Laos has definitely surprised me and there’s me thinking i’d be spending just a week here to pass through to get back to Thailand but it’s an amazing country with lots to see and do. My journey continues south in Laos and the first stop is a town called Pakse and in all honesty it was a base for a couple of days but nothing exciting there. I booked a couple of nights but the first morning I woke up there was a powercut which isn’t uncommon in Laos so I decided there was no point staying there so I jumped on a tuk tuk with the locals and travelled 1 hour south to a town called Champasak. This place definitely had more character so thanking Universe for the intervention. I spent a few days here and it was a great place to sit staring at the Mekong river watching the monsoon thunder storms. I love the energy of rain and different here as it’s still warm compared to the UK but doesn’t last as long. While I was here I visited Wat Phu whch was an old Khmer Hindu temple with amazing views from the top. It was a great place to spend exploring the ruins for a few hours enjoy the peacefulness of the place and not crowded with tourists which was good.
It was now the last push to head right to the bottom of Laos where the 3500 km Mekong river ends in an area called Si Phan Don or 4000 islands and a great place to chill for a week or so. I stayed in a wonderful place called ‘Crazy Gecko’ and loved flopping on the hammock for long, lazy afternoons while watching local life on the island.
I cycled over to the neighbouring island of Don Khon and here right at the border with Cambodia you could find the irrawady dolphins. The sightings are not guaranteed and there’s only 10 left in the area so I hired a boat and it was amazing as we saw at least 5 circling the boat. I also visited the Phi Li waterfalls where they’re said to trap spirits of deceased people. I felt like Julia Roberts from the film ‘Eat Pray Love’ cycling around the island but didn’t get knocked off my bike by Felipe with the romance to follow….am living in hope!!
I’d loved my time relaxing on the island and definitely a great place to slow down for a while and recharge, reflect and refocus and such a bonus with the amazing sunsets. I loved this island as it wasn’t too touristy and local life went on as normal which was great to see.
It was a much needed rest on the island and now time for the journey back to the north with involved a sleeper bus which was actually a proper bed. The only snag is that the beds are tiny and the space for two people is one and a half single bed size so decided to pay for two beds instead of getting cosy with one of the locals!! I arrived in Vang Vieng for one night and then continued my journey to the World Heritage city of Luang Prabang.
Luang Prabang was such a wonderful city and such a great place to relax visiting temples and browsing around the night markets…..this is definitely a place I could live and think this is now my favourite place on my travels over the past few months. One of my favourite temples was Si Phou temple and even though a steep climb up it was worth it for the views and explore the Buddha statues and watching the monks going about their daily life.
One of the highlights of my stay in Luang Prabang was the ‘Tak Bak’ which is a daily ritual and giving of the alms. This tradition dates back to the 14t century where local people wake up early to prepare food for the monks. This ceremony which happens at dawn where there is a procession of monks who collect food and anything else you would like to offer. The aim of the alms giving is for the Buddhist monks to make merit for the day and also collect food for their one meal a day. You can offer them food such as sticky rice, cookies or fruit but out of respect you have to be lower than them by sitting on the low stools or kneeling on the mat. I bought some sticky rice and cookies to offer to the monks and nice to be part of the ceremony and it was certainly an experience i’ll never forget.
Here is a typical street view in the city with the low seats are placed for the offerings or mats to kneel on. It was an early start to be there for 5am but definitely worth it to get involved in one of the main religious activities in the city. It was so peaceful and spiritual and a great way to experience and ancient Lao tradition.
My month visa was about to expire so time to start to make my way to the border and I decided to take the slow boat which would take two days and this would be a perfect way for me to relax and watch the world go by. It’s definitely a slow boat but a great way to travel if you have time and people spent their days reading, sleeping and generally relaxing.
The trip took 2 days and we didn’t sleep on the boat and got off at night and stayed in a guest house and back on the boat early the next morning. We stayed in the village of Pak Beng the first night and the second night a place called Huay Xin on the Laos – Thailand border. On the third morning it was off to the border to do the official immigration to get stamped out of Laos and back into Thailand.
I’m now back in Thailand and will spend a few days in Chiang Mai before I head to Pai to start my workaway volunteer work at a holistic centre. I’m not sure what to expect but am looking forward to sharing my experiences with you. Have you ever done any volunteer work? Would love to share your experiences.
Lots of love,