Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Travel Laos 8 Days 7 Nights [Part 2]

Third day was full of surprises, I bought minibus ticket with the tour company but ended up traveling with a local married couple further north to Luang Prabang, the site of Wats that were frequented by the royal family back then, still a site of devotion for local Lao Buddhists, is one of the oldest cities in Laos with crumbling French architecture and Unesco Heritage listed.

The boss said I was a lucky man as I could travel more comfortably with the his friends (a married couple) and they would pit stop at places where the buses never stopped, but it still cost me 100k Kip/$12.50 and 5 hours to get there (VVIP bus would take longer).

One of the most delicious Lao curry noodle soup (chicken) I ever had in Vang Vieng

The couple made a few of stops to stock up and this market was remarkably selling parts of wild boars, squirrels, tortoise, and "happy" whiskeys.

First pit stop

Hello squirrel

Happy whiskeys

Hello tortoise

Hello wild boar

Route 13 had stunning views of deep mountains, my eyes were locked on to the green hills, tiny huts, agriculture plants and the home to local ethnics.

She's telling something through her eyes

These kids were really cute, they waved at me everytime I took their photos. They reminded me I was once as happy and care-free as they were, but somehow along the way life's get tougher and more sophisticated and we were less happier and care-less.

Local Lao ethnic kid

Waving future
The super curvy road to Luang Prabang was nut, the super relaxed driver was always one hand on the steering, and the other often too busy with something.

The tyre kept making noises everytime he went cornering, I really felt the car was going to be skidded off and there goes the car down the cliff (it's high up the hill, I could feel it's getting colder up there), AND the best thing was there was never a road BARRIER!

Embarking roller coaster excursion

So intensed back there, I held on to anything I could grab. The fella did not understand what I was saying, so I failed to talk him in to slowing down the car. And the poor Lao guy behind me I think he threw up one whole pack of 'substance' he ate that day.

All I could do was just pray, and I vowed to God that I'd be a vegetarian for a week if I survived this, I made it to Luang Prabang unscathed. Now I need to pick the day to go on vege.

Luang Prabang

At this time I was worried about how I supposed to return to Vientiane on the same route i came, I literally hesitated.

I bumped into Nick on the street that night, a Canadian lawyer, we met in Vang Vieng. He said he almost die on the way to Luang Prabang. He was sleeping, everyone dived to other side of the bus when the hand of the crane that was fixing the road hit and tore part of the bus, that's crazy!

Enough of the horror story, I touched down Malaysia safely couple of days later! Don't worry too much if you are going to Laos, seriously, it's horrific experience but fun to remember.

I walked a few blocks and settled down at Soutikone guest house (exact geo location on google map - 19.896408, 102.1411), it was absolutely a nice place to stay. Clean and quiet at night, the rate was reasonably cheap, $10 or 80,000 Kip per night for queen sized bed room.

Soutikone guest house, 80k Kip/$10 per night
The room had a little balcony

Cosy shared balcony Soutikon guest house

The owner was a sweet lady, and she owned a beautiful dog, Petty.


At night, I walked the Sakkaline street (main street of the town) and did a little shopping at the night market. The night market started as early as 7pm and ended at 11pm daily, local friendly sellers were selling interesting handycrafts and stones on the street.

Those things were already cheap before bargaining, although 50% discount is ideal, but I suggest 30-40% to make their lives easier.

It resembled 'Pasar Malam' (night market back in Malaysia), I felt home a little.

Second day in Luang Prabang was fascinating

I loved the Lao beef noodle soup for my breakfast (RM4.50).

Lao beef noodle soup for 12,000 Kip

Pork (with internal organs), I didn't try this..

I did politely ask her to smile..

There were plenty of Wats and old buildings around, and I decided to only visit the nearest and well known ones, the busy streets were just so lifely, they were definitely interesting enough to stop me to snap a few photos. It was the most enjoyable moments to walk the busy streets.

Wat at Luang Prabang

Blink blink Buddhist sculpture

Wat Xieng Thong was built in 1560 by the Lao King, was situated near the Mekong river and very popular tourist spot.
Wat Xieng Thong

Wat Xieng Thong

The gigantic guardian ship in the Wat
 I continued with my random takes on the French/Lao architectures & activities.

Door way

Origami by the window

Little Lao corn seller

Corn seller on the street

One of the few places you couldn't have missed, I believe is the morning market and laying back at the river front restaurants along Khem Khong street to have your own little quiet moments with Mekong river.

Morning market

Morning market

The view of the Mekong river from the restaurant were different at noon and sunset, I've blogged about the magic moment.

Mekong river
The vegetable sticky rice came to me by surprised because I ordered beef rice, it must be the sign, or reason, so I took it.
Vegetable with sticky rice
Next up, amazing Kuang Si waterfall excursion, and funny incident on my last night in Luang Prabang with two American friends.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Beautiful Sunset View, Magic Moment of Mekong River

I was completely captivated by the stunning sunset view of the Mekong river at one of the river bank restaurants along Khem Khong road in Luang Prabang, Laos.

Sunset at Mekong river, Luang Prabang, Laos
Stunning golden view of mighty Mekong river surface

Like solving the last piece of the puzzle, a glass of Beer Lao made me feel complete, what a perfect magic companion for the perfect moment beside the mighty river.

Magic moment

A large Beer Lao cost only 10,000 Kip, about RM4 or $1.50, drink up, drink up!

Side track a bit, hope this wouldn't spoil your mood, and I hope you are not seeing this before your meal. This was what happened when you were frequently on foot with sandal.

It's hard to stay with clean nail when you walk a lot
Lao shrimp fried rice was totally awesome, a full plate for 20,000 Kip.

Lao shrimp fried rice
Just sit back and relax, watch the life on the river goes by, it's the magic moment of life, enjoy it as much as possible.
The life on the river

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Travel Laos for 8 Days 7 Nights [Part 1]

I booked a trip to Laos last year and it was quick to come, I did little homework this time, rushing to study Laos the night before I left on board. And my brief itinerary was to land in Vientiane - Vang Vieng - Luang Prabang - Vientiane.

Quick facts on Wikipedia:
Laos is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and People's Republic of China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west. Laos traces its history to the Kingdom of Lan Xang or Land of a Million Elephants, which existed from the 14th to the 18th century.
The exchange rate was $1 to 8,200 Kip, or RM1 to 2,500 Kip as of time I was there.

Day 1 - Vientiane

I touched down at Wattai Airport, and I shared the ride with a French couple. Vientiane's weather wasn't really good to me, it was ok when I touched down but it changed quickly after that it was already raining when I entered the town in 15min.

The one thing noticeably nice, there was only one taxi counter and $6 was the standard that everyone going to pay, no additional cost for sharing a ride.

No taxi drivers were calling at me when I walked. It made me quickly settled in easily on the far land from home & felt pretty good.

I went straight to Saysouly guest house which was recommended by my travel book & I got there without a problem. The single room rate was at 60k Kip. I checked the room & shared toilet, they looked pretty decent & deal!

My single room

My single room

The shared balcony

Saysouly guest house

I thought I could have bargained a little but I gave in usually on the first night in foreign land.

I started walking down the street with the umbrella that mom asked me bring with me just because she overheard I said it was raining month in Laos. It proved to be pretty handy at times. Sweet!

I had Lao beef steak for dinner at the restaurant down the street, it was pretty awesome. Thumbs up for the food & wifi, must try! And fantastic environment.

Lao beef steak

You got this nice wooden wall in the restaurant, and with bamboo trees and people hanged around the bar as the other open roof tables were wet in rain.

I continued to walk along the river down west & found the stalls selling some familiar food back home at the street.

Yau Cha Guai, choc roti canai, noodle soup & there's a lot of fruit shake stalls too because of the hot weather in day time.

Roti canai stall

Roti honey - 10k Kip

油炸鬼 - 1k Kip

It was still early, at about 9pm an I went to check out Wild West bar with great live band performance.

This bar is one of the bar that you wouldn't want to miss, by 11pm it was packed with young & pretty looking Lao ladies. The people in the bar dressed up pretty much ok but as a tourist, they were totally fine with how worn down I was.

Good mixed of music they played, it was raining heavily when I was about to leave, I was worrying how could I get back but thanks to Ssavalit, a lecturer of the local university cum sports couch and manager who kept telling me how much he loved Malaysian songs & sepak takraw.

Ssavalith dropped me off at my guest house & left his contact so we could meet again possibly when he's in Malaysia.

He was such a sweet character that he always put up a great smile at the end of each conversation, and he looked like a panda, so cute.

Day 2 - Vientiane to Vang Vieng

The second day wasn't looking great because it rained as soon as I stepped out of the guest house.

It screwed up my plan so what I did was adaptively rescheduling my plan ahead to move away from Vientiane to Vang Vieng, a small northen west town where I took on tubing & kayaking tour.

The AC bus fare was 45k Kip from the guest house, I almost missed the tuktuk that came to pick me up at 9am.

The bus usually wouldn't hit on the road until it's full and it only started leaving at 10.30am although it stated clear departure time was 9.30am.

On the way to Vang Vieng

Lao people

I reckoned it would have been easier for travelers on peak season.

I was told that it's tremendously fall in number of people traveling in raining season especially in the month of August when you get most rains.

On peak season, a tuktuk driver would earn up to $1,000 or more, good money for the local and sufficient to pay for everything they need for a family of 5 members.

Now back to Vang Vieng, it's 4 hours from Vientiane with bus. Walk to the town center with the rest of the backpackers and you would probably find some good deals at the guest houses along the way to the center of town.

This paricular one, Grand View guest house ($12 per night or about 100k Kip), mentioned by the book, really worthed everything.

Grand view guest house

It has got the stunning Nam Song river front view in front of the beautiful limestone, nice twin bed, clean private toilet, and pretty new and decent with the balcony facing the little island where the most happening bars were at.

Stunning view from the balcony

The loud blasting techno mixed music could be a problem to someone who loved quieter bed time because it could start as early as 6pm and stop only at 1.30am midnight, but I was absolute fine & in love with it, no complain.

The bridge that linked to the island of bars

Beautiful limestone cliffs, amazing river front view, best DJ mixed club music blasting from across the island, I was enjoying every moment just by hanging at my balcony with cheap cigarette between the two fingers and a bottle of beer Lao in another hand. Good life!

This type of laid back restaurant was commonly found in the town, Friends episodes were shown everywhere on TVs. I typically like Sakura restaurant where the WiFi was so reliable, just take a walk and explore the town for half an hour, it wouldn't be difficult to spot the restaurant.

You must try tubing down the river at the cost of 50k Kip with the company that was located at the busy intersection in the town, you can't miss it.

Enjoy the magnificent view of the mountains rising directly beside the river, and make stops at the bars to chill. You can try sling shot that releases you from the platform with swing and drop yourself into the river. I did that couple of times, it was unbelievable!

You have to be back to return the turn by 6pm to get your 65k Kip deposit back from the company.

At night, I went to the Bucket Bar whom everyone was talking about, it was amazing. Drinks and dance and drinks! Good stuffs!

Next up, kayaking and caving tour in Vang Vieng, and Luang Prabang.