Thakhek loop

Woman giving a bath to a kid

Three long journeys under rain and cold from Nong Khiaw but finally Belén and I arrived to Thakhek, the first big town in the South of Laos. The town itself was not very interesting, just a town at the Mekhong riverside, but in the surroundings there were several caves to visit and beautiful karst landscape. Once we properly rested in a hostel at the town’s outskirts we rented a motorbike to do part of a recommended 3-days-loop.
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Towards the South of Laos, Phonsavan

Plain of Jars, Site 1 in Phonsavan

After resting in Ban Na I came back to Nong Khiew and met Belén, the Spanish girl who I met in Pai and then again in Luang Prabang. We kept in touch and then moved together towards the South of Laos. We wanted to do it hitchhiking but those days it started to rain and to be a bit colder and we were not very well prepared so finally we took the bus. We’d prefer the East roads but the buses over there were very expensive so it was cheaper and faster to detour by Luang Prabang. Just after arriving to the city we took a bus towards Vietnam (where we met again the Finnish girls) and get off in Phonsavan at 2 in the morning. We had to look for a guest-house in a desert town due to the curfew in Laos.

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Calm after the storm

It was 6 in the morning of the day I decided to leave Luang Prabang and I still didn’t know what to do. Anya and Liam left the day before back to their respective countries. Poor Elena was sick but I was looking forward to leave and Casey and the Finnish girls came the day before keeping her company. I had two options: head towards south and leave the country ASAP or continue further north to explore less touristy places, the villages in the north of Laos. What kind of traveler would I be if run away when I don’t like a country instead of exploring it more? Later in Cambodia I would find out that the problem is not the country or the people, the problem is that we always do what other people have already done because we’re afraid of getting really lost or something bad happens to us. So eventually we don’t live our own experiences but a commercialized copy of other people’s experience.

6:30AM, backpack ready, something to have breakfast on the way and 2 hours walking out of the city to hitchhike. Direction: North. Continue reading

Luang Prabang, holiday city

Jumping to the turquoise waters of Kuang Si waterfalls in Luang Prabang

Some years ago there was a TV advertisement in Spain that says “Marina d’Or, holiday city” to promote a holiday resort at the Spanish east coast. And that’s Luang Prabang, a holiday city for families and retired people. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m glad families and retirees have a place for holidays but honestly, despite its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Luang Prabang is pathetic. Laos is one of the least developed countries in the world, however Luang Prabang (the center) looks like any other western summer city. An island of opulence which badly contrast with the local poverty. Only some few Laotians benefit from that, the rest still scrape by in the outskirts while westerns multiply business focused on westerns maintaining a community not integrated at all with the social and cultural reality of the country.

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Vang Vieng, learning the way

Landscape in Vang Vieng: karst topography

Vang Vieng, a small town on the way between Vientiane and Luang Prabang which has radically changed since 10 years ago when it was a peaceful place of idyllic landscapes and become later a town of drugs and alcohol with no control at all. That finished when 2 years ago the police closed dozens of bars. Now the landscapes are the same, but monetized to the point of exaggeration, and the young and festive atmosphere of backpackers is more moderated but intense though (similar to Pai in Thailand). By the way, in Laos there is curfew at 23:30 for all the business (although some of them bribe the police to avoid it).

That is the atmosphere where I’d change the way that I think about my trip.

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Lao People Don’t Rush

The official name of Laos as a country is Lao PDR (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) but expats here created other meaning for that name: Lao People Don’t Rush. And what a true! In fact, the most repeated expression in Laos is baw-pen-nyan, translated as No problem or Never mind.

Before carrying on with my trip I’d like to share my thoughts about the people of this country which was a turning point in my adventure.

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