After arriving in Vientiane and spending ages walking the wrong way around town, we were a bit peeved to see a sign in the hotel reception warning us of 'Building work from 7am to 6.30pm' in the lot next to the hotel. When we looked out of our window we were even more surprised to see that our view consisted of a metal sheet screwed onto the building about 24 inches away from our window. It wasn’t looking good and so we went to bed, with the fear that we would be woken up at 7am by the workmen next door.......
Luckily though, it appears that we have the nicest workmen ever. They did start work at 7am, but apart from some gentle tapping and the odd shout, there wasn’t much noise at all. My central heating boiler used to make more noise!! I was awake at 7, but fell asleep again and woke up just before 11am. The Laos people really are nice!
We went out for brunch, which was nice and noticed just how relaxed and mellow Vientiane is. Its Saturday, but the streets are reasonably quiet and apart from the heat its a lovely mellow day.
We booked our next onward trip – on an overnight sleeper bus', for Sunday night and then saw the sights of Vientiane. A couple of temples, a palace and their version of the Arc De Triomphe, which rises above the city and gives you a great view over the town and to the Mekong River.
After wandering around we decided to relax out of the heat of the day and get an Oil massage and I really enjoyed a nice relaxing hour spent getting rubbed all over (Not 'that' kind of massage though!) before we went back to the hotel to mellow out before tonight.
Nikki had discovered a riverside restaurant/pub that as well as doing good food, also shows live football, so in the evening we made our way down to the rooftop bar and watched the Liverpool V Sunderland game, which I really enjoyed as a Man United fan!
A good nights sleep followed and the next day, Sunday, we had a good brunch, a wander around a newly built and hardly open shopping mall and finally a wait in the air con hotel foyer, before we were due to be picked up for our overnight bus south, towards Pakse and The 4000 Islands.
The bus that picked us up was a 9-10 seater large tuk tuk van. We were actually picked up earlier than expected, but that extra time was spent driving around town about 3 times up and down the same roads again and again as we picked up another 14 passengers!! Then the 16 of us with all our bags were driven out of town and to the bus station, just in time to get our overnight 'sleeper' bus. The bus was actually really good, but that was spoilt a bit by some of the arrogant dickheads (French) who we had to share it with. Basically, we were allocated certain seats (a small double lie down bed) but the Frenchies had decided to just sit where they liked. When we told them it was our seat they just looked at us like we were stupid – So we showed them our ticket and they wouldn’t show us theirs (They just continued to look stupid) All we wanted was to know where they should be sitting, so that we could take their beds – But once we actually found out, we saw that another couple of Surrender Monkeys had taken those seats as well and were telling me to calm down. Is it too fucking simple to sit where you are allocated? All I wanted was to find an empty seat, so that when other passengers got on I didn’t have to inconvenience them and have to move or tell them to move in the way that we had been inconvenienced by these idiots. Finally, one of them told us that he should have been on bed (seat) 7 and 8, so we eventually took that bed. Some people are just fucking idiots.
The bus had (as usual) a bit of a breakdown after an hour or so, but somehow, it continued onwards after the driver and his mate had spent half an hour staring at the engine bay. The rest of the night was uneventful, apart from receiving texts from Gareth about the United score (Cheers Gareth!!) and the constant beeping of the horn by the driver, every time someone came within 100m of the bus (It didn’t help me sleep!!) The bed was comfortable though as we arrived in Pakse, just after 7am.
Then Karma took over – The same idiots who had got me so frustrated with their bed stealing last night, were getting a minibus to somewhere or other and saw their bags moved fro one minibus to another – The French girl who had tried to tell me to calm down last night, was now in a fit and demanding to see her bag 'Who moved it – where is it – I must see my bag!!' Haahaa, I politely but loudly made sure she heard me as I told her to 'Calm down', with a big smile on my face, as we were then put onto the bus that her bag had been removed from – Up your fucking arse you soft shite, cheese eating surrender monkey!! (No offence to any other French people who may be reading this – honest)
We then drove away from Pakse, stopping to pick up a nice normal Aussie couple who showed us their photographs and reminded us how nice and normal certain nationalities can be. It was a strange trip to 400 Islands. We stopped at a small town in the middle of nowhere, where the Mekong river swept up to the houses and main street of the town. We picked up another arrogant French woman there, who surprise surprise, ignored us when we told her she was sitting in someone else’s seat! FFS! We also picked up a couple of Hippies, one of which wore a hat with no top on! But they were OK and friendly enough.
A couple of hours later and after the bumpiest road since India, we got to a small village where the locals transport as many people as possible on the tiniest boats available, across the flooding Mekong to Don Det -Which we were told was the cheapest, but busiest island here. It was just unbelievable though,. A stunning, beautiful island, in the middle of the fast flowing fabulous Mekong river, with beautiful, friendly people and the most laid back atmosphere since Mr Laid Back took a weeks holiday at Laid Back town, while everyone there was on a day off.
We found a really nice Air-Con bungalow at a place called 'Little Eden', for under £7 each, with the Mekong washing up within 3 feet on 2 sides, a really good, cheap restaurant and stunning views over the river for sunset – all run by a mellow Belgian dude. After settling in we hired some pedal bikes and after making friends with a Danish guy called Torben, we rode the 7km or so to the south of Don Khon (the quieter island across an old railway bridge) where we looked at the Mekong again, before riding down some quiet tiny paths, past Water Buffalo towards the stunning waterfalls that flow effortlessly as far as the eye can see. The falls must be half a mile across at points and are known to be the 'Niagara Falls of south east Asia'. As the Mekong is in flood they are even more spectacular at the moment.
We rode back, stopping for a quick refreshing can of pop at a Bridge side café, before saying goodbye to Torben and getting back to Little Eden in time for a good dinner sat watching the sun set above the Mekong (The river is actually flowing under the stilted restaurant at the moment) and a couple of quiet beers ( apart from yet another loud French woman, who was told to be quiet by another customer!!) before bed.
Tuesday was a lazy easy day. Breakfast in the restaurant over the river, was followed by a walk into town (about 20metres down a muddy path, town is actually a single path with buildings about 100m long) to book transport – a boat and bus, for tomorrow to take us to Cambodia. Then a short walk along the river before back to the accommodation and a lazy afternoon by the river. It started to rain, so we were glad we did the bike ride to the waterfall yesterday. However, Nikki got upset when I took a photo of a cow which then moved off the path. Haahaa!
After a good sleep in the afternoon it was another lazy night eating by the river and generally mellowing out.
Laos has been a revelation. It is a stunning, friendly, laid back, relaxed, easy going, slow and generally brilliant country. We have not enjoyed the best of weather, but that has not taken away the fact that it has been a short adventure to one of the best places I have been to on my trip so far. I would love to stay longer and see more of the country, but due to Nikki going home in September and my promise to travel with her, we move on tomorrow to Cambodia.
Laos has been a great surprise though – even down to the food which, for every meal, has been brilliant. I would highly recommend Laos to anyone. Come and see it for yourself. Its more relaxed than Thailand, with more spectacular views and nicer people. I just hope it stays this way in Cambodia.
|The french seat stealers on the overnight sleeper bus - fucken knobs!!|
|Our place in Don Det- 4000 islands|
|Sunset over the Mekong River|
|In the restaurant|