Citytour in luang prabang

Had a terrible night, woke up several times cause my back was hurting due to the ride yesterday. Took a pill (just for the nerves, no painkiller) at around 1am, still was up every hour. As I anyhow couldn’t sleep decided to watch the monks calls to alms, everyday at dawn. Went up 5:15am, dressed with jeans, socks (first time here), t-shirt, my baby alpaca pullover (I am so happy that I came from the cold and had to dress somehow to get to the airport) and hoody. Here it is really cold, in the morning we had 7 degrees (during day it gets here 24, also the locals are wondering why it’s getting that cold in the hot season, maybe there is something true about the climate change??). Walked up to the mainstreet to see the ceremony. Monks do it every day, walking the streets and collecting rice. There are only few rules, be quite, be respectful, keep distance if you are not donating and do not use flashlight. Europeans stick with the rules, Chinese not…

Had a coffee afterwards on the mainstreet in one of the few already open coffee houses around 6:30am.
Went back to my hotel to go for breakfast at 7:30am. They start that late and it is served in the garden. So still wearing hoody, set down and had (served) breakfast, vegetable omlett with baguette and black coffee. Not the best but ok
Decided to do the by lonely planet recommended city walk. This time 5km, duration 5 hours. Starting point was morning market, 50 meters from my hotel.

Went up to the phu si, the hill on the peninsula. On top a golden stupa, the chom si.

Down again, passed Buddha’s (oversized) footprint (the footprint is for sure 1,5 meters, he must have been quite tall if really his footprint, more an opening in the rock looking like a footprint) and ascended through wat Siphoutthabat Thippharam.

Back on the mainstreet walked first to the Royal palace, seeing the Royal cars (not to spectacular) and also the pha bang Budda statue (no pictures allowed). Decided to walk further north the mainstreet to give the cafe le banneton a try (was also highly recommended in Vientiane, didn’t try it there). Had pain o chocolate and double espresso, must admit I like the joma cafe more (had the same tasting plain o chocolate here in this recommended coffee shop like in Vienna at felber, not a sacrifice). Wandered through several wats, including the most popular, wat xieng thong.

The for me most interesting hor (little chapel), the red chapel was closed (has an rare inclining Budda inside).
Went to the name khan riverfront (the second river in town beside the mekong, therefore I stay on a peninsula), saw the bamboo Bridges and back to the mainstreet for a quick lunch. Had a baguette with tuna for a price I would laugh out loud in Austria (10k, around 1 euro). It’s not ban mih here, really filled baguette (strong french influence here, most of the tourist are french and lots of locals still speak French). Went to the hotel for a nap, out again around 5am for a sunset beer along the mekong. Afterwards a stroll through the already familiar night market, then night food market for dinner. Always interesting whom you met, this time a shared the table with an English guy who just arrived and want to bike along the mekong for the next month (he had his own bike with him, fully disassembled in his luggage and then a us guy joined, also travelling for a month. On this markets you obviously meet travellers, both of them have been to example also been to Honduras (like me), so lots of travelling stories to share. Went home afterwards with one beer for the balcony and in hope for a more restful night.

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Riding the minivan again

Another travel day. Had booked a seat in a minivan to luang prabang, further north. Was up for the first time early, 7am, still ok. Had breakfast, packed my stuff and waited for the pickup at 8:45am. Minivan showed up at 9am, was the third passenger (one Arabic couple was already in). Next stop a young girl and that was the whole gang. Meaning we had a minivan just the 4 of us. Couple took the first row, girl the second and I stayed in the back row. Real luxury for a 200km drive… after around 60km the driver stopped at 2 backpackers girls that were walking on the street, asking them where they go. Wanted also to luang prabang, asked for the price. 80.000 each (I paid the same from Vang vieng), they were french and told him 50k. No, min is 60k. They said goodbye to him and continued walking. He thought for a moment, stopped again at them and took them for 50k. So one girl in my row, the other at the other girl, still more than ok.driver stopped 10mjn later for a toilet brake, then the climb up the mountain started (I knew there must be a reason for a 4 hour drive for 200km). On top we had a break again, after that nonstop to luang prabang.

Road was really bumby, full with holes and sometimes you wouldn’t even call it a road back home.
After arriving was approached by tuktuk drivers again. Thanks to Google maps I knew it was only 600 meters, therefore declined their offer.
One remark about Google: some of my friends think it is a little spooky what Google is doing, I love it. You give your data anyhow to someone, I trust in Google and they are making my days! For example: as soon as I book a hotel in the next town Google is immediately offering to download offline maps for that area, and navigating with maps even works offline (at least for driving, for walking routes you need to be online, no clue why)
Arrived at the hotel, did check in and already liked the city. Reminds me a little bit to hoi an (Vietnam), old one story houses (and some of them are UNESCO world heritage like in hoi an), more people on the street, 2 rivers, nice!
And I had choose a nice hotel, I live in an alley one side 50 meters to the mekong, other side 50 meters to the morning market (and 100 to the food nightmarket). Looked for an ATM first, had to try 3 again before I received money (but they have one every 10 meters), went to joma coffee house (they chain I also have been in Vientiane), this time double espresso and a brownie (their croissants are far better). Back to hotel, took a shower and went for a sundowner beer to the mekong.

Afterwards back to the mainstreet, there they already started with the nightmarket. Walked though, exited for the food night market. Full with people, had a buffet (pay 20k and fill your plate, mostly different kind of noodles and vegetables) and tried grilled sausage (not my favorite).

As they have community tables sat down, a Chinese couple showed me I should grab a cup, filled it from a water bottle. Thought is for cleaning my fingers, put them in, he screamed and showed me I should drink it. Some sort of schnaps 😀. Told me “he China”, told him “l Austria”, had no clue, showed him on maps, I think he still had no clue. After exchanging a cigarette I left, strolled a little further, had some nice coconut pancakes for no money (5k, about 50 cent)

and called it a day.


More caves

Did the second day of booked tours, this time the tuktuk was full with only Europeans, 10 people all in all. First sight was the elephant cave, nothing worth seeing. Not even a real cave, an opening of the mountain with an stalagmite looking like an elephant.

Was a five minute stop, of for the next cave. This time a water cave with tubing inside and out.

Water was even colder as yesterday (inside the mountain), first we handled ourselves along a rope, the rest just paddlinh with our hands. We went approximately 200 m in, turned around and the same way back. Not to spectacular either, just cold. Was happy to be out of the water, had lunch there and continued the journey. All the rest had now booked kajaking, I was booked for blue lagoon 2. So all people were dropped and I was brought back to town to change tuktuk to go to blue lagoon 2. After seeing the one yesterday (and according to everybody the best one and to me it was more or less wasted time) I told the guy I skip the lagoon and take the afternoon of.
Did a short nap, walked then for a sundowner beer over a little bridge beneath the green restaurant to one of the remaining rave bars alongside the river.

Enjoyed it, went up again to look for a restaurant to eat. Every place was empty (the locals are not really happy, officially we have high tourist season, I spoke to an old Norwegian who lives here for the last 18 years, he has a guesthouse, out of 20 rooms only 4 are booked..), tried the full moon cafe. The local owner was smoking a pipe, for sure nothing legal as he was completely confused when I entered. Asked him what he was smoking, he told me cigarettes. I laughed out loud, he handed me immediately a drug menue. Opium, weed, whatever you can imagine (second time now here, first time was on the night I arrived in Vientiane, tuktuk driver in front of the hotel asked me immediately if I want to have opium, declined also that offer 😀). Declined, went for a beerlao instead and decided I do not want to eat here. Went to banana restaurant afterwards, had something with fried basil, was also not the best meal.

Recognized I am better off with street food, you see what you get up-front.
Had as always a little stroll through town and was back at my hotel around 8pm.

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Adventures in Vang vieng

Was up again 7:30am, pickup for an action day was scheduled for 10am. Went after breakfast for a real coffee (also they produce coffee beans in Laos my hotel offered nescafe) and waited for pickup. Was early (as always here), as there are not so many tourists around I had a private tour (meaning guide driving the tuktuk and I am the only passenger). Went for a cave first (tham Chang, in town and would have been reachable by foot). Long and steep stairway leading up,

inside a cave (I am not so faszinated by caves as I already found out in Vietnam). Next stop blue lagoon, top spot here. Was also not really impressive, a pod 10×50 meters…

stayed there another 20 minutes and went for lunch. As I was the only customer the programm changed frequently (for example blue lagoon 1 was scheduled for the day after). Was brought to a local restaurant where I could choose some noodles soup (and I am also not a fan of that, do not know why, tried it several times in vietnam). After lunch we went for the more adventures part.
Started of with ziplining, this was more to my taste 😀 even I am afraid of height I had no problem with the ziplining (ok, o never looked down from a platform..). Had 7 or 8 paltdorms through the jungle and was more than ok 😀

Was already at the river but the tuktuk still brought me further up the river to start with tubbing down the river.
Started around 2pm, not much water and therefore not much current.

Passed the zipline station and it was beginning to feel cold for me (understand me right, in Vientiane it was around 31 degree, here it is around 24). But if your kidneys are constantly in the water and you don’t move it’s not that hot). Arrived shortly before 5 pm in town, was already shivering. Went quickly home to have a hot shower and went out again for dinner. Went again to green restaurant, had a club sandwich (bad choise, was not nearly as nice as a regular banh mih), took a stroll through town afterwards (with my hoodie on as it gets really cold after sunset), went home and took an aspirin before going to bed (just in case 😀)

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Going by minivan

Woke up 7:30am again, seems to be my new wake up time. Was anyhow more than ok, had a terrible night, woke up around 11pm as some door alarms were ringing (must be the Chinese people coming home). Couldn’t sleep then till 1am as it was very sticky in the room and I discovered that they looked my balcony door, so no fresh air…
Had not so much to do anyhow, had a transfer to Vang vieng scheduled for 10am (with Toyota mini van). Did breakfast, repacked my stuff and went to the lobby. Pickup was scheduled for 9 to 9:30am, they pick you up from hotel by tuktuk and bring you to the minivan station. Trip costs 80.000, it’s about 160 km. Was picked up in time, changed for the minibus, had 10 people with me in the bus but was really ok. 160km here is a 3,5 hours drive by minivan (including 30 min break in the middle).Everything went smoothly and we reached Vang vieng around 1:45pm. According to schedule they drop you at the bus station 2km out of town, this driver dropped us in downtown. Was immediately approached by tuktuk drivers, told me they bring me for 10.000 to the hotel, told them I want to have a look at the map first. Thanks to Google offline maps I found out that I am around 100m from the hotel.,. So I walked there 😀 Did check-in, room had two single beds instead of one big (lady wrote me the day before I would get one big bed), also ok for me. Went out to discover Vang vieng, this is a really small town.
Had first lunch at a restaurant 1 min from hotel, stired beef w rise, quite ok.By foot I saw the whole town within 20 minutes, here they have other things on offer than sightseeing. Here you have caves and adventures and backpackers enjoying the beautiful landscape. Limestone formations like in Vietnam.Booked my tours for the next two days.
Was already close to 5pm, had a shower and went to the same restaurant again (green restaurant, quite nice. They have laotsen food, burgers, baguettes even home made pizza) to watch the sunset.Had 2 beer on the terrace while writing the blog, did a stroll through the town afterwards and was back at the hotel shortly after 8pm to a day.

Public holiday in Laos

Today I did a sleeping record, woke up at 7:30am, obviously the jet lag.
December the second is a public holiday here.
I had to look it up, this is what the web is telling:
“This celebrates the 1975 victory of the proletariat over the monarchy with parades, speeches, etc. Lao national and communist hammer and sickle flags are flown all over the country. Celebration is mandatory, hence poorer communities postpone some of the traditional Ok Phansa activities usually practiced roughly a month earlier-until National Day, thus saving themselves considerable expense.”
Live is not much different, everything is open, only most of the offices are showing laotsen (and most of the time also Chinese) flags.
Went first to the bakery again, this time double espresso with a chocolate croissant, yummy.Did my last missing sightseeing, have been to wat si muang, the temple with the stone pillar for the founding of Vientiane. One the way there was a big monument (no wat, no stupa, something in-between), also there they have some ancient pillar stones from the founding of Vientiane (and it is not mentioned on lonely planet)

Saw the most interesting animal till now, mixture of an elephant, bird and based on the feet a cow or so.No clue what this represents, also Google lens has no clue (it showed me some Indian things)
From there around the corner was the COPE visitor center, as I had nothing to do I walked there (was recommended by a friend).They help the victims of the landmines, but it was closed due to the public holiday (must be something official as everything else was open).
Now it was nearly 11 and had lots of time. Walked to the next coffee shop (for free WiFi), had an iced coffee and looked up restaurants in the neighborhood. Found a highly recommended Vietnamese restaurant around the corner for a ban mih (I love them since last year in Vietnam).Was excellent and went afterwards back to the hotel.
And as I just have seen on the blog of a friend the small pedestrian walkways in Estonia (I think, it was at least one of the Baltic states, I loose track as she travels that much) I have an example from Vientiane. Here the way is only for the trees, pedestrians have to walk somewhere else)

The afternoon was spend with going to a coffee shop to write the blog, followed by a sundowner beer on the main road still writing blog (was an exhaustive blog entry yesterday 😀)
Watched then the sunset at the mekong,had some noodles at a stall on the nightmarket (excellent for no money, 35.000 with a beer)and went back to the hotel for finishing the blog on my last night in Vientiane.

First day in Vientiane

Even I didn’t sleep to much the day before ( 6 hours sleep in the plane are not as relaxing as the same time in a real bed) I woke up already at 6:30 am. Went for breakfast, is ok. Lots of Asian dishes and some bread, butter and jam. Additional they have an egg cooking station and fruits, not overwhelming but quite ok. Had 2 toasts, an egg suny side up and 2 mini bananas. Fruits are really tasting different in the countries they are from than in Vienna (because here they are fresh from the tree/palm). Downloaded lonely planet for Laos beforehand, so I always have my travel guide on my mobile.
They had a itinerary for 2 days I’m Vientiane, first day the mayor sights downtown close to the mekong, second day they advised hiring something with a motor to reach the other sights.
The day one itinerary told me I should rent a bicycle for a 5km round, lasting 5-6 hours. Seeing the stated distance I thought about trying it by walking. As I stay close to the middle of the route I started with point 11 (out of 26) the patuxai. Like the arc de triumph (sorry, I speak no french) in Paris (or Bucharest as I know) only an Asian version.

Climbed up, realized that I am still afraid of the hight, spend 5 minutes upstairs and down again. It was close after 8am, so only few Chinese tourists there (I even had to wait 10 minutes till it opened). From here on I will only note the sights, otherwise it will be a very long post.
Mayor fresgfood market Talat khua din, sacred heart cathedral, french embassy, haw pha kaeo (religious art museum), wat si saket (wat is always a temple) with thousands of Budda sculptures, presidential palace, nam phu (a fountain). This is already on the main tourists street parallel to the mekong. Had a break in a coffee shop, double espresso, water and an almond croissant. Was very tasty, filled with thick cream. Also realized that here it makes a big difference if you go to a local food stall or a chain like the coffee shop. Double espresso with water was already 29.000 kip, the croissant an additional 20.000. in the end this is 5 euro so you would not get it for that price in Vienna, but the day before I paid for my lunch and a beer 25.000…
Here would also have been the official starting point of the round (ok, it was a coffee shop around the corner, do not think it makes a big difference), so I moved on from 1 to number 26, wat mixai. Now every next crossing the next temple, wat haysoke, wat Ong teu mahawian and finally wat in paeng. Here I skipped the proposed lunch restaurant and continued to the Laos national museum and Laos national culture hall (opposite to each other, were both closed). Last point was the that dam, a stupa (stupa is a dome-shaped building erected as a Buddhist shrine). Was back at the hotel around 11:30am, so the 5-6 hours bicycle ride took me 3.5 hours by foot….

Took a short but refreshing nap after a wonderful shower (I am sweating here like hell, here we have around 31 degrees, started from 10 degrees in Vienna what was still ok for this time of the year, I saw on the internet that over the weekend the below zero degrees started…).
What I also learned that day was, that 12/2/2019, tommorow will be a public holiday in Laos. I also read on lonely planet that one of the remaining sites on my list will be closed. It was after 3pm, the girl at the reception told me that pha that luang, one of the most important national monuments, will close at 4pm. According to Google maps walking would take a bit over 30 minutes, so she organized me a tuktuk. Also I travelled a lot in Asia I haven’t rides to many tuktuks, I think last time was in Bangkok, and that was 9 years ago. To my mind they are overcharged, a little bit more than 2 km (with no traffic) costed me 40.000 (organized by the hotel, she told me if I hire it on my own it would be 50.000).

One remark as I state prices here: it’s easy to calculate the kip amount in euro, you just have to cross out 4 zeros, so 10.000 kip is approximately 1 euro.
Arrived there just to see the big signs telling me it will be open till 5pm… entrance is 10.000 (the same for all sites where you have to pay, for Laos people its still 3.000). Gave him 50.000, he stamped 5 tickets, told him I only need one, he said ok and gave me back what I believed was 2 times 20.000. I must admit on my first full day here I only looked at the numbers).

Not to much to see there, a big golden stupa, you would see exactly the same without paying the entrance fee. Walked around and after sorounding it and looking at the other buildings there started my way home by foot. After 10 min walking I stopped at a coffee shop (they are everywhere like in Vietnam), had an iced coffee and counted my remaining money. Found out that I was given back 2 notes worth 2.000 instead of 20.000. And this happened at the most important (Buddhist) site in Laos… so the whole visit costed me 86.000, most expensive trip till now. Came back to the hotel 20 min later, redressed and went out again for lunch. Took a (Google) high rated Laos restaurant, looked it up on maps, close to mekong in one of the side streets. During going there discovered that the routing doesnt work offline, but Vientiane is quite small, found it on the first try without maps. Had some minced meat (with a lot of coriander, to much for my taste) with sticky rice and a beer, around 45.000 all in all.

Strolled a little bit around the night market at the mekong (also one of the things I haven’t done for a while, last night market was on my Thailand trip in Chang Mai).

Came back to the hotel around 7:30pm, had two more beer at the rooftop pool of the hotel while writing the blog and called it a day.