Friday, June 30, 2017

Heading to Cambodia and Exploring the Temple Ruins at Angkor

June 30, 2017
Siem Reap, Cambodia

Angkor Wat at sunrise

Our first pedestrian border crossing of the trip! Sure, there were vans on the Laos and Cambodian side dropping us off and picking us up, but it felt like much more of a transition than arriving at an airport.

After the longboat from Don Khone and a half-hour van ride to the border, we got to walk a couple hundred yards down an empty road to the immigration building on the Cambodian side. Karen and Janet, the friendly Australian ladies we met on our boat ride to Don Khone a few days ago, were on the same van, also heading to Siem Reap. Karen has been living in Cambodia the past couple of years working at various children’s charity organizations, so could teach us a few basic salutatory phrases in Khmer.

Friday, June 23, 2017

4,000 Islands

June 23, 2017
Don Khone, Laos (4,000 Islands)

An early start (for us anyway), checking out of the Hotel Athena in Pakse, followed by a few hours on a bumpy bus. The goal was to get to Don Khone, an island in the Mekong River near the Cambodian border, before the forecasted rain started. We had one pit stop on the way, where other buses were stopped as well to partake in some corn on the cob, a skewer of fried crickets, or some mystery meat on a stick. 

Fried crickets, anyone?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Exploring Southern Laos – Pakse and the Bolevan Plateau

June 22, 2017
Pakse, Laos

Caroline, standing on the viewing platform and getting soaked in the mist from the raging Tad Yuang waterfall in southern Laos
First thing in the morning, we got a ride in a luxury sedan to the Vientiane airport. That was thanks to the Ansara Hotel insisting it would be the only way to ensure we’d get a ride at such an early hour. It surely wasn’t. But it cost us almost as much as our flight to Pakse! Okay, not really – it was $20, which has come to seem like a king’s ransom – compared to our $100 per person flight. At least the hotel did give us each a huge to-go breakfast, even though our departure before the official start of breakfast time.

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Capital Time in Vientiane

June 19, 2017
Vientiane, Laos

One of the lovely sunsets on the Mekong, just across the river from Thailand
With only 760,000 people, the capital of Laos is hardly a Bangkok or Yangon, and has a small town feel for being the biggest city in the country. Besides being the biggest, the selection of Vientiane is less obvious of a tourist destination than anywhere else we have visited thus far. Not renowned for its sights or architecture, nor famous for its cuisine, we didn’t arrive with a laundry list of must-sees & -dos.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Lovely, Livable Luang Prabang, I Love You!

June 13, 2017
Luang Prabang, Laos

The UNESCO lotus pond at Maison Dalabua
After a couple of weeks back in Chiang Mai enjoying the relative comforts of our Nimman area condo with full kitchen and pool, we were getting restless; we were ready to move on beyond Thailand and start exploring Laos.  Our (ok, my – Scott’s) original plan had us taking the two-day slow boat from Huay Xai down the Mekong to Luang Prabang, after an overnight (or two) at the Gibbon Experience eco-tourism tree houses.  Caroline was not so keen on the tree house lodging scenario, which included hiking and zip-lining in with your stuff to a barebones, electricity-free, toilet-paper-free accommodation (you can bring your own but you must pack it out at the end of your stay), so I was going to do a quick one-nighter and meet her back in Huay Xai for the boat.

Monday, June 5, 2017

A Heartbreaking Legacy of War: Visiting the UXO Lao Vistors Centre

June 5, 2017
Luang Prabang, Laos

Examples of UXO being recovered in Laos in an effort to make Lao PDR a safe and economically viable nation
Today we visited the UXO Lao Visitors Centre here in Luang Prabang.  This modest, little museum sits on a quiet, back street not far from our hotel, but in the opposite direction from the main drag, so it’s definitely off the tourist track.  Although it is the type of sight that seems right up Lonely Planet’s alley, there is no mention that I could find of it in our guidebook.  (I did, however, find mention of it on when I Googled it, after the fact, when writing this post).  I discovered it because it was listed as an attraction on the small map our hotel gave to us.  As it turns out, it was well worth a visit.