Matthew Stanford

  1977 -
  City of Birth:
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Matthew's Story > Chapters > WORLD BACKPACKING TRIP

"LAUNG PRABANG - LAOS" 

 

Date Range: 11/07/2008 To 11/12/2008   Comments: 0   Views: 4,085
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I was glad to get out of Chiang Mai but in order to get to Laung Prabang there was the matter of flying with what can only be described as the most dodgy airline ever. There were warnings in my guidebook about Laos airlines but the alternative of 2 days on boats and buses seemed a lot worse than one hour on a plane.


The plane looked like it was about 40 years old and was a propeller driven one. The handrail was very loose when going up the steps and even the in flight magazine was misprinted in places. The flight was that bumpy the drinks kept getting spilled everywhere, the view out the window however was one of the best. We then entered the strange world of Laos bureaucracy, every nationality has a different fee to pay for their visa. For example France pays 31 US dollars while Sweden pays 30 (why).


Stayed at Spicy Laos backpackers which turned out to be one of the best on the whole trip. Met loads of other travelers so it was easy to arrange trips or share travel stories with people over a few bottles of beer Laos.


First impressions of the country was Thailand with less cars and more motorbikes. Walking round the market and round the streets I noticed you don't get the hassle you get in Thailand. When people are selling something they take no for an answer then leave you alone.
On the Saturday a group of us went to a series of waterfalls about an hour out of Laung Prabang. Seeing kids gathering firewood in little villages of wooden huts and the vast amounts of empty countryside made us understand what kind of country we were in.


Coming back from the waterfalls we seen an Elephant but I don't think that it was wild.
At night eating from the market quickly became a regular thing as it was good and cheap.


Popular in this part of the world are bottles of spirits with snakes and/or scorpions in them. One of the market stalls were offering free samples, even the 3 Irish people backed out of that one but I tried 2 and they were both like drinking petrol.



On the Sunday 2 of us hired push bikes for the day and went out to explore town. It was not that big and you can see most of it in a couple of hours. For saying that Laos is one of the worlds poorest countries I didn't see a single beggar unlike on my previous trip in Cambodia where there were loads. Getting back early afternoon I spent the rest of the day sitting round talking to other travelers. There was something about the hostel that made it such as social place.



Laung Prabang – Vang Vieng – Vientiane seemed to be the standard route through Laos and back into Thailand. By Monday most of the people I had met there had started to move on, so I also got my bus ticket for the Wednesday. Went up the top of a hill nearby with a temple on it to see the sunset. Bit of a pity dozens of other camera clickers had the same idea.


At night I went out for dinner with a group of 7 who had just arrived. One of them had been to this country 10 years ago when they first opened up the borders for tourists. He said he went 2 weeks without seeing another white face. Laung Prabang only had about 3 accommodation options. Now there were dozens with loads of building work going on.
It made me realize that when I went was the best time to visit Laos, there was enough tourists and infrastructure to have a good time but not totally overrun. However costs were going up quickly and you knew that in 5-10 years time the place would be a tourist trap like a lot of places in Thailand with all the hassle, scams and rip offs that come with it.



Hired a bike on Tuesday but it was a fairly uneventful day. On Wednesday morning I headed off in a cramped out minibus along 5 hours of winding mountain roads. Not many cars but had to stop loads for kids, Dogs, cows, goats and pigs straying into the road. I also noticed a lot of people with guns at the side of the road. I thought the conditions of the roads were the worst I had ever seenbut I quickly changed my mind a month later when I got into Sumatra.




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