So after our 9 hour jouney to Laos, we finally arrived in Pax Lao. This was probably the most uninteresting town we have been to as it was only a stop over before another long journey the next day. The town had one restaurant and a shop which was shut. We had a late lunch when we got there and explored the 'market' to buy some deodorant for Chris. That was probably the most interesting thing that happened all day!
The next day we left at 5.30am for another very long bus journey to Vientienne. We arrived at about midday in the capital of Laos and began the hunt for a launderette as our clothes were well overdue a good wash! We then spent quite a while in a bank (it was two portercabins stuck together) waiting for currency exchange. Everyone was quite ratty from all the travelling and the waiting seemed to irritate everyone even more! Especially when all the cash machines in the town had run out of money! We had lunch at a lovely bakery called Joma. They sell proper western sandwiches with proper cheese and meat and lovely cakes and pastries. This cheered everyone up, especially me! After lunch a few of us jumped in a tuk tuk to see the sights of Vientienne. We saw some more temples which just looked the same as all the other temples in Asia, then we visited the Arc du Triumph and climbed to the top! This is one thing that is not fun when it is boiling hot outside! But the view from the top was worth it. Later that afternoon we decided to treat ourselves to an hour and a half massage as we had been cramped up on a bus for two days solid!
The following day we left to go to Vang Vieng. There is only one thing to do in thi town and that is tubing. For those of you who don't know what this is i will explain. You rent a rubber ring from the rubber ring rental shop and then go to the starting point on the river. This is where you then get in the ring and float down the river with the very strong current until you get to the first bar. You then get thrown a rope which you have to catch very quickly and you get pulled into the side. This however was not so easy for me the first time as i floated past the bar and had to jump out and swim. It was quite embarrassing. After the boys had a few goes on the zip wire we jumped back in our rings to float to the next bar. This was quite disasterous as we decided to all hold onto eachother for safety, however, it is much harder to 'steer' and we all went the wrong way again. Eventually we got to the next bar where there were many mud pits where you could play tug of war a volleyball, and one mud pit just for pushing people in! The afternoon went on floating in the water then going to some more bars. When we finally got back after a long day of being wet, cold and muddy, we were all pleased to have a hot shower.
We decided to give tubing a miss the next day and 6 of us booked a kayaking tour for the day. Chris and I shared a kayak and he went in the back as he had to steer and i would have been hopeless. After a quick lesson from the instructor of what to do if we rolled over on a rapid, we set off down the river. We came across a few rapids which were a bit scary at first but thanks to Chris we managed to not roll over. The trip finished at around 2pm then we retreated back to the hotel and had a well deserved siesta. In the evening we had some dinner then went to one of the bars where some of the group members told us they would be staying on for another week and would be meeting us at the end of the tour.
We had a bit of a lie in this morning as we didn't have to leave until 9pm. This is a rarety on our tour as we are normally up at about 5.30am! We said our goodbyes to the three people who were staying on for the week and then set off for Luang Prabang. This was another 7 hour journey but thanks to the three missing people, we all had a lot more room to spread out. We arrived late afternoon and spent a few hours unpacking and deciding what to do for the next two days. We had dinner in the town and then went to the night market where of course, i did quite a bit of shopping.
The next day we booked a trip to go to the bear santuary and a waterfall. The waterfall was beautiful and we walked to the top and then went back down for a swim. The water was very cold but very refreshing after walking in the heat. We all had a swim for about an hour and then headed back to the tuk tuk to take us back. There was another Joma in this town which we were all pleased about so we stopped for some lunch. We were all very hungry after swimming in the waterfall and treated ourselves to another round of large sandwiches and pastries! In the evening we did some more last minute shopping in the market before our departure tomorrow.
The following days travel was a lot nicer than spending it on a cramped bus. We headed down to the river where we got on a slow boat that would take us to the next town. We had comfortable seats and we could all get up and walk around and there were tables and chairs to sit at for lunch. This boat took about 9 hours. We reached a stop over town for the evening which i dont know the name of, but the electricity went out at 10pm in the whole town. The next day we got back on the boat to get to the Laos/Thai border. We filled in all the forms and got our visas to enter the country again and stayed in night in Chiang Kong. The hotel we were in was not the most pleasant we have been in as there were rat droppings everywhere and also a dead ghecko in our bathroom!
The journey to Chiang Mai was only 4 hours and we had a very comfortable bus this time. We had a TV and watched a DVD for most of the journey which sped it up considerably. We arrived at a hotel where we had a day room to leave our stuff and then organised what we would do in our short stay in Chaing Mai. We all decided to visit the tiger temple as it was known to be the best in Thailand. After a quick stop off for lunch we arrived at the tiger temple and chose which tigers we wanted to see. Chris and I chose to see all of them as part of my birthday treat. We saw lion cubs, tiger cubs, medium tigers and very large tigers. We spent about an hour there petting the lions. It was very scary at first as they could quite easily bite a limb off and we had heard that 3 months previously, someone had been mauled to death by one of them. We were pleased to hear that this particular tiger was not available for petting anymore! After this we then collected our things from the hotel and headed to the train station where we had a night train to Bangkok.
I will leave it there for now and we will update you on our time in Ko Tao shortly,
Fran and Chris x