Saturday, March 22, 2008

Day 1018 – Vientiane - Hanoi, Vietnam

Day 1018 – 21st March 2008 +7:00 GMT

Had a lazy morning, just checked my e-mail at a local internet cafe and packed up my stuff. Checked out of the hotel at 12pm and then got a taxi to the airport. Our flight was 30 minutes early so we boarded at 1:10pm and was in the air by 1:40pm. We were flying to Hanoi in Vietnam on Lao Airlines. We had read many reports about Lao airlines and their safety record which is not published. Their International flights do now meet International Safety Standards and we did not really have any other choice as Vietnam Airways flight share on the same plane. So we boarded the ATR72 plane which is a twin propeller.

Me In Front Of Our Laos Airways Plane

View Of The Clouds From The Plane

The flight was great and we had a drink and a meal in the 1hr 10min flight. We landed in Hanoi at 2:50pm and walked straight through immigration and customs with no delays.

My Vietnam Visa

We then waited almost an hour for our airport pickup but no one turned up so we shared a Taxi with another couple. We checked into the Pacific Hotel which is next to the old quarter in Hanoi. The room is fairly large with 2 king beds and a balcony over a very noisy street. We had a few issues at the hotel like having no hot water and the safe not working, but the staff were very friendly and soon fixed all the issues. We took a walk to the train station to buy tickets for Monday and then had a walk around the old quarter and got some food.

Street View From Restaurant Balcony

Friday, March 21, 2008

Day 1017 – Vientiane, Laos

Day 1017 – 20th March 2008 +7:00 GMT

So we had a free breakfast at guest house then we walked to Lao Airline Office to confirm our flights for tomorrow then on to the presidential palace.
Lao Airlines Offices
The Presedential Palace

Unfortunately you cannot go in so we could just take photos from outside the gates. The palace is opposite a long road which is supposed to represent the champs-elysees and at the end has a Arc similar to the Arc de Triomphe. We then had a look around Wat Si Saket, by now I have seen so many temples so we agreed we would just look around the main one in the city.
Wat Si Saket

Wat Si Saket

We walked to the market which was huge, hundreds and hundreds of stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables, local crafts and clothes.

Vientiane Market

We then walked to the Patuxai (victory gate of Vientiane) This was built in 1962 to resemble the Arc de Triomphe but was never completed due to the country’s turbulent history. We decided to go to the top and walked up the 205 stairs to get the views over the capital city.
The Patuxai

Me At The Patuxai

Ceiling Of The Patuxai

South View Of Vientiane

East View Of Vientiane
North View Of Vientiane

West View Of Vientiane
The city itself is relatively small and is not very aesthetically pleasing mostly full of modern concrete building with no character. We then took a tuk tuk to the Pha That Luang which is the biggest and most important monument in Laos. It is a huge golden structure, it is a symbol of Buddhist religion and Lao sovereignty.

Pha That Luang

Pha That Luang

Shrine At Pha That Luang
Me At Pha That Luang
We had a walk around and there is actually not to much to see when you are close up just a golden building. We had a look at a couple of temples next to it and then got a tuk tuk back to the guest house.
Pha That Luang

Pha That Luang

Pha That Luang

Pha That Luang

Pha That Luang

We had a couple of hours rest then walked to the Laos National History Museum. The museum was very good and each room was set in a different period of time started with evolution. They had a collection of dinosaur bones which were first discovered in 1939 and then the rest discovered in 1995. Recently a lot of excavation has been down in Laos and many ancient relics of gold and silver have been found but it seems when they are sent abroad for examination they are never seen again. That seems to be a problem for a country with such a history and no money to protect it. Laos used to be a French colony and was part of French-Indo-China, France lost Laos during the 2nd world war and tried to re take the country in 1946 and then America bombed Laos during the 60’s and 70’s as it did not want communism to spread. Laos finally gained independence in 1975.
Laos National History Museum
Prices in Laos are still very cheap. Most meals cost less than a pound and you can buy 20 cigarettes for only 23p, apparently the cheapest place in the world. Water is around 12p a bottle and beer 84p for a litre. After the museum we went out to dinner and then for a walk along the river.
Jill In A Dress By The Mekong
I then checked my e-mail and then we went back to the guest house. We had a massive thunderstorm during the night, Laos seems to have a lot of thunderstorms this is the 6 night we have experienced them, but this one was right over us with lightning strikes every couple of seconds. I managed to get some photos of the lightning striking the ground, eventually we got to sleep.

My Photo's Of The Thunderstorm

My Photo's Of The Thunderstorm

My Photo's Of The Thunderstorm

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Day 1016 – Vang Vieng - Vientiane, Laos

Day 1016 – 19th March 2008 +7:00 GMT

Had a free breakfast at the guesthouse then checked out and got a tuk tuk to the bus station. Arrived at the bus just after 9:30am, this is is 10am VIP Express bus to Vientiane. We boarded the bus and waited for it to leave and waited and waited, although it was full before 10am the driver thought he would sit around and chat to his colleagues before leaving. The bus finally left at a couple of minutes to 11. Then 200 hundred yards down the road it pulls into a petrol station and fills up. The bus was old with hardly any air-con no toilets on board and non stop til it gets to Vientiane. I have realised that in Laos the VIP service which is three times the cost of the normal bus means it has wheels and usual has petrol in it. I would love to know what the public buses are like. We eventually arrived in Vientiane just after 2pm after sitting on a bus for 4 ½ hours and travelled a total of 93 miles and these were not even windy mountain roads. We got a taxi to our guest house and checked into Mali Namphu guest house. The staff are very friendly and showed us to our room on the fourth floor, the room is small but clean. We then headed out to get some food with a guy called Jason who we had been chatting to on the bus. We had many soft drinks and pizza. Jill and I then visited an internet cafe and booked some hotels for Vietnam and flights from Cambodia back to Thailand.

Vientiane Fountain

A Lizard On The Wall

We then took a walk along the river and saw that the Mekong festival is going on so had some bands playing live on stage.

Mekong Festival

We visited a Mexican restaurant and had some food and drinks before walking back through the city to the guest house. Vientiane is the capital of Laos and has a present population of 236,000 apparently it is one of the most sleepiest capitals in the world.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Day 1015 – Luang Prabang – Vang Vieng, Laos

Day 1015 – 18th March 2008 +7:00 GMT

We got up just before 7am as the Tuk Tuk was due to pick us up at 7:50am but arrived at 7:30am, it then made another pick up and took us to the southern bus station here we were supposed to check in for the 9am bus, but as we checked in the bus driver said get on my bus now get on the 8am bus so we did. We were crammed at the back of the bus on the last two seats where the floor is a lot higher so our knees are at shoulder height in chairs that did not recline and were very uncomfortable. The express bus as we had chosen is an express as it seems to not slow down on the mountain roads and likes to maintain a speed of 60 – 80kmph whilst cornering and overtaking lorries on blind bends with sheer drops of up to 400 metres beside us, of course there are no crash barriers. After an extremely uncomfortable 5 ½ hours we complete the 140 miles trip arrive in Vang Vieng and get taken to our guest house. The guest house is gorgeous and we have a private bungalow on the river and Jill is very happy to find we have a large bathtub.
Our Room
Me Outside Our Bungalow
Outside Our Bungalow

Longboat And Dog On river

River In Vang Vieng

River Outside Our Bungalow
We have lunch and a beer at the guest house restaurant and then walk into town. The place is small and filled with bars and internet cafes, not sure how anyone makes any money as the town is practically deserted. We were warned not to drink or eat anything in the town with the word happy in front of it on the menu as it would contain either opium or amphetamines, apparently both very popular in this sleepy town.
The Local Barbers In Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng

Bridge Over River
We stopped at the Organic farm cafe and had some drinks, I have a fantastic lemon and mint drink with more fresh mint leaves than you can imagine it in. We then went back to the guest house for a late afternoon siesta. When we woke up we met up with Nigel and went for a drink and some food in the town, the town is much livelier at night. We found a nice bar and restaurant and had some food and drinks then Nigel and I had a few games of pool, then headed back to the guest house.

Jill By The River


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Day 1014 – Luang Prabang, Laos

Day 1014 – 17th March 2008 +7:00 GMT
We walked to the Grand Palace and national museum but it was closed until 1:30pm so we walked along the river and visited yet another temple. This time it was “Wat Xieng Thong” we paid the usual entry price of 20’000 kip and had a look around.
Wat Xieng Thong
Wat Xieng Thong

Buddha Shrine At Wat Xieng Thong

Wat Xieng Thong

Wat Xieng Thong

Wat Xieng Thong
Once you have seen one they are much the same. We stopped for a beer as it started to rain again and then made our way back to the town centre and bought our bus tickets on to Vang Vieng for tomorrow. We opted for the VIP Express bus only 5 hours at 140’000 kip. Each (about 8 quid).
Luang Prabang
Cute Dog

Another Cute Dog

A Monk In The Rain
We made A briif stop to look around another temple Wat Sensoukharam
Wat Sensoukharam
Wat Sensoukharam
The Grand Palace and national museum were now open so we paid the fee and went in. Here you were not allowed to take any photo’s as this used to be the kings residence until 1975 when the administrative capital of Laos was moved to Vientiane. The palace was quite amazing with the king and queens bedrooms being quite plain and simple. It has many Buddha’s including the Prabang Buddha from the 1st century which is where the name Luang Prabang came from. Many gifts were displayed that had been given to the King from all over the world sadly none from the UK. We saw many thrones and swords that the king and senior monks used. The history was very interesting and very sad as Laos is the most bombed country in history in the world. It has received more financial aid from America than any other country during the 50’s and 60’s and more bombs from America than any other country in the 70’s. Laung Prabang was made a national heritage town on 9th December 1995.
National Museum And Palace
Jill Outside National Museum And Palace
National Museum and Palace Grounds

National Museum and Palace
After leaving the palace we did a little shopping at the market and picked up a couple of T-shirts and Jill got some trousers as well. We both ate Laos Curries and then called it a night. Throughout the night we had a huge thunderstorm, with sheet lightning flashes every few seconds.
Our Guest House Villa Laodum

Setting Up The Night Market
DSL Service Provider