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.
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
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.
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.
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.
On the road between Vientiane and Vang Vieng/Luang Prabang, 52km away from Vientiane is sited a village called precisely like that, Km 52 (in Lao, the official language of Laos, that’s pronounced like Lak haa-sip-song). That originals are people here, and it’s not the only village with that type of name. Laos is full of them.
Since I left Vientiane I set Ban Km 52 (Ban means village in Lao) as my next destination. Firstly because it was a village in the middle of nowhere and no tourists stop there; and secondly because in CouchSurfing, surprisingly, there were several guys offering couch. But I arrived only to find that there was a big festival and every guest-houses were full or really overpriced (that’s why I didn’t get either positive replies to my CouchSurfing Requests).
I was wandering around, looking for a guest-house where I could sleep without paying too much when I walked a second time by a house where around 40 people of the same family were eating. One of the young guys made me gestures to join them and they invited me to eat, to party with them and to sleep in their home And that’s how I spent Christmas Eve in 2014