Happiness through harmony. Peaking over the border.
28 September 2006
Fantastic place, already changed the plans to spend a couple more days here.
29 September 2006
Not many people speak English, except in the guest house in Pakse. At a local restaurant, there was a guy who spoke a little English, and another guy who spoke Malay (I got to practice Malay again, yeah!). The first day we went to Champasak and Wat phu which was excellent, and stayed in Pakse. From there, we went into the hills close to the Vietnam border for 3 days and two nights. After the first night where we met to Germans who were teaching English at the local school, we didn't meet anyone with English for two and half days. Someone had translated a few dishes on the menus, but otherwise we had to point at what we wanted in the phrase book, or in the actual shop, and write down the price on paper. It was really really amazing. In one shop (shop fronts are open to the street), some Lao people gathered to watch us eat (kids and adults).
30 September 2006
We took bikes around the Bolaven plateau for 4 days (mum, please don't have a hernia but we rode little nifty 50 scooters). It's a good place to ride a bike because the speed limit is either 30 km/h or 40 km/h or on one piece of road, 60 km/h.
We spent the first night at Tad lo. In Tad lo, we swam at the top of a waterfall with a 120 m drop that's surrounded by forest - it was magical. It took about 1.5 hour to get there because everyone gave different directions - some to the top of the falls, some to the bottom. We had to take a dirt track and negotiate about 5 different intersections (but no traffic!) Drawing maps in the dirt on the side of the road with someone who speaks none of the same language is really fun! Lao people are really friendly, which is lucky, otherwise it would have been impossible. From there, we went to Ban Beng and took a 20 km dirt road (which was really a big mud puddle) to Thateng, and on to Attapeu. It took 2.5 hours to ride the mud road. At the villages, the local kids came running out to see us, waving madly and saying hello in Lao. While the poverty is scary, the innocence of the people is quite enchanting. In Attapeu, the locals just ignored us, and carried on as usual. The scenery along the way back (through Paksong) was breathtaking.
4 October 2006
On to Si phan don on the Cambodian border by Sangthew - a small truck with a cage on the back with two rows of seats. 25 people in total, and the roof rack with stuff stacked 1 m high, and then in the back with us there was rice, vegetables, mail, crates of beer and fizzy and strapped on the back, a new fridge for someone. A real experience!!!
We first stayed at Don Khong, by mistake. It's nice place, but expensive (USD10/night and meals for 2.50 - 3USD each). The next day, we go to Don Det and don khon, where we had meant to go in the 1st place - the bungalow is USD3, but the washing water is straight from the Mekong and there are sewer pipes along the river bank - yuk! No showers for us... This place is really cool - in the middle of the Mekong there are 10 000 islands, some tiny, some less tiny. The entire Mekong about 15 km wide gets pushed through a series of channels about 3 km width in total, so the rapids and water falls are amazing - about grade 5 or 6. We take a bike ride on a little track for 3 hours return to see the waterfalls, and get covered in mud. The typhoon didn't really turn into much - I think it hit further north. Just wind, and rain. Nothing worse than at home in a southerly. We had a really really amazing time in Lao.
5 October 2006
We had a really really amazing time in Lao - after we paid the $30US for our entry visa and the 60b (NZ$3) fee (read: bribe) to get our border stamp.
Lao has been a real highlight for us.
On now to Cambodia after paying another $3US 'fee' for the passport stamp!