The bus journey from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang was in some ways worse than the one from Siem Reap. In its favour it was at least half full, or half empty, so I had a double seat to myself, and the road wasn't too badly repaired. On the other hand it was a rickety old citybus and the road was a windy path up through the mountains, which the ancient pulleys and levers in the engine were only just about able to manage. It was cold up there too, and as usual the guy in front of me insisted on having the window wide open - in order not to freeze I had to dig my suit jacket and a couple of t-shirts out of my bag. LP is only about 60 miles from VV as the crow flies, but the journey took us all of seven hours.
It was still light when we arrived, and not hard at all to find a tuk-tuk to take me into the centre, where I found a room for about £2.50 and ditched my stuff to go out and check out the town. I didn't get to the centre of the action until I'd had some food and internet, and by then it was 11 and everything seemed to be closed or closing - Laos isn't anything if it isn't sleepy - but I once again managed to bump into the same guy I'd met on the border and in Vang Vieng. He was with a few other people all trying to work out what to do when everything was closed. A passing songthaew driver heard us and took us to a bowling alley on the outskirts, where I bowled a 66 game, then a 48.
The next day I woke up with the old travel fatigue disease. It's something to do with traveling for a couple of months - you just get to the point when you're just no longer in the mood to explore new places. The remedy was to get on a bike and cycle round, which in the end did the trick. At first I was going to see temples, which narrowed the disease down to 'temple fatigue' - some of them were very nice indeed, but after you've seen Angkor and the palace in Phnom Penh it takes a bit more to impress. Still, the photos came out well.
Eventually I found some stranger parts of town and went to investigate. The route I had to take was a little strange as the local authorities have decided for some reason to ban foreigners cycling on four of the main roads in the city, and involved going over this bridge a couple of times.
Looking back, the views from some of the places were unbeatable. Look closely at this picture and you might be able to see the figure of a man walking across the water.
After the sights I found my way to a signposted waterfall, past a kilometer of potholed clay. It turned out that it was better described as a small pool with a weir, so I turned round and came back. I'd seen the town and it was very nice indeed, but was still feeling a bit miserable and couldn't work out why at all. Before bedtime I booked myself in on a cheap tour to see if that would work - and it did.
The next morning I got up early-ish and headed off to the pier to catch the tourboat. It was a scrappy little vessel steered by a Laotian guy in a Calvin & Hobbes t-shirt and helped by his two daughters who were about 4 and 5 years old. After a nap we arrived at a 'Whiskey Village' - really a few houses with a still making tasty moonshine.
Half an hour of slowly motoring up the Mekong later we arrived at a cave full of Buddha statues.
After an hour there we set off back down the river, stopping briefly to return for the Israelis we'd left behind, then continuing until the motor blew up and left us stranded on a sandbank.
We were stuck on the bank while we waited for the driver to douse and fix the motor. It was a good chance to meet the other people on the boat. The Singaporean girl above was a little concerned as she had a flight to catch, but we weren't terribly late until the boat ran out of petrol a little further downriver and we had to drift to the nearest petrol station.
There wasn't time to stop for lunch, so instead we piled into a minibus to go and see a series of proper waterfalls with crystal-clear water coloured by the turquoise ground underneath.
It was so nice I even decided to give up being a miserabalist and go for a dip.
Passing the park bears and missing tiger we went back to the minibus to town, where I tagged along with some others to get some dinner and look at the night market, which I'd somehow missed the previous two days. I got a t-shirt and a catapult, hung around until 11 or so, then went off to have a few hours sleep before the early boat up the Mekong the next morning.
I was going to write about that too, but it's late now too and it reminds me that I really should go to bed too. So, next time.
All paid employments absorb and degrade the mind.
- Laos Part 2 - Luang Prabang