Laos & Cambodia: Day 26th to 30th; 13th to 17th of February 2016

  13th of February 2016:

Our bus was bound to leave at 9am, and they are always late, so in my head I was thinking at least 9:30am. To my astonishment it came 5 minutes early! This is unheard of and I think my mouth even dropped. We got taken to the bus station where we jumped on another mini bus that would take us 4 hours to Luang Prabang. Which is the express version, apparently. Unfortunately they didn’t warn us of how windy the drive was, and it took 6 hours not 4! Imagine literally 6 hours of starting at the bottom of the mountain and winding all the way around it and then going back down to go up and around another mountain. I don’t normally get car sick but after 1 hour I generally thought I was going to throw up. Nick had to use Chinese whispers and actions to explain “Stop the bus she’s going to throw up!” But once I got outside I was fine in the air. I wouldn’t say it was fresh air though. The drivers were happy, they went to have a smoke. At about 2pm they stopped at a random restaurant on the side of the road off the cliff side. As I was still so nauseous I didn’t eat anything. As we finally arrived in the Luang Prabang bus station we were as per usual hassled by Tuk Tuk drivers. One driver tried to say $10,000 for one person,  which was ridiculous so we took one step out of the bus station and got a tuk tuk for $5,000 for both of us. Our hostel was down a street opposite the monk temple. We got a private room, and the bathroom was the nicest bathroom yet! Unfortunately I couldn’t say much about the bed you could feel every single spring. Without exaggerating my ribs would get stuck in between each individual spring. If this wasn’t bad enough every movement you made sounded like elephants were jumping up and down on it! 

We walked down the street to the night market. It would be 100 metres with 3 lanes just full of clothes, badges, bags etc. They all sold the same thing but what I loved the most was they weren’t haggling you, they would just sit there and wait till you wanted something. We found a incredibly crowded little market down an alley way that sold food. It was 15,000 for all you can eat on one plate. Honestly some people looked like they were trying to recreate the leaning tower of Pisa. As we sat down a Chinese mother and son were trying to teach me how to use chopsticks properly. They didn’t really know any English so it was all gestures, clapping and yes and no’s. Every time Iate a piece correctly the mother would clap me. We also spoke to two Australian girls from Sydney who got scholarships to go to Laos for 4 weeks and help with the cows in their growth and taking samples for future research. It sounded amazing to say the least!

14th of February 2016:

         Today we awoke nice and early to rent a scooter to go to the waterfalls. We were told the night before by the Australians to try and get there before 11am otherwise it gets too busy and it becomes like a waterpark much like Blue Lagoon. It took 45 minutes to drive through windy roads to get to Kuang Si. It was a beautiful drive and surprisingly went very quickly. As we arrived we paid $20,000 kip to see what we thought was just a waterfall, but it was so much more! As we walked through the gate at 10am, we wandered along to the path where an opening for the Asiatic Black Bears were. They were lazing about on the hammocks just sleeping, but they were beautiful non the less. The sanctuary is a rescue centre to help prevent extinction from poachers. They showed us the cage they get put in for 10 years. It’s so small I think even a baby would complain. As you walk past the Bears the path leads you to the first waterfall. It looked beautiful! The water was a rich turquoise colour that you would only expect to see in a swimming pool. The water however was chilly as the sun had not yet reached the cascading waters. We walked only 10 metres further to another small cascading waterfall with a bigger pond. 

 

Kuang Si Waterfalls
 
There was a tree hanging over the water so naturally Nick wanted me to climb up on it to take a photo. We were so thankful we got there in the morning as the only people there were 80 year olds, 60 year olds and photographers lined up with their tripods. There were numerous sets of waterfalls that would continuously cascade one into another. As we got to the top a powerful waterfall, propelled itself off the cliff face, as the wind would catch some of the mist before it reached the rocks below. A bridge allowed us to begin our climb to the top. Honestly before this trip I thought I was quite fit, but there’s nothing that can prepare you for natural steps at 90 degrees and half your body height! As I got to where I hoped was the top, I looked down and everyone’s faces represented exactly how I felt which was, “when is this going to end?” And “am I even going to make it?” As we finally reached to the top it was a sigh of relief. I tried to not show how hard I was puffing but thankfully everyone was in the same boat! At the top it was beautiful! You can see this little creek turning into a monstrous waterfall as it cascades off the cliff face. We met an American and Chinese man. The American man works in China so he was pretty excited to talk to us in English! He boasted about how big and powerful China is becoming and how we should all learn Chinese if not from a business perspective. Surprisingly what he was saying made me want to visit China and teach English in their schools. He also taught us some of their culture and I think I would fit in quite perfectly! They love white girls, the whiter you are it represents wealth, which is good cause even if I’m outside all day I don’t change skin colour, unless red counts. They also don’t like cold drinks! This is astounding I’ve never heard of anyone who likes room temperature drinks like me. 

We took the 3km walk through the jungle and onto a long path talking to the American and Chinese man, comparing our cultures. As we reached the bottom we realised that we had walked out of the park so grabbed some lunch at a little restaurant. 

We wanted to see how busy it was in the waterfalls but unfortunately as you enter they take your ticket away. Thankfully I had taken photos on my phone so we showed them the photos as they have the date on them.

As we walked inside it was like a completely different place. You could hardly see the gorgeous natural cascading water. Instead you just saw 100’s of bobbing heads swimming in the lagoons. However, we joined them, I would say immediately but it took me 10 minutes to get further than my calves because it felt so cold. However after I made the plunge it was beautiful. After 20 minutes we got out to go home. 

However, only 100 metres away was a butterfly sanctuary. Nick loves butterflies no matter where we are and what we are talking about if a butterfly flys by he gets instantly distracted and goes. “Butterfly” in a kid voice with so much excitement. So even though I thought it was over priced at $40,000 kip we went in because I knew it would make his day even more special. We walked through the beautiful flower gardens and a much smaller creek that showed the same turquoise colour. Apparently if you put a shoe in the water for a year it will become like stone. As we entered the butterfly enclosure it was very pretty, with 100’s of butterfly’s flying around your head. Nick even got one to stay on his finger. After only 20 minutes we left to actually head back home. As it was Valentine’s Day, I treated Nick to dinner along the Mekong river. It was a memorable day and one of my favourites so far.

15th of February 2016:

Yesterday took it out of us more than I had realised. We had a nice sleep in and started walking towards the temples. I don’t know where my mind was but I completely forgot to cover up my knees and shoulders. This put me in a bad mood more than it probably should of. So I paid $20,000 kip to see the temple and sarongs to cover up. It was very touristy unfortunately. The temples on the outside were beautiful though but nothing more than you would normally expect. As we walked out we were both just exhausted still. We sat down on a bench for 10 minutes contemplating how we are going to walk the 1.5km back to our hostel. However, slowly but surely we staggered our way down the hot streets to our hostel where we had a good 2 hour nap. Then we decided to play pool in our hostel, (we wouldn’t have known this moment would start a trend of pool playing for weeks to come). We wanted to go to Cambodia but as we were in the north of Laos we had to work out the best way of getting to Siem Reap. The first option was a bus that would take 40 hours. Not appealing. The second option was a 3 hour plane trip where it would stop at Vientiane then to Siem Reap for $100 Aus more, or for the same price a direct flight for 2 hours in the afternoon. We walked around to numerous travel agents and decided we would be stupid to take the bus ride. Not only would we be losing two days from travelling, the lack of sleep we would endure would cause us to lose an additional one or two more days. So we went back to the hostel and booked the flight ourselves. We had wanted to leave on the 16th but the plane was already booked out so the 17th it was. 

16th of February 2016
:

We didn’t really know what to do today. Luang Prabang is just a city and so two nights is all you really need. We walked out of our hostel and just started walking. We decided we hadn’t seen Buddhas foot so we walked through a Monks school to reach the stairs. As we continued along the hill we reached to where you pay to go to the top of the hill. Neither of us were really that enticed to walk up it as we would have preferred at sunset then in the middle of the day. So we walked down the stairs on the other side to continue our walk to no where. We had heard so much about this bar called Utopia. That as we walked past the sign we decided to have lunch there. It is not easy to find as you have to walk down so many little lanes to come to the end where the bar/ restaurant is.

 

Utopia
 
 We sat down on a deck on rolled up mattresses looking over the river. It was so relaxing and just what we were in the mood for. We sat there for 2 hours not wanting to move and dreaming about opening up a place similar back home. As we arrived back at our hostel we wanted to play some more pool, however this time we met a Spanish guy who has been travelling around on a motorbike in Vietnam for 2 or 3 months. We took him to the buffet BBQ markets and he knew how to make his money worth. Then we just went back to the hostel again where we chatted and met a very hippy couple from England with dreadlocks. They were very nice and we chatted away and played some card games till 11pm. 

17th of February 2016:

Today’s the day we say farewell to Laos and hello to Cambodia. Unfortunately we hadn’t slept very well due to Nick getting food poisoning. Possibly the worst day to get it when your trying to fly. I was so concerned he couldn’t even make it out of the room without being sick.

 

Monks Proceding
 
 However at 5:45am we got up properly and went outside to see the Monks receiving food and drinks from the locals. I wished Nick could have seen this but he walked back to the room after only 2 minutes. The monks came out in a row and walked down the street as locals were kneeling by the side of the road ready with sticky rice and other types of food. The proceeding was very quick and by 6:15am I was back in bed trying to get some sort of sleep before the plane. However we had to leave the hostel by 10am so we packed up our things and headed out the door. This entire time Nick just looked so glazed and pale. He had been throwing up all night and was completely drained. I felt sorry for him that he had to carry his backpack. As we arrived at the airport I told him he just had to try and fake it until we got through. I’ve never considered him to be a good actor but his performance of being well was worthy of an Oscar nomination. He even fooled me into thinking just maybe he was fine now. As we checked in he even grabbed my bag to put it through to the lady. As we went through security I completely forgot I had an unopened Sprite bottle in my bag. This bottle was a week and half old, and hot. Obviously as it went through the security scanner it came up. They told me to drink it. Normally in Australia they just take it off you. However here I had to open it and show them I can drink it for me to have it. Even though I didn’t actually want it I thought it would look more suspicious if I just refused. So I had to take a big gulp of hot, flat Sprite. As soon as we got through Nick just collapsed. I was starving though, so I went and bought him a ridiculously overpriced small water and the cheapest thing they sold which was chips. He slumped over to me in the cafe. He just looked so Ill, all he wanted was to sleep and  for me to snuggle him to sleep. Whilst I’m trying to eat my chips and him not throw up on me. However, after an hour he hadn’t thrown up so it was looking promising. After 2 hours we we were ready to board.

 

Laos Aeroplane
 
 As we walked outside we saw a little plane. Now I had no hopes for Laos Airlines. Their only a little company after all but I completely forgot that it would possibly be quite small. We had requested to be by the back to be close to the toilet. As I climbed on board I was astonished. The plane was better than the domestic planes back home. I never would have guessed. The plane only had 2 seats on either side but the leg room was quite big. We were even given food (a banana cake, a cold pie and an apple). To be honest I was glad Nick was sick because I really wanted another cake but he ate the whole thing. So depressing! At least he could eat again though. As we landed we were the first ones off to check through all the Visas and immigration lines. Unfortunately we went with the slowest immigration person in the world and came out one of the last people. As we got out we had no Cambodian money. This is not helpful when your trying to find a Tuk Tuk. However to our surprise they use U.S. Money as well as their own when it’s smaller than $1 dollar.

Our hostel was not easy to translate so we got the tourist information people to help translate for us. 

We had a private room with the best shower. It was hot water and had pressure, something that is very unheard of in Asia. However due to the days and nights adventures we were wrecked. We just collapsed on the bed and slept for 3 hours. As we awoke it was night time, so we decided we should go exploring and see this famous Pub Street. We walked through the night market with numerous clothes and massage parlours. It opened up to a lit up bridge very similar to Hoi An. 

Pub Street; Siem Reap
 

Pub street is mainly just a street with restaurants and pubs. We weren’t very hungry so we got some ice cream and headed back home to sleep. 

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