Vang Vieng and Vientiane, Laos March 2018

Vang Vieng sunset

Vang Vieng is a backpacker haven of fun in the sun on the Nam Song River. Add in the numerous caves that riddle the limestone karst hillside and you can have fun in the dark as well.

It’s always Happy Hour on the Nam Song River

Renting an inner tube for 60,000 kip ($7.20 US) is almost a right of passage as you stop at the bars along the river for strong vodka and strawberry drinks. The float takes 3 hours during dry season with no stops. We went on 2 different days and it took us about 5 hours both times. We also visited a cave that we tubed into during both those trips!

Hot air balloon for only $80!

Going on a hot air balloon ride was a check off my bucket list. Watching the sunset behind the karst studded landscape is a memory I will treasure forever. 

View of Vang Vieng from the hot air balloon

We enjoyed spelunking with new friends, swimming in a blue lagoon and watching re-runs of Friends in riverside bars. But eventually we had to say goodbye to this party town and head to the capital, Vientiane.

Patuxai (Victory Gate), Vientiane

French-colonial architecture, golden Buddhist temples, cafe and spa lined streets greet you in this former French trading post.

Sleepy tuk tuk driver

The COPE visitor center has a free, permanent exhibition with displays and documentaries on the history and implications of the 2 million tons of bombs the USA dropped on Laos between 1964 and 1973. Of the 270 million cluster bomblets that were dropped, 10-30 percent were not exploded. Now these ‘bombies’ continue to kill, maim and destroy livelihoods through much of Laos. All it takes is a child finding a metal ball and playing catch, a farmer hitting one with a shovel, or a mother making a fire for the evening meal to set off an UXO (unexploded ordinance).

Prosthetic legs at the COPE visitor center

A donation to The COPE Center helps provide prosthetics, orthotics and rehabilitation to people with mobility related disabilities.

After this somber reminder of the continued casualties of war it was time to seize the day, enjoy the fact that we are alive and eat French food. Vientiane has many well respected French restaurants and it wasn’t hard to find one in walking distance. Kop chai lai lai Laos! Next up: Cambodia.

Luang Prabang, Laos February 2018

Mekong River

The Lao are quiet people. You won’t hear thumping music, tuk tuk horns or raised voices on main street of Luang Prabang. Instead you’ll witness the improbable feat of a bustling village full of restaurants, shops and guesthouses without all the clamour usually associated with them. 

Downtown Luang Prabang

Every dawn that breaks over the surrounding peaks brings hundreds of orange robed monks into town to gather alms. The monastery relies on the rice and other staples given each morning. But just around the corner you will see monks digging into their own bowls and sharing the alms with the poor.

Alms Giving Ceremony

Wat Xieng Thong is known for being one of the most beautiful temples in Laos. We appreciated the innumerable murals made of coloured glass that decorated the walls.

Wat Xieng Thong

November through May is dry season. Of the three waterfalls to see in the area, Kuang Si was still flowing gorgeously and we were able to swim in several pools. Tad Sae was still swimmable at the top pool but mostly dried up. We didn’t go to the third one due to our time limit.

Kuang Si Falls

If you enjoy seeing Buddhist temples, boat rides and caves then head to Pak Ou Caves. These two caves filled with hundreds of Buddha statues can only be reached by boat. You’ll need a flashlight for the upper cave.

Pak Ou Caves

The food is very similar to Thai with a touch of French refinement (due to the earlier French occupation). Cheers to our first stop in Laos!

Beerlao, pork stuffed bamboo shoots and chicken lab. YUM!