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Vientiane / Luang Prabang

sunny 30 °C

Vientiane (10th March - 12th March)

We only spent a couple of days in Vientiane, but this was more than enough. The town is nice, and very quiet (especially for a capital city!) but there are not many sights and attractions. Our first day we spent the morning at the Thai embassy filling in visa applications, then headed back into the town centre to look around. Vientiane certainly has more than enough Wats for it's size. We went in about 6, and walked past several more. My favorite was Wat Sisaket which had hundreds of Buddha statues, ranging from about 5cm ones perched in cuby-holes in the walls to 10m high ones in the centre of the temple. Other than temples not much else in the town centre, so we decided to go for a tradiational Lao massage. This was a interesting, if not an entirely enjoyable, experience. Some of it was relaxing, but at other points our bodies were stretched into positions they shouldn't go, and the little Laos lady was sat on top of me digging her elbows into my back...not so nice! The second day in Vientiane we hired bikes to see some of the sights further out from the centre. Our first stop was the COPE centre, which was probably the most interesting place we visited here. It was a visitor exhibition set up alongside a centre which helped disabled people, especially those with amputations caused by unexploded ordance (UXO) from the wars, by giving them prosthetics and rehabilitation programs. The exhibition was very moving, and really highlighted what a huge problem UXO is in south east Asia. After the COPE centre we headed out of town to Wat That Luang, the huge golden temple that is the symbol of Laos, and to the Lao version of the Arc de Triomphe. Finally we picked up our Thai visas and passports before getting on to the overnight bus to Luang Prabang...needless to say this was another sleepless night!

Luang Prabang (13th March -16th March)

After a morning nap we set out to explore Luang Prabang, and were very impressed by this small town. It has a lot of character and a really relaxed atmosphere, so we decided to stay for a few nights (instead of our original plan to move on after only 2 nights). The town is situated on a peninsula of land between the Mekong and another river, with many temples cafes and restaurants...we had great food throughout our stay here. On our first afternoon we explored the town, going into Wat Xieng Toung which was beautifully decorated and crossing the river to walk around the villages and temples on the other side of the Mekong.

The second day we rented mountain bikes and set out on an epic bike ride to see the famous Kuang Si waterfall. We set off early to avoid the worst of the heat on the 30km cycle through the scenic countryside and villages. However I was not prepared for the amount of uphill on this route, and by the time we got to the last 5km I was exhausted! Although we walked most of the last hill, we jumped back on for the last 100m into the car park just to impress all the other sensible tourists that had taken a minibus out there! The ride was worth it, Kuang Si is probably the most impressive waterfall I have ever visited, with around 60 levels of turquoise water, and a huge fall at the top end. It was amazing to swim in the pools, especially when we first arrived and there was only a handful of other people there. We left quite early to cycle back, which thankfully had a lot more downhill than the route out.

We rented bikes again to visit another waterfall, Tad Thong, the next day, although much closer to town this time. However, after the previous days ride even the 6km to this one (uphill again!) really hurt. Tad Thong was much quieter than Kuang Si, and also much less impressive. In fact there was hardly any water in the falls as we were there in dry season. But I had fun walking along the jungle paths trying to take pictures of the butterflies. I got a few good pics, but the biggest, most colourful ones never wanted to land near the path :( There was also a great cafe at the falls, where we enjoyed a fruit shake sat in a bamboo hut next to the lake, very chilled out! Ended the day with some shopping in the fantastic night market, full of hand made local goods, although I think I enjoyed the shopping more than Dunc.

After our exertions the previous two days we spend out final day in Luang Prabang having a lie in and wandering round town again, with a delicious lunch at Tamarind restaurant trying the sample platters of local food. The different sauces and dips were interesting, and the chjilli paste was especially good. Then back on the road again for our longest trip so far, a 21hr bus ride to Chang Mai in Thailand to meet up with Holly, Rach and Sonia for a few days.

Posted by duncan-alice 07:07 Archived in Laos Comments (1)

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