Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Laos, the Mekong and back flips!

The engine roared the fumes made many people giggly and the mekong river splashed over the sides waking many a sleepy traveller. Yes you have guessed it, Ben is on the move again and this time he has crossed the border into the People's Democratic replublic of Laos.
After Chiang Mai and the treks we bussed up to the border town in a bus that looked like a shitty space machine and arrived at the most lax border crossing I have ever seen. Basically it was a man on a bench who stamped your passport with a wonderfully large stamp and then you went through the Siam Indochina gateway and crossed the mighty mekong river in a small boat. There we had an arrival stamp and low and behold we were in Laos.
Laos is so much more sleepy than Thailand, everyhting shiuts up at 12 and you are all ushered to bed when they call time!
But Laos as being a former French colony is very continental and therefore it was a joy to eat copius amounts of bread again after so long away from its doughy goodness!
The border town of Bokeo was a sleepy affair but as with the coincidences of travel I bumped into a few people whom I had already known from previous places in Thailand and also met some people whom I would be sharing the slow boat experience with down the river. So a large group of us bought a fair amount of Beer Lao and sat by the river avoiding mosquitos until the early hours.
That was Bokeo, the border town, the next morning we went on board the slow boat and son we were all steadily drinking, somehow we had managed to get an Anglo-Aussie group on the boat and we sat by the makeshift bar steadily drinkign as we rocked along past mountainous and green countryside, every now and then wyou would see some cows grazing, or a small child washing in the waters, and even rarer a boat would pass us all waving in glee! So our group all seemed to get along like a house on fire and that evening as we steamed into Pakbeng we all ended up in a few reatuarnts having a beer or two and watching the men with ak47's patrol the streets!!!!!
Pakbeng was one of the most sleepy villages/towns I have ever been to, very cold at night and in the morning, but it had a certain rugged charm to it. The funniest thing was that the electricity was only on from 6am to 8am and some Yank from the boat went mental. 'I want my money back man, I demand power man', bloody septics!!
The boat had many charecters onboard and our little group of 11 seemed to love taking the rise out of them. The screaming yank was called 'Michael Moore' because he looked a little like him and we posed for pictures with him. He also drank some of my scotch univited! Then came the pierce de resistance, Gary Glitters love child was on board. This man looked like a younger Gary and my goodness did we rib him, everytime he walked up to the bar/canteen/toilet we all shouted 'leader' at him. The fun didnt stop there, oh no. We also had an incredibly fat woman from Israel called Fanny. That in itself was pure comedy gold. But before we could take a breath from laughing an old Australian guy fell off the toilet while doing a number two and it went everywhere. This resulted in 'Freddy' our token Austrian shouted 'clean it up now' in his terminator accent at some woman!! Freddy left us as soon as the boat docked in Luanprabang, I think we had scared the living shit out of him with all our drinking. Our drinking was so heavy in fact that the slow boat had to dock twice to pick up more beer for us. A small child came running down the bank with a crate of beer and then it happened again, we stopped in the middle of nowhere and suddenly beer appeared like magic. Everytime we toasted the new beers we toasted using the Lao word for palace 'wang'!!!! Our boat certainly was a party boat, hey thats a good idea, I think I mayhave found a niece in the market. Mekong river party boats!!!!!!
Luanprabang is a UNESCO world heritage site and it has such a charm to it. There is even a continental quarter where you can parouse boutiques next to temples from yesteryear while monks roam the streets.
Our rowdy group fromt he boat managed to all get into the same hostel and even picked up some Irish lads along the way! So by now there was nine of us 3 Aussies and 6 Brits. So all settled in a new town we decided to go exploring. Then we discovered that our hostel was in the direct flight path of the local small propeller planed airport, so it shook like a shivering bear when one took off. Our first night in the world heritage site city. There we stumbled accorss a massive market that spanned the entire lenght of the continental area. It sold all sorts of local handicrafts and also some sinister looking drink. As it turned out it was Lao Lao, which is a sort of rice wine but it blows your socks off. But what made it look sinister was the fact that in the bottles were massive dead snakes or scorpions. Yes I did have a tipple and it blow my socks off, no more for me!!
Luanprabang has one true comedy element to it, the centre of town tehre is a small hill, which they call a mountain, but the name is where the comedy lies. It is called Phousi mountain, yes its is pronounced like that. So the shop fronts near it are called 'phousi massage', 'phousi bakery', 'phousi travel agenst'. Oh the giggles I let out!
The next day I decided to do a bit of exploring and climbed Phousi mountain to look at the buddhas, stupas and the temple on the top. There was also a cave where you could see the impritn of Buddhas foot, it looked like a nasty smear to me! There was the national museum too, but alas that was closed so I ended up in an art gallery instead. Soon our group had rendezvoused at the continental street bar and were planning our next adventure. This adventure was to after the bars had chucked us out at 12, to go bowling. Yes there was bowling and the Lao people are in love with it. I thought it would be a shitty little bowling alley woth children running and putting the pins back up, but when we all rocked up it was a brand new state of the art alley like the ones we have at home. So lets bowl!!!!!!
How we didnt get thrown pout was beyond me, we decided to play danger bowling and soon were sliding down the alley on our knees, not letting go of the ball and flying down the lane after it and bowling in our pants with them pulled up the crack of our arses!!! Yes we were very silly, but we laughed all the time and some Irish lads in the next lane thoyght we were the most amaizing spectacle they had ever seen.I even managed to bowl a ball into their lane by chucking it and bouncing the ball and the Iris lads didnt even notice.
Finally after two solid days of boozing we the following day had a detox. We went o the local waterfall where we seemed to bump into everyone we had met in Laos or on the boiat so far.
It was great fun and I jumped off the top of a waterfall into the freezing waters below and went on every rope swing available. But if I thought this waterfall woudl be good just wait til we get to Viang Viene!!!!!!
We bussed from Luanprabang to Viang viene, which is 5 hours away. But we took a state coach and therefore we were a slow lumbering bus that travelled the high hill top roads in true Italian job style. But as we were a large coach we were perfect bandit fodder. Yes you have guessed it we had an armed guard to pretect us froma possible Hmong tribesmen attack from the hills!!! Luckily for us we arrived unscathed and unhindered, but we did encounter a blocked road due to a landslide and all eyes were on the hills and I am sure the man with the machine gun clicked off the safety catch. Then we ran over a dog, before arriving at our destination.
Viang Vien is the Laos version of New Zealand Queenstown, it is hom,e to the Namsong river and the tubng that goes down it. But the Namsong had also some hidden treasures for you. So this massive group of ours that once again managed to get into the same hostel decided to partake in a bit of tubing. So off we went in a tractor innertube floating down the river, we had gone about 100 yards when we encountered the first bar.
Now let me explain about the bars, they are not really bars, they are bamboo platforms sticking out from the bank with a man and a long pole pulling you in for either beers, Magic mushroom concoctions or joints. But every bar offers free lao lao shost, so by the time we had reached the finish line we were well and truly off our faces! Almost all the bars also offer some sort of zipline or rope swing. I went on one such zipline and didnt let go so I did some spectacular backflip, and everyone cheered. But unfortunately Nick the Aussie couldnt catch me on my camera in time.
Some of the rope swings were at leats 40 foot high and we all duly went off them, one of them when I let go luckily I bent my legs as it hit the floor!!!!!!! We joked that the health and safety executive would close down the whole of south east asia if they ever visited!
It wasa great day bobbing down in a tube with a beer in one hand and waving at bars to pull you in with the other. What a great idea it was and I am so glad that we all did it. Even though I slashed my hand open on a bottle and lost my sunglasses!!
In the evening we stumbled accross the worlds strangest bar,. we had to go accross the most rickety bridge ever to get there and of course I jumped up and down making some Swedish girls scream and hate me forever. We got to the bar and it was playing Irish folk music, but we still drank a few buskets and enjoyed the bombfire!
Everyone has gone on to the capital Vietiene now. I will join them tomorropw as I am waiting for my VISA to be processed and wont be done til this evening. VISA i hear you say, what for where are you off to now.
Well my dear readers I am flying from the capital to Hanoi in Vietnam, yes indeedy I am flying Vietnam, airways to the capital of the socialist republic of Vietnam. I am only there foe a week but I cant wait to go and see the night club called Apocalypse now!!!!!!
Then after that I fly back to Vietiene and then weill train it down to Bangkok to fly to Australia, then once in Oz I am off to new Zealand. So lots of travel foe me!!!!!So last night before everyone buggered off to await my arrival in the capital we went to a bar that did drinking Bingo. We cheated twice to win buckets of whickey!!!! we covered up the numbers and spilt a little beer on them so no one could check if they were right or wrong, so we won, twice!!!!!
Righto, Now I have to go and change some Baht into the almost useless kip!!!!!!! A wad of kip await me!
Next time I will be in Vietnam.
Til we meet again, have fun and remember to wash behind your ears!


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