Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Chaos in Laos

The floor is even! No its not, its definitely not flat! - or is it?
We never really figured out, whether the floor of the Moon Pub in Vang Vieng is now actually flat or uneven. In spite of the floor question, the place anyhow made us wonder, its strangeness is hard to be topped - maybe on the same level as an unique party I once attended in ancient soviet buildings, in the middle of Estonia. To give you a hint of what was happening there; first of all, to get there you needed to cross an ancient airbase, built by the Americans some 40 years ago (mostly to support the operations in Vietnam, also to export tons of opium, which was growing happily on the fields around Vang Vieng). Bewildered by this historical place, you would then arrive at the Pub, located in a sort of hangar/barrack, filled with 1.50 tall hookers standing on beer cases to appear taller - that's why the floor question came in. Then when looking around, checking the crowd, you could not tell whether people were on alcohol, weed, mushrooms or sober. Some of them might also been bitten by the giant spider that was crawling on the entrance door. In brief: Chaos in Laos.
Sunset view over Luang Prabang, Phousi Pagoda
Before we eventually ended up in the chaos of Vang Vieng, we took some pace out of our journey and travelled during two days on a slow boat from Huay Xai via Packbeng to Luang Prabang. The boat ride took two full days on the Mekong, driving us through breathtaking scenery and manouvering us through razor-sharp rocks that stick out of the river, due to the current dry season. The captains were skilled enough to ensure a very confortable ride, on which we had time to become friends with some great people. With some Canadians, Americans and Germans who we met on the boat, we decided to kick off our swimming season at the Kuang Si waterfalls near Luang Prabang. Quite some monks shared our intentions:
How much Laos can one get into 1 picture?
The falls were absolutely amazing, one of the most beautiful places of the entire trip so far. We met a guy from Brazil over there, he was close to tears, telling us that he had never been to a more beautiful place in his entire life before. Since the water was surprisingly fresh, we could finally also cool down from the 40 degrees Celsius, that made the last days to a permanent bath of sweat.
Luang Prabang itself was by far smaller than we expected. With some 60'000 inhabitants, it barley is a town. However, with lots of French influence remaining, and a well preserved Lao culture, the place is tempting to stay for more than just a few days. Also in Luang Prabang, we found a bbq-restaurant which is run by two guys from California, US. So it came that one night we skipped our fried rice and noodle soup diet and went for a huge and delicious piece of meat. Similar to the wine experience we had in Hoi An Vietnam, as we did not have a proper piece of meat for quite some time, it felt as the best meat we ever tasted.
In a mini-van, driven by a pirate, we squeaked around the curves on the way further south to Vang Vieng. This very beautiful piece of road (Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng), with mountains high enough and valleys deep enough to scare some of the passengers, made us feel a bit like home. Again our wish to still be on the bikes came up, maybe only because we did not really trust our pirate behind the steering wheel. An even better idea would be to conquer the country by para glider - this would allow one to get more out of the beautiful mountains and to get rid of those endless hours in tiny Lao buses.
Vang Vieng is famous for the 'tubing' which means that you get a tube and a tuktuk, drive some 5km upstream and then let yourself float back again, with the one of the other stop a one of the bars along the river. As we stopped more than once, we did not make it back before a huge thunderstorm broke out. The strong winds coming along with it made us float upstream (!) at times. Apart from the tubing, there is not too much to see in Vang Vieng. Too many restaurants and bars, no true Lao culture and more western than Asian food on the menus. Far different from places like Oudomxay or Huay Xai.
Kiridara resort? approved!
Now we are in Vientiane, the capital of Lao. Still we are travelling with Josh (US), Daniel and Thiemo (DE), who shared with us a great time since we met on the slow boat. Vientiane is also the place of splitting up, the three will head for Ha Noi Vietnam, Flo took the bus this morning towards Udon Thani Thailand, from where he will take a flight to Chang Mai Thailand. He intends to spend a week or ten days in a monastery, with no talking, no drugs of any kind, hoping to learn proper meditation. I wish him good luck for this, although, knowing him well, I doubt that he will endure the full week... . Flo and I had an absolutely great time and unique moments, like back then when we:
- were arguing with an entire lobby filled with Vietnamese officials and neighbours
- had a swim in a bay famous for shark attacks
- threw baby powder at strangers in order to celebrate Khmer New Year
- nearly died on our way from Saigon to Ha Noi
- tasted snakes, krickets, ants, dogs, French wine or Californian bbq

The above picture is showing the two of us, chilling in a pool of a five star resort in Luang Prabang. Of course, we sneaked in for free, because we can. My time in Laos is also coming to a halt. Tomorrow I will enter a train bound for Bangkok. After a short stay of a few days in busy BKK, I will fly to Yangon, Myanmar where I will meet up with Fred, another great friend from back home.

Congrats to the Swiss Hockey team for a) the silver medal and b) demolishing the Yankees in the semi final, that earned me some good money ;-)

until then, GH, living the life.

To finish this time a bit different (not talking about my hunger for a cat), here is some wisdom that I would like to share with you dear readers. Its a quote coming from the Bertrand Russell book, which has been me travel companion since the very first day:

"In action, in desire, we must submit perpetually to the tyranny of outside forces; but in thought, in aspiration, we are free, free from our fellow men, free from the petty planet on which our bodies impotently crawl, free even, while we live, from the tyranny of death." - Bertrand Russell


  1. one thing you should bring along once you come back:
    - that greasy skilled beard.
    one thing you should do once you tasted cat:
    - eat a rabbit right after and tell me how similar they are.

  2. I agree to both tasks. You will one day see a time-lapse movie of my 'greasy skilled beard', I am taking a picture of my face everyday since I left home (my poor camera...).
    And you might be right about the cat, although I think it could also be a bit like a chicken flavoured dog...