Land Of A Million Elephants

Vietnam had been fantastic and now it was time to prepare for my 22 bus journey to Laos but at least it was a sleeper bus so hopefully will arrive feeling rested. I left Hanoi in Vietnam at 5pm and we got taken in a mini bus to meet the sleeper bus. The bus was a recliner seat but nevertheless very comfortable and i’d stocked up on snacks incase it was a sleepless night. The bus stopped a couple of times for food and toilet breaks but otherwise I stayed asleep until we arrived at the border at 6am. The first stage was to get stamped out of Vietnam but the border didn’t open until 7am so the queues of vehicles and people was starting to build up. It was a simple process to get stamped out of Vietnam and then a 10 min walk and we arrived at the Laos border. It was a straight forward process to fill out the forms and pay the visa fee and it was funny how they charged an extra $2 as it was the weekend for overtime!!

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Views of the Laos countryside 🙂

Once everyone had their visas sorted we made our way to Vientiane, the capital of Laos and arrived 8 hours later around 4pm. I spent a few days in the city even though it felt more like a town as it was so small. It was filled with French bakeries and trees lined with frangipani tress with monks wandering around the streets. Laos is known as ‘the land of the million elephants’ as the elephant symbolizes the ancient kingdom of Lan Xang and is sacred to the Lao people, who believe it will bring prosperity to their country.  I visited some temples here but one of the best afternoons I had was at a Laotian spa and it was amazing and very rustic with no frills but a proper local experience. I  knew it was near one of the temples and almost missed the sign and I was definitely in need of some pampering.

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My pampering day ‘Lao’ style 🙂

I arrived and met an old Laotian woman who gave me a strapless robe to wear and then pointed for me to go into the sauna which was full of steam from lime, basil, lemongrass and eucalyptus leaves so smelt wonderful. Once I tolerated as much heat as I could I cooled down in the garden and got some salt scrub to rub in my skin and amazing how non-verbal communication can connect you despite the language barrier. It was back into the sauna to sweat some more and then a bucket of cold water thrown over me as a shower! Bit unexpected but nevertheless very refreshing and invigorating.

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Relaxing in the spa garden 🙂

The afternoon was finished with a nice Lao massage which is very similar to a Thai one so my skin was lovely and soft and I felt so relaxed. It was time to travel south and my next stop was Konglor cave which was an 8 hour bus journey. We got to 25 km before the cave when we were hit by monsoon floods and the bus couldn’t go any further ! I had a vision of us sleeping on the bus for the night but suddenly a boat arrived to rescue us and it was also a way for the locals to make a bit of extra money.

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Looking good in my rain poncho 🙂

I got to within a couple of kilometres of my riverside bungalow that i’d booked and had to walk the rest of the way, mostly in knee-high water !! The staff at the resort were very surprised when I turned up and admired my determination!! It was definitely worth the adventure to get to this place with my bungalow on the river with a view of the limestone krasts.

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View from my riverside bungalow 🙂

Once the water levels had gone down I was able to visit the cave by boat wich was around  8km in length and has a river running through it. I hired a little boat with a driver and even though the  cave was full of water I was able to get off and walk part of the way. It was amazing with the stalactites and stalagmites and the different shapes and colours of the rocks.

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Entrance to the cave 🙂

I’d loved my time chilling on the river and I definitely prefer the countryside to the busier towns and cities. Join me next time to hear about my adventures heading south to Si Phan Don or also known as the 4000 islands where the 3500 km Mekong river ends. I thought Laos would be somewhere i’d pass through to get to Thailand but it’s amazing and less touristy than the other countries I visited. Have you been to Laos? Would love to hear your experiences.

Bye for now,

Mei xx

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