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Friday, January 19, 2018

Laos : Day 7 : Vang Vieng - Luang Prabang

Early morning at 6.00 a.m., we assembled at the lobby. A songthaew would take us to the Vang Vieng morning market.

Lots of fresh produce for sale

The open-air market

The indoor market is just across the road

So various things were on sale here at the market - fresh produce, fresh fish and meats, cooked food, kitchen utensils, groceries. Members of my group bought lots of fresh ginger to bring home. 1 kg was only about LAK6000, about RM3.00. Pretty cheap, huh?

We went back to the hotel for breakfast, and after that, we went to Blue Lagoon.

 The landscape on the way 

The field was dry

Very soon, we reached the Blue Lagoon ...  

The pool was small but rather deep .... one could climb atop the tree and jump down from there ...  

One could sit in the shed to rest or to enjoy a picnic lunch .... 

There's a trail that led to Tham Phu Kham cave. To get to the cave entrance, one had to climb up about 200 meters. There were steps, but they were uneven and also very steep at places. 


The climb up

I made a very slow climb, since I did not want to swim. 

First chamber with reclining bronze Buddha image

I did not try to go any further ... and climbed slowly back down to the lowlands. 

Back at the hotel, we packed up and checked out. One of the uncles in our group couldn't find his room key. He said he'd returned it to the reception, but reception couldn't locate the key. He refused to pay the penalty as the reception couldn't prove that he did no return it. In the end, our poor group leader had to pay the penalty of RM125. 

We were supposed to have lunch at Vang Vieng before leaving for Luang Prabang. We walked to one of the sandwich stalls along the road ... 

Chicken and cheese sandwich, LAK15000
The chicken breast meat strips were coated very thickly with batter and then deep-fried .... I did not find the sandwich filling to be nice .... hmn ... 

After lunch, we set off for Luang Prabang via Highway No. 9.

 Seeing the beautiful Nam Song River for the final time ... 

On the way Luang Prabang, there was a stretch of road which was rather scary ... since it was at a higher elevation, the roads were steep and the turns were sharp. It did not help that there were lots of dirt on the road, due to landslides which had occurred some time ago. But because we were at such a high elevation, the view was fantastic. 

 Viewpoint at Highway No. 9

It was evening by the time we reached Luang Prabang. We would be staying at Mylaohome .... 

 Our room at Block B

Our tour leader then brought us to the night market - and we spent every night of the next 5 nights at the night market .....

One small lane along the Night Market sold plenty of food; and here, one could have a vegetarian buffet for only LAK15000. After you pay, you will be given a bowl, and you can heap your bowl with your choice of food. 

Grilled fish and meats are also very popular in Laos

So that night, at this small lane, I bought a small packet of deep-fried pork belly for dinner, and ate it while walking along the night market. I bought 2 pairs of elephant pants that night. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Laos : Day 6 : Vang Vieng

Today was activity day.

Breakfast at the hotel was limited

There was only porridge and French bread. Luckily both were yummy .... the pork porridge was boiling hot and warmed the tummy effectively. Plus, it was tasty too. The French bread too, was crusty and yet fluffy. It was so good with butter and jam ... 

We walked to see Nam Song River in the morning ....  

 Wowee!

 Nam Song River was breathtakingly beautiful

The narrow bridge, constructed out of bamboo and wooden planks .... 

 A sign by a lovely cafe by the river

It would be so nice to sit down and relax by the river ... 

 So pretty

But we did not have time to get sit and relax. We were going on a songthaew to do tubing .... 

Our songthaews or trucks, kayaks piled up on the roof

We walked to the Tham Xang or Elephant Cave first .... 

 Inside the Elephant Cave

Inside the Elephant Cave

Looking like an elephant to you?

It was a sunny day, but it was actually a little chilly ... 

 Walking past this dry field

 Beautiful mountains in the backdrop

Soon, we reached the Tham Nam or Water Cave ....  

See the tubes? 

We went tubing here at the Water Cave. Water Cave is an underwater cave. There were a network or ropes here ... so we sat on a tube and pulled ourselves into the cave. Of course a head torch was provided as it was dark in the cave. It was fun, though the water was cold .... 

When we got out, we had to sun ourselves dry .... some of my group members were visibly chattering away .... 

 We joined these youngsters in sunning ourselves ....

We had a packed lunch today ....
Hmn .... Only the bread and banana was good ....

After lunch, we headed to a Hmong village nearby ... 

Following this waterway all the way to the village .... 



The Hmong were decked out in their finest and were enjoying the festivities in the village ... 

Stalls selling food ... see the baby jicama on the ground! I'd never seen such small ones ever!

 Pretty Hmong maidens

Pretty girl in a pretty dress

 Part of the village ...

More pretty girls enjoying their noodles

We left the village after a short while and went kayaking down Nam Song River ... 

The kayaks

The river was shallow, and even if you didn't paddle, the current would bring you downstream. There were 4 guides ... and I asked for one as I didn't wish to paddle too hard - my right wrist wasn't completely healed from the sprain I suffered about a month ago ... 

There were bars lining the river ... so the idea was for one to paddle ... and then to stop for a drink before continuing downstream ... 


We stopped at the restaurant and bar near Tham None Cave ... ordered a drink an relax by the river ....  


Then we continued paddling downstream .... we got off past the bamboo bridge at downtown Vang Vieng and the songthaew took us back to our hotel. 

That night, we went to Lavone's house for dinner .... 

Downtown Vang Vieng by night 

 Dinner made by Vieng, Lavone's wife

I did quite enjoy dinner .... I finished one whole bag of khao niaw. I especially loved the mixed vegetables which was flavoured with black pepper. It was also customary to have a glass of lao lao here.

After dinner, we went shopping again. The ladies bought lots of dry bags ... because they were really very cheap here. Shopping done, we walked back to our hotel. Vang Vieng was lovely. We enjoyed it a lot. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Laos : Day 5 - Vientiane - Vang Vieng

Back in Vientiane, we walked to the Talat Sao morning market after breakfast.

Fresh banh mi

Clothing and bags section 

I bought a sweat jacket for LAK30,000 - that's only about RM15. The jacket, of course, was not of good quality - the sewing had flaws, and the fabric was not good. But at that kind of price, I should not expect much. BW and CC both bought the same jackets as mine, and the fabric produced lint where the jacket rubbed against their backpacks. So much so that they did not bother to bring back the jacket after the trip. Heh. My jacket somehow fared better than theirs. I brought mine home. 

Fresh produce 

More fresh produce on sale

Fruits 

There was a section selling kitchenware ... 

I bought a khao niaw basket to bring home ... and at this same stall, I bought Mom's favourite Thailand Kiwi 3-inch paring knives .. I bought 4 pairs at RM10.

Near the Talat Sao Morning Market were the malls - there were 2 malls here, one old and one new. We only went into the old one. There were stalls selling trinkets and jewellery and some odd items. 

Yummy 

We were glad that our tour leader had recovered today. She bought some deep-fried grasshoppers. I ate 2. They were crunchy and tasted like dried shrimps. Not bad, actually.  

We left for Vang Vieng at about 11.30 a.m.. Vang Vieng was about 3.5 hours North of Vientiane, and i was also the hometown of our local guide, Lavone.

Pretty Hmong girls in their costumes

It was the Hmong new year at that time, and typically, the Hmong celebrate the occasion for an entire week. We saw some celebrations going on along the way, and stopped to take some photographs with the girls. 

At a rest stop named Xaiyoh, we had our lunch.

Pork with rice, LAK15,000
I think that was the best meal I'd ordered thus far ... 

Avocado shake, LAK15,000

We reached Malany Hotel at Vang Vieng in the evening ... 

Our hotel room 
It was a spacious corner, and I was aghast to find out that there were huge glass window panes on 2 sides of the wall. It meant that I was going to be cold that night .... hmn. So I pushed the bed away from the glass panes as I possible could ....  

Vang Vieng was small and touristy. Our tour leader showed us around town .... 

Hot air balloon, seen from the streets of Vang Vien
I think they charged about USD90-95 for a 15-minute ride

The most beautiful part of Vang Vieng was the .... 

Nam Song River

So beautiful at dusk
The bamboo bridge was so narrow .... and at times, motorcycles were coming from both sides so pedestrians had to stay really still for the motorcycles to pass them by ... 

People came to Vang Vieng for water sports. So around town, we could see lots of shops selling dry bags and waterproof phone casings. I did buy a 10L dry bag for only LAK30,000 and a casing for LAK10,000. This town, particularly, attracted a lot of Korean tourists ... so all around town, there were Korean BBQ restaurants. Lining the roads were also many sandwich stalls ... hmn ... I didn't know what to eat. I did not want to have fried rice or noodle soup or sandwich or pancake as what my friends ate. So I skipped dinner again.

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