“They are poorer, they are nicer….” Luang Prabang, March 23rd, 2012

Some of you might wonder why I did this world trip. Some of you might remember that I asked myself this as well. Here is one of the answers………………….

I am a bit tired of the back packing (dust, busses, cold showers), I catch myself thinking in two weeks I will have a Starbucks (Manila, Singapore…..) again, in 2 months I have a car on nice German roads again. Watching the video I could start crying having to see Starbucks again, having to stop correctly on red light on these nice German roads again. The contradicting soul of a world traveller reaching the final stages of his trip I guess.

But now let’s talk about Laos. You never speak to anybody that says something negative about this country surrounded by famous Vietnam, history rich Cambodia, paradise Thailand, trouble maker Myanmar and big brother China. What does it have to offer, for sure not a beach. Its people, it has to offer its people. The “Welcome to Laos.” at the border is not said because he gets paid for, he said it because he meant it including a wonderful warm smile. “Here is your money….” the other did not say because he got caught, he said it because I lost it out of my pocket. Not for a moment he considered keeping it, even if it would have meant a double up of his weekly income. Laos confirms a sad relation all over the word. They are poorer people, they are nicer people.

My first daytrip in Lao’s south took me to Khong Island, one of the 4000 in the Mekong river as it enters Cambodia.

The second day trip from the city of Pakse I done on a rented motor bike to a place called “Wat Pho”, a temple city of the old Khmer empire. Surely not as big as Angkor Wat but marketed better it could definitely attract more tourists than it currently does. It’s beautiful, it’s impressive, it’s a bit hidden away allowing a journey along rice fields and through villages, in my case partly on dirt roads after it rained, oh well.

As I love motor bike trips I added another day for a loop around the “Bolerean Platau”, famous for its elevation changes and coffee fields.

It became a perfect Frank travel day. Here are the ingredients: A great pancake breakfast starts the day (and as always in the last 1,5 years I do not have to do the dishes because I am in a restaurant, smile). Hop on your 4 dollar a day Honda bike and start cruising. Follow roughly the map but detailed your instincts and find that school and that hidden waterfall.  No worry about beaten tracks, they are also nice, leading to traditional villages and things to learn. Back on the road take the left turn not advised and see the issues of poverty, lumbering in Laos. Fill up the tank in the middle of nowhere, get nervous as the dirt road does not seem to end. Then do make it back in time for dinner and even to squeeze in a traditional massage before heading for the night bus. Close the day by getting lucky. Not only is it the first bus ever sticking to its promise of real flat beds, also get a double bed for yourself and sleep tight for 8 solid hours. Change busses the following morning without a long layover and meet Jean, a fun German with who I will spend the coming days with in Luang Prabang, north Laos.

What makes Luang Prabang special is its old French influenced architecture which is mostly still in tact, well preserved or nicely rebuild. Combined with many temples and lots of monks it becomes a tourist hotspot. That again adds the coffee shops (with wifi of course), the restaurants and night markets full of handicrafts. But I do not mind, I am part of the system. Coffeeshops also have hot chocolate and a “NO” at the souvenir stalls is taken with a smile. So all the power to the purchasing tourists supporting the local and partly Chinese industry more than me.

Talking of monks, I like the way the sign is done and it fits the Laos culture, friendly and appreciative. The tourist monk I liked too. His I phone’s cover colour matches his clothes, wonderful.  But let me be nasty too. Supposedly monks collect their food in the morning and have to eat their one meal a day before 11am. Looking at this friendly fellow I wonder if………………………..

I really hope the sound of the following video gets across the atmosphere when passing by this temple, seeing the young monks cleaning and others playing the music. So put the volume up.

Another motor bike ride, another great day. This time not alone but with Jean adding fun, knowledge and interesting discussions on religion, politics, relationships and travelling. The actual sights where a bear park, fantastic waterfalls with swimming option and a cave which an elderly men opened for us again as we trekked up there too late in the afternoon.

The day closed at the night food market, eating local dishes of fish, chicken and vegetables. The poorer, the nicer, the cheaper, the tastier…………………..  .

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  • Stephen says:

    The first time I took a bus in Laos, I was so excited to see the double bed all to myself… until a stranger crawled up beside me to take the half he had bought a ticket for. Easily one of the most awkward bus rides of all my life.

    • frank4444 says:

      oh yes, I can imagine that. were you head feet or head head? that makes a difference too, smile.

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