We were picked up in the morning by a minibus from our hostel that took us to the Thailand/Laos border. It was a 7 hour journey and unfortunately Jess and I were last to be picked up and so were stuck with the 2 seats in the front, one of which was fold out and had very little cushion! We stayed the night a mile on from the border in little wooden huts high in the hills. It was the first night since leaving home where I have been cold and I was happy to snuggle under the duvet!
Early the next morning we were driven to the slow boat port. Our slow boat looked like an open canal boat and although it had seating for 50, there were only 13 of us on it (we did pick up and drop off a few locals and monks along the way). We travelled down along the Mekong river taking in the stunning views and arrived in Luang Probang at 4pm. The first evening we went to the night market which had hundreds of stalls selling handmade bags, purses, table clothes etc, and went to the reknowned Utopia bar which was basically a big bamboo hut with rugs and tables that overlooked the river!
On Thursday we went to the Kuang Si waterfalls with 3 of the guys that we had met on the slow boat, 2 Canadian brothers and a guy from Detroit. The waterfall was really beautiful and such an amazing colour. We climbed to the top before each having a go on the rope swing and swimming in one of the pools. The little fish constantly nibbled us though which felt strange and kept making us jump.
On Friday we rented bicycles and cycled to a couple of temples and crossed the bamboo bridge. It was very hot so in the afternoon we cycled to a local pool and enjoyed a cocktail. That evening we climbed Phu Si Hill to watch the sunset and, although it was quite hazy, the views from the top were really good.
The next morning we woke at 5.30am to watch the monk's morning ritual on the street. They all came out of the temples and walked the street carrying baskets to collect food that the locals provided. It was interesting to watch but I think I was still half asleep. We caught our bus to Vang Vieng a couple of hours later- this was definitely the worst journey I have had to date! The road was bend after bend and the driver refused to put on the air conditioning until 5 hours into our 7 hour drive. Poor Jess felt very sick!
That evening we took a little walk, had dinner and went to bed.
On Sunday we rented 2 scooters between 4 of us and went to Phu Kham cave. They were so big and full of floor to ceiling stalagmites and stalactites. You had to use a headtorch to see past the opening because it was pitch black otherwise. In the afternoon we rented rubber rings and went tubing down the river. Since all of the bars have been shut down, tubing has changed a lot and rather than the hundreds of drunk travellers that used to float down the river daily, it is now a really relaxing 3 hours floating and chatting with people down the river through the villages in the outskirts of town.
The next morning we got a 3 hour bus to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. We relaxed and then went to the night market in the evening which was a bit of a disappointment and just full of cheap looking clothes. In the morning we then went to the Cope Visitor Centre. I hadn't read much about it beforehand and we had just tagged along with a girl that we had met at the hostel but it was really good and I would definitely recommend it! It explains the work that is being done to help rehabilitate Laotians who are maimed or otherwise affected by the unexploded bombs that were originally dropped on Laos as part of the Secret War.
In the evening we went to the bus station ready for our 24hr ride to Hanoi. Jess and I had tossed around the idea of a flight but with a saving of £130 we decided to endure the bus. We were pleasantly surpised when we saw comfy seats/beds at a 45 degree angle and, although anyone above 5ft10 was a bit squished, I had plenty of room!! The border crossing into Vietnam took a long time but the rest of the journey went quite quickly and we got to Hanoi at 6pm on Wednesday. We have decided to treat ourselves to a nice hotel when we get to Nha Trang with the extra money which we are really excited for :)
Lots of love xxx