4th of February 2016:
Today was the day we would adventure to Laos. As we walked out of our room to grab some quick Pho before the 12 hour bus ride, we were hassled by taxi drivers wanting to drive us not understanding that Laos is very far away. The wonderful man from Tom’s cafe came to make sure we would get to the bus station safely. I started thinking this man was too good to be true, but indeed he was a wonderful man. In all honesty we would not have made it onto the bus without him, we got confused when we entered the station with him only a few metres behind. As the bus arrived surprisingly on time we climbed up to the second story and found a seat at the back. In only an hour we arrived at the Vietnam and Laos border. I knew this was going to be challenging, I mean Vietnam don’t make anything simple. As we were last off the bus we joined the que to get our passports stamped and fingers crossed we can venture to Laos. As I arrived at the front the man had no emotion, as if he had had enough dealing with us English speaking people. I handed him my passport and I thought that was it. Oh how I was so wrong. We walked across the border, into no mans land where a Laos person turned us around and said “need stamp go back”. So we went back and a Vietnamese and Laos person switched positions where he looked at my passport and pointed to another door. As we joined our third que I realised I either left my passport photos at home or have lost them on the way. Nicks photos were on the bus, however as the bus driver drove over to Laos he couldn’t reach them. I was trying to act cool, like nothing was bothering me but inside my heart was pounding so hard I’m surprised they couldn’t hear it. I didn’t want to be stuck at the border in Vietnam, that was the last place I wanted to be right now. As I reached the front I handed her my documents and she asked “Photo”. I tried to remain calm and say “No photo” but I’ve never had a good poker face. She remained neutral and reached out her phone where she took a photo of me… And that was it. There was no drama, no getting stuck in the border of Vietnam and I didn’t even have to pay extra. I was astonished! As I walked across the border I felt this sense of accomplishment, as if we finally made it into Laos with numerous days of drama. The rest of the bus ride was as boring as you may expect. After watching two movies we arrived in Savannahket. You would think after 12 hours on a bus you would be pretty happy to get off and explore, but we raced to the ticket machine and jumped on the bus to Pakse that was supposed to leave 10 minutes prior. It felt like we were in the Amazing race just running from one thing to another. Only after 5 minutes of driving the bus pulls over as the back was smoking. It smelt like rubber was burning, never a great sign! But, surprisingly after 10 minutes we were back on the road again, to stop 3 minutes later. A Canadian guy then told us the bus ride is 5 to 7 hours. Oh great so much for 2 hours! At this point it’s due to arrive in Pakse at 11 or midnight! Which would be fine but we didn’t organise accommodation before because we hadn’t had wifi for awhile so here’s to walking the streets trying to find a place to stay. As the bus came to a stop at what looked like a dusty paddock, was supposedly Pakse. We got off with the Canadian guy who hadn’t booked any accommodation as well, and decided to start walking the 1km to the city. A man on a tuk tuk reduced his price from $120,000kip to $20,000! So we hopped on and rode for 2 minutes, to accommodation. After asking two places, a room at $90,000kip was on offer for the two of us. As we were exhausted from the entire day’s adventures we spent a little more than usual and booked it for the night, or what was left of it.
5th of February 2016:
Today we deserved a sleep in. It was just such a long day yesterday it really takes a toll on you. So we crawled out of bed at 10am and checked out at 11am where we got lunch and used their wifi to find accommodation. We walked down the street for only 5 minutes where we tried for bungalows that were recommended by lonely planet. Unfortunately it was fully booked out so we walked into the the guest house a couple of metres closer to town. The man was French speaking and we took his last room for $70,000 for the night. We decided to rent a scooter to see the temples around Pakse. The lady in the store explained to us that we could do a 2 day one night drive around to see the waterfalls, and more rural villages. So we ceased the opportunity and decided to start tomorrow. However we hired the scooter for the rest of the day to see a old ancient temple. No one had told us it was a hour drive as we saw it was only 13km so you wouldn’t expect that to take long. Unfortunately when your on a scooter we were travelling at 40kms an hour! We stopped off at a gorgeous lookout where monks were living. The one thing Laos people need to learn is how to make stairs. Each step was a different length and if it wasn’t that they would be tilted up or down just to make your life that much harder and more exhausting to reach the top. The viewpoint over looked the Mekong river and 100’s of tiny little islands that would only be a few metres big. As we looked across the river a monk was sitting next to us singing.
When we reached the temple, it was so hot. We walked around the museum where it described their history and showed ancient sculptures etc. It was pretty amazing. Then we took a little golf buggy around a lake to the beginning of the walk to the ancient temple. We walked down a huge walk way with old broken pillars lining the pathway to the ancient temple. The Laos people are currently re-building one of the ancient temples which I can’t work out if that is a good thing or not. It’s nice that future visitors gets to see it but that’s just not its natural state now. At the end of the two temples crooked stairs led to the top of the mountain. Two gorgeous white trees with it’s roots tangled in between the stairs, and the flowers cascading down the steps, looked gorgeous as the sun started to set.
Pass the two trees, are more stairs that are surprising that more people don’t trip over them, but I do love how they are the original steps. At the top of the mountain a Buddha sits in a ancient temple. It looks gorgeous a shimmering gold statue amongst old gray bricks.
Nick and I started to walk around and found the sacred water, that was believed to have washed away your sins.
The elephant temple was only a few metres so as we began to walk around a boulder, Nick steps on what he thought was a stick but was a white snake! This was fine for Nick, but the next thing I knew I see a tongue and beading eyes and all of a sudden a snake hissing at me. So naturally like a stereotypical Australian I swear and scream and just run away! Not the appropriate reaction in a Buddhist temple where the Snakes are believed to be protectors. So Nick keeps walking to Elephant temple and I’m stuck death glaring the snake, wondering what it’s next move is. Nick yells out there’s another path to take, so as I walk back I hear a rustle in the bushes and just start running again!! There was no other path, so I walk back to find the snake still in my way but Nick and an older couple from Germany are walking through the leaves to avoid the snake!
Well that was enough adrenaline for me for one day so we start heading back, also the sun is setting so we wouldn’t want to drive in the dark with all the pot holes in the road!
6th of February 2016:
We awoke early to start our two day journey to see rural villages and waterfalls. The first leg of the journey took us 3 hours, and by the end of it my bum was so sore from sitting on the back of the scooter for that long. I felt like I couldn’t walk properly! The town we stayed in was Tad Lo, and it is a absolutely breathtaking town that I wish it doesn’t become over populated of tourists in the future! Nick and I even thought to run a hotel and restaurant here it was so amazing! As we waited for our lunch we played with the local children. Nick taught them how to use the camera, and they thought it was so funny how it made the shutter noise! Then we started giving the two girls wizzys. This was incredible but made me feel so nauseous.
Thankfully our food came, as we sat in a little bamboo hut over looking the lake at that moment I knew that Laos was one of my favourite places. From here we walked to the waterfalls. It was a few metres high and we jumped from one rock to another on the top of it!
The water was warmer than you may imagine, and the local village people were washing, swimming and playing in the water all afternoon. Nick decided he wanted to explore some more so we walked closer to the locals, up stream. At one point we walked in between two trees where I some how got prickles in my ear and all around it. I still have no idea how I managed this but it hurt! I lost count of how many I pulled out but I was praying it wasn’t something poisonous. After this dilemma we walked in land to where we found locals watering their veggie patches with a watering can. After a few minutes Nick remembered Laos was bombed every 8 minutes so decided it was probably a bad idea to go off the path. As we were heading back Nick decided to walk down a rickety bamboo ladder that apparently took us to the bottom of the waterfall. A cute dog was following us, and even walked down the so called ladder as well. Nick went swimming in the surprisingly deep water, with powerful cascading water falling on top of him. Some would say his crazy others adventurous I guess it depends what type of person you ask!
As we arrived at our guesthouse, the locals were cooking some sort of huge rodent. It was disgusting to say the least! We watched them take the spikes off it like a echidna, then skinned it and took out the intestines. It smelt revolting, it made me want to gag, whilst the water they were putting it in turned a deep red, full of blood.
As we were watching this the locals gave us Buffalo skin and tiny tiny frogs as big as two finger nails. I tried the buffalo skin and wouldn’t wish it on anyone, it is impossible to chew. I honestly thought I was going to break my teeth! After 5 minutes of having it in my mouth and still not able to chew through it all I walked back to my room to “get changed” and spat it in the toilet. The taste stayed with me for an hour after.
7th of February 2016:
After we awoke from a very restless sleep, we bought breakfast at a restaurant owned by a French man who moved to the small town in 2012. Then we headed off to our next big adventure, if only it wasn’t so cold. I was shaking from the cold wind from being on the scooter. After a 3 hour ride we found two waterfalls. The first one we went to was on the left, down a very bumpy road where I thought I was going to fall off. I spent more time in the air then on the seat, at least that’s what it felt like.
The cascading water free-falling into the private lagoon showed a sense of power in a quiet peaceful area. You could walk down a narrow muddy path to walk behind to hear the roaring noise and continuous spray in the air. The other waterfall was sadly not as interactive, but huge it was. It was a long drop that could only look like 100 metres but the thick forest blocked the bottom of the waterfall. As we were only 30km from Pakse we decided to drive back and see if we could possibly get on the overnight bus to Vietianne. Surprisingly there were seats available for us, so we grabbed it and was leaving in 2 hours time. So we took the scooter one last time to see the top of the hill across the bridge with a huge Buddha over looking the mountains and the Mekong River. The way to the Buddha and the top of the mountain was an adventure. The wooden stairs were falling down, some had a hole in the step, some were just missing. This would be fine apart from when 3 were missing and you had to adventure to the hill trying to climb up until the stairs were apparent again so you could step on the unstable rotting wood. At the top even Nick said; “yes we made it!”
The sunset wasn’t as breathtaking as we had wished but we climbed back down before it got too dark.
We jumped on the 12 hour bus to Vietianne, and I wish I could say it was a peaceful sleep, but the roads in Laos are of dirt, and 100’s of pot holes, so the entire night I was rolling around in the sleeper bed if I wasn’t doing that I was up in the air from hitting all the pot holes at full speed.