down the mountain, a bamboo stump was split up along the bottom and a waterfall from the waterfall, which looked like a bamboo sticks.
About the town
Vang Vieng is a very popular stop for travelers. There are plenty of cheap guest houses, cafes where you can eat on lying and watching movies and very expensive internet. The town of Vang Vieng, in my opinion, has nothing to do with Laos and it is the most commercial place I have ever seen. In the restaurants there are beds covered with mattresses and cushions and large TVs where the most popular are “Friends” and many other American films. There are, of course, offices where you can buy a bus ticket in any direction, even though it sells every hotel. Vang Vieng is a great construction site where it’s getting busy and hotels are coming. It is also important to choose the right VV site because in some places the party lasts all night. I stayed at the Sunset Guest House for only 30000 Kip but instead of this hut I would recommend Lao Villa where against for only 50000 Kip there is room, lounge and breakfast and tea to resist. All in all, VV is a perfect place to rest where you can eat well, go for a swim, enjoy good pancakes and have a great massage, grilled fish on bamboo sticks and much more. I also recommend playing volleyball or billiards with local Laotians. Pose. For travelers, however, it should be important what is outside the town.
In was in Vang Vieng in 2004 and I liked it a lot. The bus let me off on an empty road, and then, walking through the sand and gravel, I reached a small deserted village. There were also beautiful times and a my travel report on this subject can be read here.
Why Van Vieng?
Vang Vieng or rather what is behind it is one of the most picturesque places in Laos. Only after leaving the town can we enjoy the mountains, walk between rice fields and jump to the Mekong from the bamboo platform. Most of all, the caves that I recommend for an accurate exploration are exceptionally beautiful. Each one is very different and all offer unforgettable experiences. Exploring caves was my favorite activity, although very popular here is also “tubing”, ie rafting on the inner tube. About the tubing I personally have a bad opinion but about that later.
Caves around Vang Vieng – day I
On the first day I had a gesture for myself, of course, and therefore for 45000 Kip I hired a moped to see the area. First, I went to the Tham Jang Cave, which is very popular and well prepared for tourists. This cave is located in the park (ticket 2000 Kip) at the entrance to leave the vehicle and then going through the park we reach the river. Here is a suspension bridge and beautiful views of the surrounding area. Then, after passing the fruit sellers, we will have a sad experience, ie a fee of 15000 Kip per entrance. I pretended I did not have and also pretended I had a terrible toothache until they finally let me in for free. Besides, I think that in this case the payment would be in a very bad tone. Then on the high stairs I climbed the top of the mountain where the entrance to the cave was. In the middle of it was a beautiful adventure because I first got to the main part of the cave where the ceilings were covered with massive stalactites from which liquid drops of water and stalagmites stuck out. In some places, especially where there was a small distance between the floor and the ceiling were also stalagnats. Especially the place was very well lit but there were many others, mostly narrow corridors that led to other interesting corners. I do not know how deep this cave is, but many of the roads are unlit and in general I would recommend taking a good flashlight with you. Tham Jang cave was the easiest of all and I think it should be seen first. Then there is a good comparison of the degree of difficulty. Outside, you can admire panoramic views of the surrounding area.
Then I got to the main road and after passing the Namsong Bridge (various fees depending on the vehicle) on both sides of me saw a picturesque landscape on the river, mountains, village and fishermen using the Chinese network. Then, after crossing a small village, I reached a wide, dirt road, lying in the middle of beautiful mountains and vast rice fields. Especially in the rainy season, the rice stalk had a distinctly green color, and the gentle mist that made it a beautiful day. Beautiful unfortunately does not mean easy because with the advent of the rain my day was exceptionally burdensome though the way is a good humor. I drove my moped through the deep puddles sometimes losing their flip-flops and getting wet to the dry thread. Several times I was stuck and I could not leave. In the great rain, I reached the first cave, Tham Khan. This is not a very popular cave and I think it is a huge mistake as it guarantees an unforgettable experience. It is very adventurous to get to it because first you have to go through the stream, which regularly pours during the rainy season and in some part of our route we see that the river creates a series of small waterfalls under which you can bathe. This is the perfect stage of our march to dive in the cold water and enjoy free and natural whips and whirlpools. When I was here it was raining but it did not matter, because it is so great. The cave itself is very wild and completely unprepared for easy tourism, as it was in the Tham Jang cave. There were three entrances to each of which one had to descend the rocks and then push through the small slits to enter. In one of them is a Buddha statue, although in this case it was not important. Tham Khan Cave is a beautiful adventure for those who like to work for her and the road to her is also worth recommending. On the way back it was very rainy and again many times I had a problem running through the most puddles. I was already soaked and very dirty although the day was not over yet. I did not want to go back to my room. I stopped my moped in the middle of the rice paddies, undressed myself and stepped inside. Even such a simple walk was a challenge because the rain made the soil very slippery. For that I have just come across a deep pit full of water and mud. Of course, I was indifferent, and I enjoyed the freedom and adventure that so hard every day in the city. I walked for hours in the rice fields and sat in the pits filled with water. When I reached the river and crossed to the other side, I saw dense hides in front of me. In the rain and slipping through the mud, I reached Tham Pha Jinally Cave, which is unknown to anyone. This cave can be dangerous without a guide so I just entered a piece. First it was necessary to descend to the bottom and then through the thin corners to reach the standing water. This is an interesting experience but I advise first to ask the tourist office in Vang Vieng because there are three caves here and in the rainy season access to them can be completely flooded. I was lucky even though I would always remember my crossing through the pits and rice fields. Then I gave up my motor and returned to my room. It took me some time to get dressed and go into the dung. But this day is very adventurous.
Caves around Vang Vieng, blue lagoon and great massage – day II
The next day it stopped raining and finally the sun came out. Early in the morning I went for another day exploring the area although this time by way of savings I rented a bike (10000 Kip for the whole day). Again I crossed the Namsong Bridge and then crossed the deep pools I rode through the mountains and paddy fields. This time it was too hard because the water sometimes covered the whole road and under her mirror lay stones and clay, which collapsed the bike and I along with it. This time I first reached the Tham Puthong cave (10000 Kip, 5km from the bridge). This cave is almost at the top of the mountain, so I had to climb it. Still, the road to the mountain does not count as heavy because the route was prepared and the stones were arranged in such a way that they formed stairs. The cave itself was small and shallow, but quite impressive due to the rocks that protrude from every possible side. After going down I went to the other side of the road where there was a river, rice fields and mountains of course, and a hut on the promenades where you can eat something. I spent many hours swimming in the Mekong and jumping from a bamboo hill. The race was exceptionally strong and therefore, after jumping, immediately put the man down the river. The fun is that when you jump into the river you have to catch the tree trunks and specially prepared strings ended with bamboo. After a while, I settled down between the rice fields and looked at the beautiful landscape.
Then I got on my bike and walked slowly down the great pits, enjoying the mountains, the rice fields and my beautiful day. In this episode there are also many villages, so in one of them I ate dinner. On the way I saw children playing ball and bathing in the Mekong while women were doing laundry near them, people at work and flooded houses. This time I reached about 10km from the bridge to Tham Poukam cave which is one of the most impressive and most recommended by guides. To this I also had to climb and after reaching the top I realized that it was the best so far. It was huge, with many passages, with sharp rocks and standing water. Inside was a statue of a lying Buddha with an orange roof and candles, and through the huge entrance to the cave came light streaks. The whole cave was also a very secluded place and I think the only sound was my breath and falling water droplets. Tham Poukham Cave is an exceptionally beautiful experience. You can also rent a torch from the caretakers after they are rebuilt. Entry costs 10000 Kip and I think that before you finish reading this report you will get 100% more. The Tam Poukham cave has much more to offer than just a wonderful cave. There is also a quietly flowing Mekong, which is a wonderful bathing place and has a proud name of “Blue Lagoon”. During dry season, the water is really turquoise and so clean that the bottom is even 3 meters deep. I was here during the rainy season during which the water is gray though swimming and so is very pleasant. On top of that you can jump from a tree at a height of 1m and about 5m. As you can see the whole property offers a variety of attractions. It is very nice here.
Then I came back on my bad bike through a bumpy road, which offered great views. Just as before, I often stopped to admire nature and only after dark I came back to Vang Vieng. Right before the bridge, I also saw local fishermen using the Chinese network, which is very popular here. Before returning my bike I ate a delicious soup at the local hostess for only 10000 Kip and went to the evening exercise.
In the evening I wanted to relax in a relaxed atmosphere and that is why I went for a massage. After over a two-month stay in Thailand for some time I thought I would have had enough but the massage is never quite enough. It was a Laotian massage with a refreshing cream and it turned out to be one of the best I’ve had. I was massaged by a young girl who weighed only about 40kg but had very strong hands and fingers. She was very good at what she was doing and that’s why she took me so seriously. After all, I felt wonderful. After a short stroll and an evening cup of tea, I went to bed.
Tube floating on the Mekong (tubing) and relaxation in Vang Vieng – day III
The next day I wanted to end up trying to be “tubing”. They took me along with a few other tourists 3km to the town. Then we took the tube from the tractor and went over the river and then got the boat to the other shore. I thought it would be fun and we would start raining right away, but tubing is a dream attraction for alcoholics. When we reached the shore we got off at a pub on the river where people poured tekilas from the bottle straight into the throats. Then the drunken Englishmen headed to the bar where it began to chill. The river was strong and the rafting could have been successful, but it was not moving. So I sat down with a cup of water and waited for someone to move, but unfortunately no one was interested in rafting. I waited for about 20 minutes and there was no change, the tourists drank vodka and beer, the tubes were alone under the tree and I was sober as an investigative judge and I was waiting for some action. In the end I could not stand waiting, so I got on the tube and sailed, without regret leaving behind a wobbly crowd. The whole tour is only 3km and therefore the whole trip to Vang Vieng took me only half an hour. But drunkers take it all day because on the way there is full of pubs on the river where the bartender throws the rope and pulls the customer to another bucket of beer …. and so still. Then, after a few meters of drunken drumming, the bartender drops off the river, and after a few minutes he catches the next one and again fills with alcohol. Local people are happy because they make money, although they do not have any respect for tourists.
But I do not drink at all, therefore, in half an hour at the alternating current of the river I reached the very end in great condition. People at the end of the tour could not believe their eyes. They asked me where I was from, why so quickly I came back and why sober. I said that from Poland they could not believe it. After all, I took my tube from the tractor at hand and went to the rental. Tubing was disappointing and I think that in Vang Vieng this is the worst thing possible, which is contrary to the current opinion.
This pleasure costs 55000 Kip plus 60000 Kip deposit in case of lost inner tube. Every year life in the river loses a few people and alcohol is responsible for it.
On the same day I played a volleyball match with the locals, a couple of billiard parties and I was on Laotian baguettes and on a massage. In the evening, I also found secluded hammocks on the river from which I looked at the surroundings and the tourists returning from tubing.
A 16km expedition from Vang Vieng to four beautiful caves – day IV
On my last day in Vang Vieng I drove 16km for the village to see four beautiful caves and how it turned out to be another great adventure. I was driving slowly through the holes and mud on the road and in the meantime I also stopped to take pictures of the most beautiful landscapes. As I drove towards the river after deep puddles and rocks, I saw only a broken bridge and a small boat in my direction. I put my bike on board and for 10000 Kip I had a shuttle across the river in both directions. There were a few wooden huts on the edge of the shore where you could eat fried rice with vegetables but unfortunately they did not have tea. There was also the first cave – Tham Sang (cave elephant) – the 5,000 Kip, although it is actually a cave converted into a temple. Inside, there is a great Buddha image and a huge Buddha footprint. On one of the walls is also the rock carved into the shape of an elephant, thanks to which the cave owes its name. Then, walking through rice fields and a village built mainly of bamboo, I reached the water cave. Water cave is a unique adventure but only for those who are not afraid of water and have no signs of claustrophobia. To a very narrow and low cave, I touched the tube from the tractor, holding a rope attached to the rock. I had a flashlight on my head and slowly moved forward. I also had to watch out for rocks and thin slits to keep my head out. In my personal opinion this cave is different than all and is worth 10000 Kip per entrance. Here you can find something about yourself because the absolute darkness and the rocks hammering into man are not all. There is still a wide stream of cold water. Outside there is a wooden hut on the promenades where they serve food at exorbitant prices.
Then through the fence with barbed wire and sink several times in the mud, I reached two caves near each other. The first one was Tham Loup to which I had to walk uphill on the bamboo platforms and then walked about 20 minutes deep. It was pleasant, but Tham Loup would best call it preparation for the neighboring cave. Next to Tham Hoi Cave, it is undoubtedly one of the best caves ever. At the entrance was a great statue of Buddha and behind it as many as 16 km of dark abyss. After some time I came across pools filled with water, set up like stairs, one on top of another. It was a great adventure because for some time I went alone in the dark and once in a while I fell into the water and another thumped my feet with protruding rocks. I spent some time lying in the water and then swam through the flooded road, I squeezed through the narrow slit and I was already in the next part of the corridor. Unfortunately, several times I measured the depth of the pools and burst into the water, so I must watch how to step. At Tham Hoi cave I had a great time and I think it is one of the best caves in Vang Vieng. In this case, I recommend a guide.
Then I reached the shore, reached the boat to the other side and slowly, watching the nature and being among the people I reached Vang Vieng.
Transport from Vang Vieng to Vientiane
From the bottom of the hotel I got to 3.5h to the center of Vientiane. The road passed very well and the pleasure cost me 55000 Kip.
(A detailed description of the entire city)
Unfortunately, many people bypass the capital of Laos and others come only as part of a visa tour for a Thai visa. I spent 2.5 days here and loved it. This time I saw a lot more than when I was here in 2004, including some changes for the better.
Upon arrival I quickly found the hotel but it was expensive. The first night was a little overpriced because I stayed in a good hotel with breakfast for 70000 Kip and the next night I spent in a dorm room for only 25000 Kip per night. So you can find the opportunity without ruining your budget.
In Vientiane there are some things worth recommending and great help is that it’s a small town and most of the facilities are next to each other or maybe about 15 minutes rickshaw ride. Vientiane is located on the Mekong where you can relax and eat well.
After leaving the hotel I first spent time at the Nam Phou Fountain, which is one of the landmarks of the city and around which there are several European expensive restaurants. This is a nice place but five minutes here was enough. It is usually very hot either because you have to hide under the palm trees or quickly get on the road. Then going down the main street on the right, I had the Presidential Palace, which is already so laid down that you can not even take a picture. It is a colonial building where once lived the French gentlemen of their Indochine mansions. It seems that the authorities do not want to advertise it as a tourist attraction.
Going straight ahead, on the right next to the Presidential Palace there is an object worth paying attention, such as the temple of Haw Pha Kaew. The building is set in a nice garden decorated with palm trees and is a typical show of Laotian architecture. Formerly it was the personal temple of the King of Laos and today serves as a museum with valuable sculptures and other valuable exhibits. In the seventeenth century, this temple was preserved even by the Emerald Buddha, but after the war in Southeast Asia, King Rama I took him to Thailand. Today it is a nice museum, which in my opinion is the best show of statues of the Buddha and Laotian architecture with traditional roof and dragons at the entrance. On the one hand there is a place where there is not enough to see although I stayed here over an hour because it is nice, beautiful and secluded. Ticket costs 5000 Kip.
Almost opposite, on the other side of the street there is another object worth visiting, the Wat Si Saket Temple. It was built in 1818 and is the oldest in Vientiane. In the middle there are two parts to look out for. In the main square is a temple with a traditional roof for Laotian architecture, decorated with bonsai trees and decorated with more than 2000 silver and ceramic Budd. The border of the square forms a covered gate under which there are about 300 monuments standing and sitting Buddha. Outside there are several other objects but the most beautiful is inside the main gate. The entrance costs 2000 Kip.
Then, walking along one of the main streets (straight from the Presidential Palace), I reached Patuxai, the symbol of Vientiane, which unfortunately did not go too well. This is in my opinion the sad irony that in Laos, which was a French colony, a building was created in the form of a triumphal arch in Paruhu. It is written on the Patuxai board that the monument was erected in 1962 in the style of the famous Paris monument, but never finished due to the turbulent history of Laos. In the near distance it looks even more ugly, like a monster of concrete. Today, the square where Patuxai stands is a meeting place for people and a tourist attraction and is a very good point of view. For only 3000 Kip you can go to the top and admire the views from its windows and on several floors there are also souvenir shops. There are always plenty of photographers who will gladly take a picture for free in case someone is alone. On the way to Patuxai I also went to the post office, where it was written not “post office” but still “le poste” and I got up for a while Talad Sao bazaar. It is a major bazaar in Vientiane where there are souvenirs, refrigerators, lots of cell phones and fruit bazaars and much more. I will advise here that the sunglasses are several times more expensive than the Bankok, although with the sharp, laotian sun sometimes need to buy.
The next day I changed the hotel to three times cheaper, which immediately improved my humor and then I took the autologue and went to the beautiful temple Pha Tat Luang. This facility is well-known throughout Laos, and it is sure to catch sight of tourists visiting Laos, especially since it is on several Laotian banknotes. Pha Tat Luang is a religious and national symbol of Laos. Due to the turbulent history of the country, this temple was built many times, starting from the third century until the 30s of the twentieth century. Today it is a huge gold pagoda surrounded by many golden stacks. In addition there are several chapels with the face of Buddha and, as the legend says, there is a bone from the chest of Buddha from III in p.n.e. A good way to explore it is to walk around under the roof built around Pha Tat Luang. The entrance cost only 2000 Kip but keep in mind that they are closed at four. There are also some other interesting temples that I have visited, but one of the most memorable monuments of one of the ancient leaders of Laos surrounded by palm trees, just before Pha Tat Luang. Besides, there is also a very impressive building patterned on Thai palaces, with profiled red roofs and also surrounded by exotic vegetation. Then, stopping at a nearby bazaar for a small snack, I once again reached Patuxai. From there, through a moss-strewn, a few hundred-year-old stupa That Dam reached the river. The Mekong River in Vientiane is the best example of how Laos is moving forward. When I was here 7 years ago, I only saw the desert over the overgrown banks and several coconuts. Today there is a thriving promenade, a stately monument and women who practice aerobics with music. In addition there are several fruit sellers and souvenir shops. This promenade is a very pleasant place that I highly recommend for evening walks. Looking at the new Chinese temple, I guess who paid for this place looked so good. I stayed here in an Indian restaurant called Nazim which was a very nice variation from everyday rice. Aloo Gobi was not like me in Khajuraho, but the masala was without masala but it did not matter. The food was very good, the service as well as the Hindus well organized and next I also had a good comedy. “Bogatsi” Hindus next to them drew attention to loud, broken English about how much they did not have money and the whole pub had to see that they have a watch and chain in gold color. In addition, young, painted prostitutes strolled the curb by pretending to be models on the runway. It was so cheerful that I ordered one more naan.
As you can see above Vientiane is a city worth at least two days and I highly recommend them.
Xieng Khuan (Buddha Park)
The Buddha Park is a very popular tour of Vientiane, 25km away from the city. You can get a private rickshaw, but the cheapest version is bus no. 14 from the bus station near Talad Sao. I paid only 6000 kip. The bus on the way stops at the Lao-Thai border on the famous friendship bridge. If anyone has a visa to Thailand and a double entry visa to Laos, then I heard that the Thai border town offers “not a lot of attractions”.
Xieng Khuan is a full-fledged land of Buddhist and Hindu gods in one area, founded in 1958. There are monuments, huge monuments of Buddha, Shiva, Vishnu and many others in interesting positions. The largest of these is the enormous, lying Buddha and the great head to which you can climb and climb up. Xieng Khuan is an idea created on the basis of the imagination and design of one man who requires at least an hour of sightseeing. In addition, this park is located over the Mekong where there is a souvenir shop and a pub along the river.
Transport from Vientiane to Kong Lo
The bus to Kong Lo departs from the southern railway station, 9 km from the center of Vientiane. The ticket costs 80000 Kip and Vientiane 120-140 Kip but I paid only 100000 Kip because the driver woke me at 9am, brought my luggage to the car and took me back to my place. I think I did a good deal.
But it was the only pleasant part of my trip, because it was already hard and boring. The advertised driving time for Kong Lo is 6h but it took me 8.5h and in addition to all my travels I was playing laotian hits, which I had already quite heartily. There are many ways to get to Kong Lo, including Tha Khaek with its own moped, but I chose the fastest and cheapest version.
Kong Lo cave and village
After a long and rather disappointing trip I reached the pretty village of Kong Lo. Around were mountains and rice fields, as well as woody huts on bales and grazing buffaloes. It was just the Laos that I was looking for. You can see that the nearby cave is where the village is living because I saw one very good hotel and next to build other. The night in the village of Kong Lo costs 60000 Kip but I was in a pretty double room for only 40,000 Kip. That same evening I just walked around. I visited the rice fields and took pictures of traditional wooden houses on high bales.
The next day early morning I went for a walk towards the cave, which is about 1km from the village. Unfortunately I had to pay 2000 Kip for the entrance to the park, and then the road led through the forest until I got to the river. I saw a roofed barrack with engine operators and a cave entrance. The views were very nice but unfortunately once again I realized that I was born just to pay. The price list is as follows: 5000 Kip for a cave ticket from person plus 100000 Kip for a boat that can accommodate up to four people. If I had three companions, I would have paid only 35,000, and because I was the only one that cost me 105000 Kip. After completing the formalities we took the engine, flashlight and boarded a small wooden boat with a small engine on the back. Kong Lo Cave is a real phenomenon in the caves. It is a dark abyss that introduces our cave experience to a slightly different ceiling. In a dark tunnel of 7.5 km in total covered with water you need to have good light to see the stalagmites hanging from the ceiling and a wealth of other sharp rocks and internal grottoes. In the middle we had a stop where we landed on dry land and went through a designated, illuminated trail admiring fancy rock formations. After getting to the other side of the cave I bathed in the river and then once again came back through a long and dark, 7.5 km tunnel.
Kong Lo Cave is certainly something very special although I do not agree with the guides that it is the best because that is a thing of taste. I also recommend caves near the village of Vang Vieng which I had described earlier.
Transport from Kong Lo to Savannakhet
This trip was a great transport adventure!!!
From Kong Lo departs only one bus a day and only at 7am. In addition there is a tuk tuk, which leaves at 12, by 1 or about which he wants. So I stopped on the road and waited for a tuk tuk that came to about 1.30 and drove 41 km through rice paddies to the small village of Ban Na Hin (Ban Khoun Kham). By the way, this village is also a good point leading to the border with Vietnam. Hence, unfortunately that day there was no transport to Savannakhet, so I was lucky enough to take a tuk tuk ride to Ban Vieng Kham, a village on the main road no. 13, along the border with Thailand. Then I took my heavy backpack and from the main road I managed to catch a tuk tu traveling south to after about 2h get to the Tha Khaek station. Here I was lucky because they just brought the bus going to Pakse, which was leaving in a moment. I bought a ticket to Savannakhet for 30000 Kip and went to buy something to eat but when I got back the bus had already departed. Without losing a moment the guy selling the tickets went with me on his moped to catch up with the bus. Having my big backpack and chicken on the bamboo in my hand was quite hard but after 10 minutes we were able to. On a dark, empty road at the Laotian people’s ovation I got on the bus and after about 2.5h I reached Savannakhet.
Savannakhet is not interesting but I had to stay somewhere to spend the night. The only thing that dissipates this city is the fact that many dinosaur fossils were found there. There is even a highly overrated museum of dinosaurs, which without regret can be omitted. Besides, I rode all day on my bike and spent a nice time on the Mekong, on the other side seeing Thailand. Besides, I visited the peaceful and beautiful Wat Sainyaphum built in 1542. There are some nice objects and a workshop where monks perform bas-reliefs and paintings. I think the most important thing when staying in Savannakhet is this temple and cycling and fish by the river. I also recommend the great monument of the dinosaur at the roundabout at the entrance to the city and a typical, colonial architecture and large Catholic church.
As for the hotel facilities it is possible to find a room for 40000 Kip but at first you must necessarily bargain because I heard the price three times higher. I also disagree with the apartment at the Leena Hotel where the dishonest owner wanted to fool me for money. Restaurants are usually deserted so often prices are high. I think one day here is too much.
Road to Pakse
From Savannakhet station, a pesky bus for 40,000 Kip I got within 5h to Pakse. The driver was nice enough to drop me in the center because Pakse Station is 8km away.
Pakse is at first glance another dark, dirty and uninteresting hole with lung inflammation and gray buildings. However, this is a very good starting point for the three main tourist destinations in the south of Laos and the border with Thailand. So I had to come here a few times, just to take the bus to the next place. By the way the bus station is tragic, full of mud and poor people licking the nails at the feet. I also add that this station and especially the departure schedule very seriously test the patience, which probably comes out in subsequent chapters. If the bus goes off in theory at 4 pm then you can calmly come on 5th and still wait. Besides, Pakse itself is the only thing that can not be missed. It is a massage parlor and the most popular is the Clinic Keo Ou Done where for only 30000 Kip I felt like a young king. There are a lot of massage therapies here, so whenever I go to Pakse I come here for another massage. In Pakse there are also some nice temples and if anyone feels bad it is also worth it. In addition, you can eat fish over the Mekong and again go for a massage.
As far as hotels are concerned the cheapest is Saibady 2, which is very often full. The second cheapest hotel costs 50000 Kip and there are also many cafes where they serve baguettes and other delicacies.
In conclusion, Pakse is not a rarity for a traveler but as a base for other places and offering good food and massage is still quite good.
Road to Tad Lo
I left Tad Lo from the muddy train station in Pakse. After about two hours they threw me on the main road and then I walked 2 km to the town through the fields and wooden pile houses scattered throughout the area.
Tad Lo is a very pleasant place in nature, except for the worn tourist trail, which I highly recommend to couples. I spent only one whole day here but only because I was alone. Having a nice traveling companion you can stay here for a few days. I lived in a bamboo hut near the waterfall and grazing cows for only 20,000 Kip and my time here was spent in a very relaxing way. I went to a few waterfalls, spent time in primitive villages and bathed in the river while the women in the village were doing laundry and their husbands were buffalo. You can also go on the elephant though I did not do it. In summary, the beauty of Tad Lo is its beautiful nature and silence. You do not need to do anything special either. All you have to do is to stay and relax.
Transport from Tad Lo to Champasak
(A description of one of the worst and ironic transports during my trip to Laos)
This transport was a bit weird and required a lot of patience but eventually I managed to. When I left the chalet in Tad Lo I was lucky because the woman on the bike was driving me to the main road. From there almost immediately took me barely riding the bus and at 30000 Kip took me to Pakse. So far I was lucky but since then it was harder because at Pakse I had a good test of patience. On that day buses to Champasak were gone so I bought a ticket to Si Phan Don. The bus was delayed by more than 1.5 hours because they had to load rice bags and even a moped and I ran in the rain to muddy mud. When we finally left the station, we first had to mess with the dump of bricks and told me to move out of the seat because the ladies had to load 14 cement bags into the sand. Then we once again passed the station to take off the moped from the roof, and finally for only 20,000 Kip we went on the road. After about half an hour they blew me up on the main road and at that moment I began to wonder; what’s next? Then, as a guy on a motorbike dressed in the Third Reich came from behind, he was nice enough to take me 5km to the edge of the Mekong. Hence the greedy owner of the disintegrating boat for 20000 Kip has driven me to the other side of the river and officially was in Champasak though still not in place. So I put my backpack on my back and went 2km through the dark rice fields to the hotel, which was cheap enough for me. Finally, I got it!
Champasak and Wat Phu temple
Champasak is a very small village in the south of Laos, which is located in the Mekong basin and among the rice fields. This is definitely a nice place where you can sit by the river or watch local life in their wooden huts on the promenades. In addition there are several temples and a tragic merry-go-round, although the popularity of Champasak is due primarily to the proximity to the Temple of Wat Phu. I stayed here in a quite nice room for only 20,000 Kip with geckos running across the walls and the terrace where they served me a delicious soup.
The next morning I rented a bike for 10000 Kip and went to the temple ruins of Wat Phu, which was 10km away. I made this all-day adventure and so I stopped frequently to take pictures of the best landscapes. Mostly they were grazing buffalos with big horns against the backdrop of mountains and rice paddies. I also traveled often through villages where they lived in traditional wooden houses on the promenades, although I also saw many brick houses. Children came back from the school waving me on the road and I slowly, after the mud and puddles, after about 2h I reached the destination.
The temple of Wat Phu, in my opinion, is the best archaeological site in the valley and it is definitely worth seeing. The entire temple complex is scattered over a small area and the main temple is at the top of the mountain, which enters the stone steps. The first object was in this place already in the 5th century, although the ruins date back to the 11th-13th centuries. Wat Phu is a group of Khmer temples and therefore has the same style of construction and sculpture. Although seeing this place is certainly worth recommending it is unrivaled at the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
At the entrance I paid 30000 Kip and then driving through the pond and pretty green I reached the first two main objects. These are the ruins of palaces lying near the lake and between them there is a road leading to the mountain. Then on the south side we see the ruins of the Nandin temple and then the stone stairs begin. Keep climbing because the stairs are also part of the ruins and often they are too narrow to put the entire foot. On the day it was hot as it often happens in Laos, so I did not hurry. I often stood in some sections to sit in thin trees and have a beautiful view of the countryside. Right at the top, just before the cliff is a sanctuary or ruin transformed into a temple, which is still the best preserved and is the most important point of this tour. To this day, the ancient sculptures of Buddha and the reliefs of Krishna and Vishnu have been preserved here. In the middle of the sanctuary there is also a statue of a stone Buddha covered with orange material and on its sides are smaller figurines and flowers. This temple is often visited not only by tourists but also by the faithful who come here to pray and to light candles and flowers before the Buddha. In addition, you can go to the small cave and see the elephant and crocodile engraved on the big stone and the ruins of the library are also near the shrine. From the very top I also recommend a great view of the countryside.
On the way back to the stone stairs, down the smay bottom, I went to the museum where the best exhibits collected in Wat Phu.
As before I came back to the hotel very slowly, stopping in the human settlements and the best buffalo. I also drove in deep pools, which was nice and then started to rain warm tropical rain.
Transport from Champasak to Si Phan Don
(Another dark story about Laotian transport and the driver’s attitude to his work, written with humor)
Early in the morning I stood on the muddy road until the chili arrived a tuk tuk and took me to Pakse. The journey lasted only half an hour (20000 Kip) which was very fast and my transportation there was essential. I had to use an ATM and buy a ticket to the south and by the way I ate something good at the local bazaar and used the cheap internet (5000 Kip / h). I admit that Pakse, which I’ve been to many times, is a great organizational city (as mentioned above in the chapter about Pakse) but I also wanted to relax here. So I went to the Keo Ou Done Clinic where I first took a shower and then a nice girl made me a full body oil massage for only 40000 Kip. I was really happy here !!! Then I had to have some nerve to eat, because on the street they had a problem understanding me. Fortunately, somebody finally got to know me, so for 20000 Kip I got a rickshaw to the south station (8km). There was a bus waiting for me to Si Phan Don, which was supposed to depart from 2 pm but after all I was in Laos so we had a delay. After packing all the goods and after the driver had already burned the entire pack of cigarettes and stopped to spit and scratch, we left at 3.30. Meanwhile it rained, I was again dirty and wet and unfortunately fell into rage. At the station itself, however, it is not boring because there is a plethora of faces that enriched my gallery “The most interesting people, unforgettable faces”. After about 2.5h we reached the shore but only after the next 0.5h (driver: cigarette, spit, scratch) we took the ferry. After dark, we finally reached Don Khong Island.
Si Phan Don (land of 4000 lakes)
This is a very picturesque area in Laos where the Mekong has its widest trough. Nature has created here an archipelago of tropical islands where you can relax at will in the bosom of nature and observe the traditional rural life. Many of the islands are uninhabited, so if you really want to rent a boat and break away from any kind of civilization. The three major islands are Don Khong and the twin islands of Don Det and Don Khon. For tourists, not only are the islands themselves a great attraction but also some waterfalls located on the mainland. One is the largest in East Asia in terms of the width of the raft and certainly sound, or Khone Phapeng. You can also go to Cambodia to watch the Irrawaddy dolphins and swim in kayaks and tubes from the tractor. Opportunities are many and Si Phan Don is very well prepared to accept both tourists and return them in the further direction, in every possible direction.
Don Khong is the largest and most boring island. If someone is in a hurry you can bypass it. I got here around 6 pm and by 8 I understood that I had enough. The only tourist center called Muang Khong is a number of hotels and restaurants, which I passed in 5 minutes and next to it is a busy temple with a great Buddha. Besides, the locals are quite greedy because the business is hopeless. In summary, Dhon Khong did not hurt me, but was only suitable for the elderly and only for the most phlegmatic. This is a good place to go where you can eat, sleep and move on. For my room I paid 30000 Kip though the 50s.
Transport from Don Khong island to Don Det island
The best way and the only one I recommend is a boat trip between the two islands. On this day I was lucky because there were a lot of tourists to share the cost of the boat, which is 200000 Kip for 4 people. For 1,5h we sailed through the Mekong watching many smaller and larger islands and frequent river whirls. It was a pleasant and relaxing cruise.
Don Det is the small island where tourist and social life is concentrated. It is here that most of the nice hotels and the lush oaks situated beautifully over the Mekong. I stayed in a room for 20000 Kip and had a private terrace with a hammock on which I spent the evenings. There are also a lot of tourist agencies, boat dock, restaurants where you can lie down after meal and over-the-road internet. Here I just beat my own record in the field of cheap rooms in Laos. Behind bangalow with bamboo and a hole on the window I paid only 15000 Kip. The views outside were beautiful and next door I also had a pub. Besides, there is not much on the island of Don Det. On the way to the next island, a narrow, muddy trail I reached an open area where there are only rice fields, wooden houses with thatched and of course buffalo. It is a very quiet, peaceful area where you can be alone.
That’s what Don Det looks like; It is a lodging and catering base in beautiful 4000,000 islands. So I always had a transport wherever I did not want to get.
The Don Det and Don Khone Islands are so close together that a solid bridge is built between them. Both islands are rice fields and buffalos, but there is a difference. Don Det is just a nice hotel base, and Don Khone has something for the tourist to see. Don Khon can also rent a boat to Cambodia to observe the rare river dolphins of Irrawaddy. For all these things, there is a bridge over 20,000 Kip, which covers all the attractions of the island. Immediately after his crossing there is an old locomotive and a pub under the palms. Then the trodden path leads through rice paddies, temples and bungalows on the other side of the island, and shortly thereafter turn right into the Tat Somphamit waterfall. At the entrance the local family runs a small restaurant under the thatched where I spent my time lying on the hammock and running away from the heat. Then I crossed the small village, across the bridge and bathed in the buffalo river, and bent my head before the beautiful vegetation I reached the waterfall. Tat Somphamit waterfall is not high but has a very wide trough, it is very loud and gives the impression of damaging trees growing in its path. The whole area is quite large, there are benches under the trees overlooking the waterfall and there are stalls on which you can buy souvenirs. Another very pleasant place is the beach at the end of the island where boats sail to Cambodia to observe the rare Irrawaddy dolphins. For me it was a very pleasant place where I stroked pigs and buffalos, bathed in the Mekong and took care of the snake. The villagers were afraid of him, but I took him on a stick and took him to a safe place, away from people. It was beautiful but it was not very cheerful for me because I realized that my trip was already over. Other interesting places I saw on Don Khon were the French canals and the railway tracks. In addition, I ate dinner at the local and then in the dark, through the rice fields, I returned to the island of Don Det.
One day trip to the largest waterfall in Southeast Asia
Travel agencies offer this trip for a lot of money but I went alone, at my own pace and it was obviously beautiful. From the island of Don Det I rented a bike and then a boat for 20000 Kip I got to the mainland. The boat captain sailed quickly and the view of the Mekong, small islands along the way and its picturesque surroundings were part of my wonderful adventure. First I got to the only settlement on the other side called Ban Nagasang, then after the medium quality route and once again through rice paddies, I was riding on my bad bike 15km, straight to the waterfall. Then at the entrance I had to pay an unfair price of 20000 Kip while the locals paid only 5,000 Kip. Khone Phapheng Waterfall is the largest in Southeast Asia in terms of the trough of falling water, trampling everything it encounters along the way and with respect to the sound that it produces. This is really a huge element, the observation of which makes it wonder how vulnerable a person is. In the park there are also many souvenir shops and restaurants and two viewing terraces.
On the way back I also had a great time. I rode my bike on an empty road and at some point it was so hot that I jumped into the canal to get some swim. The locals also bathed and did laundry so I thought that once again I would spend time in a very pleasant and refreshing way. A group of children making fun of White floated between the sheds quickly gathered around me. Then from Ban Nagasang I took a boat for 15000 Kip and after a short trip I reached the island of Det Det.
That way, without haste, it is best to arrange this tour yourself.
Transport to Bangkok
At this point of my trip I was not laughing because after 4 months I had to return. At first I planned to go to Cambodia but unfortunately I had to postpone it for next year. There was a lot of 260000 Kip plus a 20 minutes free internet and here is my route: Don Det → Boat to Ban Nagasang → Bus to Pakse → Bus to Lao-Thai border in Vang Tao → From Chongmei border town to Thai side bus to Ubon Ratchathani → bus to Bangkok. Traveling on the Thai side was not easy.
Summary of Laos
Laos loved it and enjoyed every moment of it. Natural beauty is definitely the greatest asset of this country but also nice people and good cuisine. There are many mountainous, silent settlements, picturesquely situated over the Mekong, among the waterfalls and palm trees. Warm climate and still quite low prices allow for absolute relaxation, because it seems that time has stopped here long ago. In addition to the natural charms of Laos I also recommend the cultural heritage of the country and the post-colonial architecture, the best examples of which can be found in Luang Prabang.
Comparing Laos to Thailand, I think Thailand is louder and much more busy, while Laos is something of a blissful sleep. Unfortunately, in comparison with 2004, Laos is becoming more and more expansive in some places, although they are still only tourist enclaves that can be left to look for silence and wooden huts on thatched canals.
- Buddhist monks in Laos
- Don Det
- Don Khone
- Don Khong
- Don Papheng waterfall
- Hmong village
- Houai Xai border
- Kong Lo cave
- Kuang Si waterfall
- Laos-Meong cruise
- Luang Namtha jungle
- Luang Prabang
- Luang Prabang Laos waterfalls
- massage in Laos
- Patuxai Vientiane
- Si Phan Don 4000 islands
- Tad Se waterfall
- Vang Vieng caves