Vientiane again

We made it back to Pakse after the zip lining without a hotel to go to. In the end we booked something online and went with the Phi Dao Hotel.

Dudley needed a day to relax after the more than challenging zip lining tour. Dinner the first evening was at the hotel which was negligible. I was in bed a short time later totally exhausted from all excitement of the day.

I started the next day with an intensive shoe cleaning and later went for a soup for breakfast. I haven’t had one since my last day of Saigon and it was quite good. Different from the Vietnamese ones but good nonetheless.

After that I brought my laundry to the cleaners and myself to a massage salon. I needed a long foot massage to get back in shape since new adventures were waiting for us.

The next morning we left by plane for Vientiane again. This was the easiest and fastest way to get up north. I had booked a night at the Be Na Cam Guesthouse which was located right downtown.

For the afternoon I had planned a visit to the COPE Visitors Centre which helps the victims of land mines. Laos had been bombed during the ‘Secret War‘ more times than Vietnam and the legacy of these bombing missions was still visible.

IMG_8265

Dudley supported the program with a generous donation while I did so by buying a couple of t-shirts.


Even though I had this huge caramel French toast in the late afternoon that evening we went for dinner at an Italian place right around the corner from our guesthouse. Here I had my first glass of wine since ages and was more than disappointed. Maybe it’s the climate?

The next day we left for Vang Vieng a city about 4 hours from Vientiane. After the experience with the minibus from Ban Nakasang we had booked tickets on the VIP bus so that Dudley could stretch his legs. But buying tickets and getting a seat are two different pairs of shoes.

There was not one place available on either the minibus nor the VIP bus and since I was not ready to wait for the one that was supposedly leaving unscheduled 2 hours later, I insisted that they find a place for us. Which they did, just differently from what we expected. Dudley ended up sitting on the stairs while I sat next to the driver.

I offered my seat because I am a nice person (at least sometimes) but Dudley wouldn’t budge. We had one stop in between were I tried roasted bananas filled with shredded coconut.


That the trip in the end did take around 6 hours made matters slightly worse for Dudley. In the end we made it though to Vang Vieng and even managed to walk to our guesthouse without major problems (thank God it was such a small village where everything was within walking distance). Yours, Pollybert

Advertisements

Moving South in Laos

Dudley and I had a leisurely breakfast and then got a lift to the airport. We had decided to fly to Pakse and from there Dudley had arranged for a pickup to the 4000 Islands.

  

Once in Pakse a driver awaited us and two hours later we arrived in Ban Nakasang, a small port that was as such not recognizable (but since we also stopped there on the return, it was the official gateway to the islands).

The boat ride on the Mekong was not much more than 30 minutes and eventually we arrived at our floating bungalows at the Auberge Sala Done Khone.

  
  
  

We spent our first afternoon by doing exactly nothing. Just swimming in the pool and talking to my nice neighbors from Australia. They had been in the area the last couple of days and had some good input on what to see.

Before dinner I took a couple of sunset Mekong pictures and it looked almost too beautiful to be true. But it was and we enjoyed our first dinner which included a 4000 Island cocktail and millions of mosquitoes. Yours, Pollybert

  

Vientiane 

I arrived in Vientiane shortly after 6pm and after I got my visa I was met by a pickup from the hotel. All arranged by Dudley, the South African guy I had met in Hanoi and who had told me to go to Cham Island.

When we had discovered in Hanoi that we both were heading to Laos eventually we discussed meeting up somewhere. In the end we traveled the country together.

So that first evening we went for the dinner at a steak restaurant. So no Laos food testing for me since Dudley is quite big on meat.

The next day we started with the sight-seeing and got first a lift downtown from the hotel. We were booked into Rashmi’s Plaza Hotel which had a rooftop pool but was a bit outside the center.

We started with a glance at the presidential palace (you are not allowed to visit it)

and then went first into the Sisaket museum. It was less a museum than a temple with a collection of Buddhas in all sizes. Please note that it was also smoke-free.

     

  

Next up should have been the Haw Pha Kaeo right across from it but due to elaborate renovations the temple was wrapped up like a sausage in a hot dog bun and we couldn’t see anything. Therefore we decided on walking to the Victory Gate which seemed to be only about one kilometer away. In this heat it wouldn’t have mattered if it had been only 500m away. We had to make a pit stop at a shopping mall along the way to cool down. Both of us were sweating profusely. Not really such a great show.

At least at the mall I could buy myself a SIM card for Laos and an ice coffee. Something the hotel with the rooftop pool couldn’t manage. After this short break we started walking again and really the Victory Gate was not that far off. It looked really great from afar, close up it was a bit of a let down. But since we were there we climbed up and took some pictures of the view from the top.

Yeah, it didn’t get any better in Vientiane. So far, so good though. Upon exciting the Victory Gate we took a tuk-tuk (Dudley needed a bit of coaxing to get in one) Pha That Luang, a golden stupa a bit out of the center.We made it there with 15 minutes to spare before lunch break. But it was enough to go inside and take some pictures.

  
There was not really so much to take pictures of. A stupa of course is a closed structure so there was just not more to see. Once outside we saw women selling little birds in cages (and I have no clue what kind of birds) and it was the perfect day to buy some of them their freedom.


Next to the stupa was a temple and a monument for some guy (again no clue who he was or what he had done and Lonely Planet doesn’t say).

  

After the successful visit to almost all the sights in Vientiane we went back downtown with the tuk-tuk.

We had arranged with the hotel that we would take the shuttle at 2pm back to the hotel so we were left with a bit of time on our hands and decided on lunch. Always a good idea to eat something. I ordered a lime mint juice and this is what I got.


Looks quite green, doesn’t it? I later ordered a strawberry mint juice, you really don’t want to know the color of that one.

We also ordered some real food which tasted very good, spicy though. It seemed as if almost everything I ordered on this trip was going to be spicy. So good that I got used to it from the first.

The rest of the day was spent in and around the pool. It was just too hot to do much else in the city and we had decided to leave the next day down south. Which was actually where I wanted to meet in the first place but due to a two day bus ride up from Siem Reap I opted for a meeting in Vientiane. Yours, Pollybert

Angkor Wat (Day 3)

My last day in Cambodia started the same way as yesterday. I was down at breakfast by 7am and pickup was again at 7:30. Today we would go to a temple a bit further away called Banteay Srei. It was 25km away from the town and it took a while to get there. On the way to the temple I could see how the Cambodian people lived and worked.

  
  

At the temple I had the good fortune to have a bus load of Chinese tourists in front of me. Pictures therefore were difficult since the Chinese liked to pose with everything. Nonetheless the temple was beautiful, especially the carvings and reliefs, and it had a small section on the building architecture of the different temples at Angkor Wat. Very interesting and it highlighted the style evolution through the years. This would have been great to see on the first day actually, it would have made such a difference to the trip.

  
  
  
  

And here’s an aerial shot that I found in the instructions section.

Next up was the Cambodian Landmine Museum, a private initiative from a former child soldier. On the way there we stopped at a ‘gas station’.

In the museum all the shells and mines displayed have been deactivated by the Aki Ra, the founder of the museum and the relief facility next door. He started deactivating the mines with his bare hands but a couple of years ago he got the proper certificate to go on searching for mines and now he destroys them according to the international standards (which is blowing them up).

  

After the museum we did one last temple, the Bantay Samre. By then I was quite tired of all the temples and ready for a change of scenery.


We drove back to the hotel where I had the time to go for lunch before I needed to finish packing. This time I ordered a glass noodle salad and it was very good. Maybe the secret to good food in Cambodia is to order Thai instead? I know this sounds unfair and I will have to give Cambodia a second chance.

At the hotel I took one last look around and then it was already time to go to the airport.

  

Mara drove me with his tuk-tuk to the airport and a little while later I was already off to Laos. Yours, Pollybert