Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I’m a couple weeks behind on my blogging, but better now than never right? Anyway for a present update I have switched continents. I’m now in San Pedro, La Laguna, Guatemala – beautiful place. My host family is very sweet and I’m happy to be here, feels great to settle for a bit. Plus Teresa’s home cooked meals are delicious (and it’s not fried rice or noodles haha)! I won’t lie that my head is spinning from all the Spanish and the very little that I can comprehend at this point. I had my first Spanish lesson this morning and that went great. I have confidence that with mucho practice and time, it will all sink in.

Alright my last country with mr. freebird --> Laos (pronounced Lao, the “s” is silent). This was quite a fast trip, just 6 nights. Laos was absolutely beautiful. We flew into the capitol Vientiane (or VTE the airport code as Adrian and I would say since we couldn’t pronounce it) from Siem Reap after saying our goodbyes to Sarah L Funny thing is on our way to VTE, the plan just stopped in another to Paske and we had to go through customs there. Our visa was all handwritten, very old school and on Lao time. Really showed the slow, relaxed vibe of Laos.
Straight away after arriving in VTE we caught a 5 hour bus ride to Vang Vieng. Once we got settled at Spicy Laos backpackers we went to Peeping Soms for some dinner. We had our fist lao beer and the most amazing bruschetta, I was ecstatic to just have real bread! Although we had some not so amazing local lao food, but was really fun to try it out. Lots of green things – they like their river weed:
Our first night chilling at Peeping Soms
We had reserved a night in the Spicy Laos backpackers hostel, but once we walked around a bit we realized there were some much better places for just as cheap with some killer views. I'd recommend not to book ahead, although the "tree-house" experience was pretty neat. I really loved this phrase they had in our room: "Life is simple. Staying in the bamboo tree-house is real Laos experience. When it is hot you take a shower, when it is cold you set fire and sit around with friends and family."

Vang Vieng is all about the tubing – it’s pretty much “Americanized” party central with a surreal back drop. Friends and Family Guy is blaring in all the restaurants all day long.
Vang Vieng has quite the stunning views
Adrian and I were walking to rent our tubes, I was just in my bikini and this older tourist lady was not a fan – dirty look and a “right in the street?” Sadly this lady had no idea where she was?! Yes certain cities that would be completely out of place and disrespectful, but this is Vang Vieng! Overall I’d recommend leaving flip flops, clothes and the sunnies behind. You are more than likely going to lose them, I managed to keep 50%.

More about soaking in the sunshine and drinking than actual tubing. Tons of bars with water slides and ziplines into the water. Stay clear of the SUPER slide unless you want to be bruised and breathless. To sum it up the super slide and Mekong river kicked my ass. Got the wind knocked out of me, once I caught my breathe I realized my bottoms were MIA. Luckily an Aussie fellow took off his shorts and gave them to me to wear. Phew! Was a crazy day in the sunshine, even if I came out of it a bit battered it was well worth it. Another tip, don’t try to tube to the end just have fun and take a tuk tuk back from one of the bars. It gets mighty cold once the sun goes down! Thanks Adrian for putting up with me. Here are a few grainy pictures we were able to salvage from our waterproof camera:
Top right is me on the Zipline
I woke up the next morning, completely wiped so we decided to catch the bus to Luang Prabang that afternoon. I’m glad we agreed to skip the night bus! The 7 hour bus ride to Luang Prabang was beautiful, sheer, green mountainous ranges like I’ve never seen. I will warn you that the 2nd half of this bus ride was horrific – I thought I was going to spew the whole time, everybody in the mini-van was hurting. Definitely take the VIP bus, the slower the better! The views were pretty epic though!

BEST view I've ever had while washing my hands!
Luang Prabang is an adorable French influenced town in the central North of Laos. We spent four nights in Luang Prabang. One day we rode bikes all around exploring the city, a couple temples and a village across the river. The village had many small artisan shops with scarfs, artwork and paper goods. Luang Prabang has some great restaurants right on the water – Art Café and Utopia were two we stopped at. We watched the sunset from the best spot there is, where the Nam Khan river meets the Mekong River. The day was wrapped up with a free ethnic Fashion Show at Hive bar.
Close to our guesthouse in Luang Prabang
On the steps of a monk's living quarters in Wat Mai - Love in various languages

Wat Xieng Thong
Sticky Rice offerings drying in the sun
Ethnic Fashion Show at Hive Bar
Two of the top attractions in the surrounding area are the Pak Ou Caves and the Kouang Si Waterfall. Adrian and I checked out both. The Pak Ou Caves were honestly pretty underwhelming for the 4 hour roundtrip boat ride out there. If I knew ahead of time I would have skipped the caves and spent that money on an all day trek to the Kouang Si Waterfall. The best we could find for a trek to the Kouang Si Waterfall was $40 which included a guide, lunch and being able to see a couple hill tribe villages. At the time we thought that was too much and went for the $10 mini-van ride to the Waterfall. Kouang Si is a must see, really beautiful.  I’d love to go back when the sun is out and warm enough to jump in the unreal blue waters.
Entrance to Pak Ou Caves
There are thousands of Buddha sculptures in the caves
Inside of the lower cave
Lao ladies were making this green papaya salad outside of the caves
Kouang Si Waterfall

As far as we made it in the water
Bear Exhibit at Kuoang Si Waterfall
Overall I found the Lao to be very sweet, quiet and wonderful people. It’s a peaceful, but somewhat eerily deserted country. You don’t see anybody on the roads outside of town except tourists. There were lots of older European couples on holiday here enjoying the traditional lao herbal steam bath, massages and delicious food. Can’t say we didn’t enjoy it all as well :)

Every night a market is erected on one of the main streets with some really neat artisan goods. Similar to the village we visited with silk scarfs, handmade paper and clothing. 

There are approximately 1000 novice monks in Luang Prabang. The monks morning alms ritual attracts many tourists – waking at 6am to participate by offering the monks sticky rice, bananas and money. Adrian and I rose early one morning to see what it was all about, pretty neat to watch - especially knowing that many locals wake every morning for the morning alms.

Here are a few more photos from the Laos trip:

Although I went a bit photo crazy on this post, here are the rest on Picasa:

Luang Prabang
Vang Vieng
Keepin it real in Guate!

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