12/09/2006 - 12/14/2006
Laos is absolutely BEAUTIFUL!! It is much more similar to Cambodia than Vietnam. I spent Saturday exploring the capital, Vientiane, which is a small but cute city (if you can call it that). It reminded me a lot of Cambodia- except with a lot less motos and these weird things called jumbos, which look a bit like tuk tuks but have the front part of a moto built in...hard to explain! I had a long walk around town to see most of the sights including several really beautiful Wats. I also went to see the national monument of Laos, Pha That Luang, which is the symbol of the Buddhist religion in Laos. It is a giant stupa, covered in gold, which, on a clear sunny day like the day I was there, look very impressive!
On Sunday, I took a bus to Veng Vieng, a small town north of Vientiane, about 1/3 of the way to Luang Prabang. This was arguably one of the most beautiful places I've been in my travels. The town runs along a river and is surrounded by giant limestone karsts (like a mountain). I rented a bike and rode across the river and through dried up rice field to the base of one of the karsts and then hiked up to a couple caves that weren't too hard to reach. The caves were really cool- and there was an amazing view from up there! I would've liked to stay longer and do some trekking, etc... but I had to move on to Luang Prabang the next day, which is where I a now!
The bus ride from Vang Vieng was the most amazing bus ride I've ever taken. It goes way up into the mountains along a narrow road and around very sharp corners! It was a bit unnerving to come around a sharp corner with a sheer drop on one side, but on the other hand, the view was absolutely amazing the whole time! We drove by small villages that reminded me a lot of the Cambodian countryside (except with mountains!)
Luang Prabang, a designated UNESCO world heritage site (as they won't soon let you forget!), deserves its reputation. It has a very prevalent French influence -so much that, walking down some of the side streets to the river, you feel as if you could really be in France! -then you pass a Wat or a monk! As I sit here writing this, I can here the heavy drum beat from the Wat across the street, where a group of monks are calling for prayer.
Yesterday, I climbed up the slopes of Phu Si the temples at the top and the ancient footprint of the Buddha (and not to mention the stunning view of the city from the top).
Today, after spending most of the day walking all over town, I went out of town to a huge waterfall, which was really cool (literally). All in all, Laos has been amazing- but I have to admit, that might be in part because it reminds me a bit of Cambodia! Tomorrow I've got most of the day to explore Luang Prabang some more before I head off to Bangkok (my final stop!!)