Before crossing to Laos we decided to stay overnight in Chiang Kong to leave Thailand on Monday morning with the first boat. We took a cruise to move from Huay Xai, the first city of Laos after the border, to Luang Prabang, which is the cultural centre and former capital of the country. We sailed for two days, and we stopped for the night in a village in the middle of the forest, called Pak Beng.
Booking the cruise was the best decision ever: the boat is very spacious, you can walk, buy food and get to know everyone who is travelling with you. A plus is definitely the changing landscape: stunning mountains, thick green vegetation, small and sparse villages with houses made of bamboo and hordes of children playing by the river. Sometimes the boat stops to leave locals in the middle of nowhere – you really wonder if they will ever get home!
is our final stop. I loved it. By many it is considered The Gem of South East Asia, and I cannot blame them. We were supposed to stay in the city for two nights, but we decided to spend there four days, good sign ;).
Our guesthouse was in the centre of the city, which is a peninsula surrounded by the majestic Mekong. In front of us, an island that can be reached with a tiny boat.
The island in front of the peninsula
Tiny boat we used to cross. We were almost in the water!
Why did I like Luang Prabang so much?
Something in the air, like every French city I have visited in my life. Laos was a French colony, and this influence is particularly visible in Luang Prabang: the houses are a mix between Laotian and French style, and the city looks more like a sleepy and friendly village, perfect to chill by the river. Since the 90s, the city is part of UNESCO for its well-conserved houses, buildings and temples.
Waterfalls and caves EVERYWHERE
We have visited three major cities in Laos: Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane, the capital. In every city we managed to explore some of the caves and natural waterfalls nearby. Especially in Vang Vieng, the number of things to see is impressive. We rented a scooter to move around – it was amazing because we enjoyed the landscape so much! It looks like being in one of the scenes of Jurassic Park, with mountains and peaks that seems to have grown out of nowhere, packs of cows running freely. The main paths run next to villages, and we were able to experience a bit of the daily life of the farmers.
We found shelter at the ticket office, it was raining so much
Inside of a cave. You cannot see it but it was HUGE
Vientiane is the capital of Laos, and it is only one bridge away from Thailand. Laos is very different from its neighbouring countries: people here are very relaxed (someone could say lazy) they prefer to enjoy their time instead of rushing and working more than the minimum necessary to have a decent life. The Internet connection is always extremely slow, buses are late, people take their time; Vientiane perfectly resembles its people.
I did not enjoy the city very much, however there is one thing for which is worth visiting Vientiane: the COPE museum. This museum exhaustively describes the effects of UXO – stands for the unexploded ordnance that was dropped in Lao during the secret war the US started in Vietnam. Even though neutral, Laos was the most bombed country in the world, with a total of 270 million cluster bomblets dropped, of which 80 million still unexploded; these “bombies”, as they are known here, cause circa 40 victims per years.
Clusters bombs contained hundreds of smaller bombs, called bombies, which were able to strike an area of three soccer fields