Posted by: James Shannon | June 28, 2011

Leaping Into Laos … An Adventure Awaits!

Lao PDR: A new territory lay before me, begging me to discover her hidden gems….

My time in Thailand was up, so it was time to jump borders again into a new country: The People’s Democratic Republic of Lao.  A Communist nation. One of the 20 poorest nations on Earth.  I had pampered myself for so long in the quasi-developed nations of Thailand and Malaysia, and the first world enclave that is Singapore, that I was starting to forget what real adventure was.

But here I was, on Laos’ doorstep…

After getting my Lao visa on arrival (and vastly overpaying due to having Thai Baht vs US dollars), it was time to explore the Lao border town of Huay Xai.

Not much was going on here unfortunately, as Huay Xai is a sleepy place, owing to its role as a transitory point for backpackers looking to take the slow boat to Luang Prabang, a small, stylish city with chic French colonial architecture.

Faced with spending the night in a uber quiet town with little on the go, and then getting up the next day to take an expensive, uncomfortable, overnight boat ride with exclusively foreigners (no locals), and finding another way onward, I opted for the latter.  Surely there was a bus station nearby, and as it happened, an overnight bus was leaving for Luang Prabang within 45 minutes of me discovering it over a very slow internet connection at a restaurant where I had lunch.

I grabbed some snacks for the bus, hailed a tuk-tuk, and I was off to Bokeo bus station!

Bokeo to Luang Prabang — 505 kilometres, 14 hours.  Should be fun.

My sustenance for the overnight trip — [x] Pringles  [x] water [x] Beer Lao … well I’m ready, let’s get on board! 🙂

And what a journey it was … from windy mountain roads and breathtaking vistas (at least until the sun set) … to countless straw huts along the road, sans electricity, the only light being communal bonfires where the villagers gathered before turning in for yet another early night … to a meal stop at a place where a festival was underway, complete with catchy Lao folk music … to not getting a wink of sleep because of a young Lao guy trying to pick my pocket all night (I eventually moved my valuables to my daypack, which I wrapped my body and arms around … but I still didn’t dare lose consciousness with someone wanting to relieve me of my valuables sitting next to me).

Eventually, we pulled into the Luang Prabang northern bus station, a couple travellers and I hired a tuk-tuk to take us to the downtown area, and there I was, in the heart of Laos.

After a well-earned breakfast (I had a blueberry Belgian Waffle with whipped cream, yummers!) at Joma Cafe, a chain of coffeehouses across Laos and Vietnam that cater to foreigners, I made my way down the road to look for a guesthouse to lay my head (at 9 am in the morning no less) … I found the Tony II guesthouse …

… and off to slumberland I went, but not before checking my e-mail 🙂

Next time: Luang Prabang, in-depth!  Stick around…

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