Adventures with John & Nina – Where is Laos? (Part 2)
By Nina Sabin - Travel
If you remember our last blog, we had an interesting start to our vacation in Laos at the first hotel in Vientiane. If you haven’t read that blog, please go back before continuing with this one, so you are familiar with our experience. We only spent one day and night in Vientiane and we had a true cultural experience. We were also celebrating John’s 35th birthday and we found the tiniest birthday cake we have ever seen at a local bakery. It was not like the cakes we were used to in Saudi, where it looks good but tasted very dry. This one was moist and delicious.
On our second day in Laos (our fourth day of our vacation) we hired a driver to pick us up from the hotel and drive three hours to Vang Vieng (160km from Vientiane). On our way we were stopped by the police. The driver got out of the car and talked with the police. It turns out they had to pay some type of tourist fee for driving us around the country. The driver said it is more like a bribe. We were just glad we could continue on our journey and not be detained.
In Vang Vieng we took a small boat about 30 minutes to visit the biological garden down Namsong River and then continue to the natural cave Tham Jang which is about two kilometers southwest of the city. The gardens were beautiful and the caves were fascinating. We always like to explore caves. We feel like we are authentic explorers.
You must visit while in Vang Vieng, the Thaa Laat market which sells all kinds of forest creatures for food. We are adventurous when we come to trying foods but we didn’t get an opportunity at this location to experiment. However, later in our trip you will see we did try some of the delicacies.
The hotel experience in Vang Vieng was nothing out of the ordinary. Not like the one in Vientiane.
The next day, day number five of our trip, we had a driver take us the local airport for our flight to Luang Prabang. You can either do a six-hour drive from Vang Vieng on unpaved roads, that also had concern at that time with some guerilla warfare or take a short 40-minute flight on a prop plane. This was our first time on a prop plane, but not our last.
Luang Prabang, also known as LP, is considered by many to be the jewel in the crown of South East Asia is situated on the confluence of two rivers, the Mekong and the Nam Khane in Northen Laos. This is definitely a historic treasure with ancient palaces, temples, and charming French colonial style architecture. It has a very relaxed atmosphere and visitors tend to stay longer here than anywhere else in Laos. We saw Westerners hanging out in the bars with dreadlocks, just relaxing and enjoying life. Looked like they were there a long time.
We spent three days in LP exploring the fascinating streets, climbing to the top of Mount Phousi where you see breathtaking sunsets and can have wonderful views of all the area around it, visiting the Royal palace where in the evening you can see traditional dances, going to an elephant camp, and seeing That Sae Waterfall and its beautiful crystal waters.
As I mentioned, they have exotic food to try. At the beginning of the trip, in Udon Thani, Thailand, it was the fried locust. Here we had worms, though they were jelled. To be honest, until they told me they were worms, I would have thought it was more like a noodle. I guess anything cooked with sauce can taste good.
The night market, which only happens a couple of nights a week, was full of amazing handicrafts. One of our favorite souvenirs came from here. It is wood carving window corner pieces that you can use for decorating your home.
Every trip we have an interesting event to remember for years to come. This trip actually had two, the one in Vientiane at the hotel and the one I am about to share that happened in LP.
Back in 2004, tickets were still being hand written and we actually worked with a travel agent, vs now where we book everything online via Expedia. With that being said, John decided it would be best to confirm our returning flight two days before we had to leave. Since there was only one flight every day from LP to Bangkok and then we had to catch our connecting flight to Saudi, we had to make sure everything was set. Well, when we went to the travel agency in LP, they said our travel agent cancelled our returning flight. We were in shock. Trying to figure out how that happened and what steps we can take to find a flight back that works with our connecting flight.
After many hours of working with the agents, they finally found one that worked. However, that meant we had to leave a day earlier to accommodate for the issue. We had to spend a night in Bangkok, which meant changing hotel reservations and making new ones.
So after a day in Udon Thani, Thailand and seven days exploring Laos, and a day in Bangkok, we were off again back to Saudi, and ready to plan for our next round-the-world exploration.
Stay tuned for our next blog Traveling Through the Middle East.