3 weeks in Laos…
The land of million elephants they say. We can’t confirm this since we only saw two, but we can say it’s the country of the Mekong, beautiful countryside, dense jungle, green mountains, millions of smiling and waving people and many caves & waterfalls.
We entered from Cambodia into the south and drove all the way up to Luang Prabang in the north with our Suzy. And what an amazing time we had here!
4000 islands – Don Det:
After crossing the border you immediately bump into the ‘4000 islands’ on the Mekong. You’re probably wondering “Laos has no borders with any sea, how’s that possible?”. It’s fairly simple. Over the years the Mekong, which is an enormous river at this point, made its own way cutting through the land creating many big and small islands. Some of the bigger islands are inhabited with farmers and temporary tourists who just come here to relax and enjoy the sunrise.
Did you know?
The biggest waterfall on the Mekong river is Khone Phapheng. It’s called the Pearl of the Mekong and it’s sure not the biggest in height but in its massive amount of water flow. As you can imagine, this natural border with Cambodia makes it very difficult to cross the border on a boat.
This marvellous part of nature is known for its abundance of waterfalls. And yes, there really are many! On the loop that we did you could easily visit 20. And these are just the ones with “easy” access. If your jungle frontier skills are better than ours you could definitely find many more.
We drove around for a few days, visited astonishing falls and more than once had a swim in this lovely scenery. Each time we thought we saw the most impressive one, that idea vanished when seeing the next one. Our favourite: The Tad Tayicsua, impressive falls in the middle of the jungle. Being there in the middle of nature and seeing such a beauty really gave us a happy vibe :-).
We hiked around in the jungle there to find more waterfalls but after crossing a few rivers, off-path and cutting our way through the jungle (with the complementary scratches all over our arms and legs), we ended up being on top of the one we saw before!
Definitely a must visit in Laos.
(On top of the previous waterfall, including wet boots)
Did you know?
We visited an ethnic minority village, which was interesting but also quite shocking that this does still exist anno 2015. They are fully self-sufficient, speak their own language (no Lao) and this solitary existence maintained their ancient beliefs and behaviour. It was quite a culture shock, maybe some of the examples below can show you why:
- Polygamy: men can marry multiple women, as long as you have enough buffalo’s, cows, pigs and chickens to buy your wife.
- A boy gets his first wife at the age of 12, who is chosen by the parents.
- In their further life, they can buy extra wives, even if the girl is only 6 (!) years old (“A pretty girl will probably become a pretty wife later on”).
- The village is run by the chief, the shaman and the guru. The latter is the most important person in the village that doesn’t back down to use some black & white magic (e.g. to “kill” villagers that broke the village rules).
- Women who gave birth, should stay 1 or 2 weeks in the forest as it brings bad luck to enter the village. The forest also functions as a cemetery for women who died while giving birth, as this is just convenient. And if that is not enough, they are buried upright: the first week to their waist only, the second week to their head and the third week fully covered.
- Everybody smokes the bong (a mixture of tobacco, sugarcane & water), and by everybody we mean also 5-years old children.
Quite shocking isn’t it?!
After being amazed by the scenery on the Bolaven Plateau, we drove up north to the city of Thakhek. Along the way we had some “interesting” stops at local festivities such as a cock fight & a Lao-style tractor pulling.
We started another “famous” motorbike loop where we felt even more overwhelmed by the beauty of the area. After a part of the loop and visiting the Konglor cave, we went further up north on a less crowded road cutting through the higher mountains in Laos.
We drove through limekarst mountains, into the hills, passing small mountain villages, up and down in the beautiful scenery. We felt very happy during this drive, hopefully we can share a bit of this happiness with you with the movie below:
Did you know?
As the Bolaven Plateau is famous for waterfalls, the area around Thakhek is famous for its caves. The Konglor Cave we visited is one of the biggest caves in Laos and is especially famous for having a 7,5 km river running through. Next to that, it’s just dark and cool, like any other cave. (We are not that into caves as you can see ;-))
Luang Prabang is an easy going small city in the North surrounded by hills, which means also a bit colder on a cloudy day. Luckily we still had our warm clothes from Nepal!
The town is quite popular among tourists and offers many hotels and restaurants to fulfil everyone’s needs, such as our first hot choco this “winter”.
Luang Prabang has a UNESCO world heritage label for having a sh*tload of temples and hundreds of monks.
Did you know?
Every morning around 6AM all monks walk barefoot through the streets with their personal “goody-bag” for the daily alms giving ceremony. Many villagers bring sticky rice, sit on their knees (note: only the women; the men can stand up), and donate a small part of their rice to each monk who passes with his jar. After a couple of streets their jar is full and they have a meal for the day. The next day, the same process.
Note: we deliberately chose a more quiet street as this ceremony has also become a tourist attraction, where you get a seat, a bowl of sticky rice and are able to hand out these alms yourself. Not so sure if the monks like this evolution.
Since this is our last stop in Laos, it also meant selling Suzy.
We had lots of fun with her and drove in total 3400 KM (!) in Cambodia and Laos.
We gave her a goodbye hug and now we’re back to busses, trains and tuktuks… JOY!
Today we are leaving Laos to go to Myanmar! We’ll be there for Christmas & New Year and we have no idea at all if this will be celebrated and if yes, how they celebrate it. At least we already had our own Lao-style gourmet dinner last night.
Cheers and have a nice holiday!
Céline & Benjamin