The buddhist city of Luang Prabang

Before we arrived in Luang Prabang we though we would come to a big and crowded city, but we could’nt have been more wrong. The city did not have more than 50 000 inhabitants, and it felt like half of those were buddhist monks, walking around in their orange robes.The city itself was not much more than a walking street with a few shops selling tourist souvenirs, the many temples which Luang Prabang is famous for and a lot of cafés with excellent French and Asian cousine. Along the main street there were also a lot of people selling local art, painted on elephant dung and paper from banana palms. We bought three paintings here of orange munks walking around with their umbrellas, which is a common sight in the city center. Luang Prabang is a really clean and quiet city, which reminded us a lot about smaller European cities. It is a place which can be worth visiting if you are coming from busy neighboring Vietnamese cities like Hanoi, but even though the city is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, is not a must see if you are on a tight schedule. 

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Woman washing her baby in the capital street

Tubing in Vang Vieng

In between Vientiane and Luang Prabang, we stopped in a small city in the middle of the Lao mountains called Vang Vieng. The city has grown bigger because of one thing you can do there: “tubing”. The city has totally given in to the backpackers coming by, and when you walk down the street, you will find dozens of places selling fake Ray Bans, restaurants with pizzas and pancakes playing simpsons or friends all day long.

Tubing in Vang Vieng is supposed to be one of the greatest parties on the planet and a mandatory stop on the South- East Asia backpacker trail. We got there in the peak season, when the rivers had almost dried out. This was not a bumper in the fun we were about to have. We arrived at the lake, carrying nothing but a inflated tractor tube and a waterproof pouch for camera and money. The music was loud, and the bars on the lake were crowded with people dancing, running down water slides and zip lines, jumping on water trampolines or just straight into the water taking flips and tricks for pictures that would serve as memories since their brains seemed more or less shut off.

For those of you who do not know what “tubing” is, I can explain it very simple. “Tubing” is an activity which involves riding an inflated tractor tube down a rived full of bars. At every bar there is a man throwing a line with a bottle at the end, trying to drag you in by tempting you with free shots and meals and so on. There are too many to visit in one day, as a lot of the time is being spent just relaxing in the tube, with beutiful Lao scenery in the background. We drifted down the river for about two hours (not including our visits to the bars) and were told that we had only reached halfway through the river. Even though you are not interested in getting drunk, it is a fun activity to do. It is a playground for adults, and the whole vibe around it makes it a fun place to be. Even just drifting down the river in the tube through the Lao nature is a unique experience and is worth the few bucks it costs to rent the tube.

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Pakse in the South- East Asian Triangle

Since there were no buses going directly from the Cambodian capital to the Laos Capital, we had to make a stop in Pakse, which is the city where bus destinations from the four South-East Asian capitols meet each other (Bankok, Phnom Penh, Vientiane and Hanoi).
The border town did not have much to offer, except for some tuk-tuk rides that must have been some of the scariest things I have done in my life. All the motorcycle taxis here had home made, open wagons mounted on the side of their motorcycles. And with roads being almost empty at night, the driver was driving full speed with us hanging party on to our luggage and to each other. Luckily nothing happened, but it sure did give us a small adrenaline rush, and a promise to catch a regular taxi car for the rest of our stay in Pakse.
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Vientiane, the former capital of French Laos

P1060473When we first got to the capital of Laos, it felt like stepping into a small French city, with bakeries on every street corner selling “croissants” and “le baguette”. Snails and frogs were also on the menu, but as we were really hungry we decided to go for a steak as big as 650grams. This was the biggest steak I had seen in my life, and we had to go through a food coma after eating the whole thing, not leaving anything on the plate. Delicious food is something Vientiane is famous for, and is what we had came to eat.Vientiane is also referred to by Lonely Planet as the most quiet capitol in the world. And this can sure be believed. No cars or motorbikes are allowed into the city center, and it is not crowded with people like other South- East Asian cities. It is a real cosy place to sit and enjoy quality coffee on the street, while watching orange munks walk by in the streets. 

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