Budget Wise :: Laos

8 03 2009

Our visit in Laos was relatively limited due to the frustratingly long and bumpy bus rides that are necessary to getting around as a budget traveler in this beautiful country. We ended up visiting only four cities and missed out some very exciting and picturesque parts of Laos because we just couldn’t bring ourselves to sit through a rough ten hour busĀ  ride every few days. An extra visa or enough money to upgrade to flying would have allowed us a much more comprehensive visit, but hey, now we have something to look forward to going back for. Though we didn’t get to see it all, we did get a pretty good idea of what it costs to travel in Laos on a budget. Read the rest of this entry »

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Back to Where We Came From

4 03 2009

Vang Vieng & Vientiane, Laos

It’s strange to go back to a city where you’ve already been. After traveling for almost a year, familiarity is a strange and exhilarating feeling. Being able to walk around town without a map is like being let off the leash. “Where do you want to go for dinner?” engenders no research, no planning. So while leaving Luang Prabang and going back for a few nights in Vang Vieng and Vientiane was nothing new in location. It did provide all new feelings. Unconsciously we started to see things that we never noticed before. When you go out into a new city a try to find things, you are always looking for something and because of that, you never look at anything. For instance, Laos is a very religious country. Buddhism is in everything they do. Because of this, saffron wrapped men are everywhere. Read the rest of this entry »





Culture Shock :: Laos

27 02 2009

Laos is the most laid back, easy going culture that we’ve been to yet. The people are typically very friendly and the pace of life, even in the capital city, Vientiane, is almost sluggish. This has been a great country in which to wind down after the chaos of Vietnam. The culture here, although not very shocking or in you face, is probably the most different from our Western way of life. The difference is difficult to explain. It’s actually easier to explain relative to Laos’ neighbors. Thailand is shocking, but rather western because of their own efforts to modernize. Cambodia has a country wide case of amnesia (for good reason) and it appeared to us that their main goal is to act as western as they can. In Vietnam they have so much western influence from being colonized by the French that some parts of it almost seemed European. Laos had the French influence as well, but didn’t get the money that came with it. They retained much of their Buddhist culture and peaceful way of life. Though the country wasn’t as shocking as it was a pleasant surprise, there are a few things we thought were worth mentioning. Read the rest of this entry »





Luang Prabang, a Visual Treat

24 02 2009

Luang Prabang, Laos

I can understand why this place is considered the city in Laos. Luang Prabang is such a visual treat with the mixture of French-colonial and traditional Lao buildings. Plus there are tons of things to do in or near town like visiting villages, silk weaving classes, cooking courses, playing with elephants, and visiting waterfalls and caves. Guess which one we chose to do. Read the rest of this entry »





Vang Vieng Eco Tourism

19 02 2009

Vang Vieng, Laos

Having rethought our original plan to visit random far-off cities in Laos, Gage and I decided to cut down on bus ride time and make smaller hops. From Vientiane the next closest destination is Vang Vieng. This is a city that we specifically wanted to avoid. Though said to have tons of natural beauty, it is also a major backpacker pitstop that seems to attract the worst type of travelers. Aside from landscape, Vang Vieng has two unique attractions, the riverside beer bars catering to people tubing the river and restaurants with platform beds setup in front of TV’s that play endless episodes of Friends. I have no idea how these sorts of things evolve, but they are now staples of Vang Vieng and attract the sort of people that want to get drunk while tubing down a river or veg out in front of a TV for hours on end. After unloading from the bus and crossing into town our fears were confirmed. Drunken, half-naked white kids in swimsuits were wandering around town and the colored lights of Friends restaurants glowed all the way down the street. We were scared. We thought we had made a mistake. But after checking into our hotel we decided to wander the town and give it a shot. When we got down to the riverside we saw this…. Read the rest of this entry »





Vientiane and the Long Ride

15 02 2009

Vientiane, Laos

The ride from Savannakhet to Vientiane took 11 hours of my life that I would really like to get back. It was one of those bus rides that Monika told me about, but that I never thought would be that bad. But wow, it was bad. Gage and I thought we were strong. We thought we were seasoned travelers after almost a year on the road; that nothing could shock us or slow us down. But all it took was one bus ride. One bus ride with seats so small that our knees touched the seat in front of us, with speakers above our heads blaring Thai and Lao pop music loud enough for a night club, and music videos with painfully bad actors who acted out heartbreak as though it were a confusing gas pain repeatedly played on the screen in front of us. For 11 hours. We had planned to spend one night in Vientiane and then head up to the smaller cities and towns in the mountains, each of which would have required a 10+ hour bus ride due to the poor roads. In the ninth hour of our misery I added it all up and realized that we faced at least 57 more hours of bus time over the next 24 days. So when we got to town we booked a hotel for two nights, pulled out our various maps and guides, and reworked our entire plan. Read the rest of this entry »





Swooning over Savannakhet

11 02 2009

Savannakhet, Laos

The bus ride from Hue, Vietnam to Savannakhet, Laos was another one of those reminders of how crazy it can be to travel in Southeast Asia. Perhaps it is because the people are smaller or maybe it is due to living in a society with too many people and not enough space or maybe it is a lack of public transportation, but whatever the reason, the people of Southeast Asia often find it acceptable to be packed into a bus like sardines. Actually, since I don’t speak the language, perhaps I shouldn’t make this statement. I can at least say for sure that bus drivers in Southeast Asia find it perfectly acceptable. This particular 10 hour bus ride had Gage and I sitting in the very back of the bus with various people’s luggage wedged between our knees and the seat in front of us, while children’s plastic chairs lined the middle aisle for extra seating. The best part was that this bus would continually stop on the side of the road to pick up more people. It was both astounding and horrifying. Read the rest of this entry »