Category Archives: Laos

Our Travels in Laos

We continue our stay in Laos and flew from Luang Prabang to the capital, Vientiane, where we stayed at the Dream House Hostel. It was a popular place with backpackers from all over the world, and we had a family room all for ourselves. We liked Vientiane’s French cafes but not as much as the ones in Luang Prabang. We also rented bicycles to tour around town which was pretty fun and easy.

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Beers in Vientiane

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Parisien Café

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Vientiane we took an overcrowded mini-bus (24 passengers to be precise!) to Vang Vieng and spent 5 days there. Vang Vieng was once a popular destination for the “rave” style backpackers sharing all kinds of drugs; the same species that attends the full moon parties in Thailand. While still crowded with young people, the rave has been replaced with outdoor activities like kayaking, tubing, zip line, trekking and mountain biking. We had an action packed week as we biked around town and visited caves. We also celebrated Sebastian’s 14th birthday in style – with a zip lining adventure followed by tubing inside a cave. The birthday celebration closed out with a tasty Mexican dinner as per honoree choice.

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Vang Vieng

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Sunset over Vang Vieng

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Our next destination was Southern Laos and the 4000 Islands (Si Phan Don). However, to get from Vang Vieng Point A to the islands Point B required a 28-hour journey that included 1 minibus, 1 tuk tuk, 1 overnight bus, 1 school type bus, and of course a long skinny boat. Phew! We made it to Don Det and stayed at the comfortable Little Eden Guest House which has the best sunsets on the Mekong River. Don Det is one of the 4000 Islands and the one that has the most restaurants and guest houses. We successfully found our favorite restaurant – Street View – that belongs to a nice Aussie and had 1/2 of our meals there. We also spent one day kayaking with a fun group of young travelers (our family included the oldest and youngest members of the kayaking group). It was a lot of paddling on the Mekong to reach the area, on the border with Cambodia, where we spotted the rare Mekong dolphins, the Irrawaddy dolphins. We also visited the impressive Khon Phapheng Falls, which as the kids said, it is a mini Niagara Falls and the largest falls in Southeast Asia.

We bid farewell to Laos after having spent 23 days visiting the country. It was certainly a great visit, from North to South.

Next stop – We are back to Bangkok for some urban and retail therapy, catch up on school and finalize our plans to India and Sri Lanka.

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Little Eden Guesthouse, at Don Det

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Khon Phapheng Falls

 

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The Mekong, 4000 Islands

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The 14-year-old boy

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This is how we travel

 

The Elephant Conservation Center, Laos

Thanks to my sister-in-law Sarah, who did a detailed research on the best place to learn more about elephants without harming them, we were fortunate to spend 2 days at the Elephant Conservation Center, in Sayaboury. We also wanted to make sure our funds were going to a place that cared deeply about Asian elephants and is involved in the conservation of these gentle giants. We could not have been happier with our stay at ECC.

The ride from Luang Prabang to the ECC was very bumpy and once we arrived in Sayaboury, a truck from the ECC picked us up. After that, we jumped on a boat to the Center. After a delicious home-made lunch, we started the tour of the facility to learn more about the Asian elephants. The staff was very professional and we can certainly feel their passion for elephants! The highlight of our afternoon was certainly the opportunity to ride the elephants, one by one. There were 4 female elephants and their mahouts (handlers). We learned about the commands that each elephant follows. It was super fun to ride them, their skin is a bit rough though! We got to give them some treats afterwards – sugar cane sticks. They all loved it!

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We also visited the Center’s elephant hospital with their Spaniard biologist, Annabelle, who was wonderful at providing valuable details about the work the center does all around Laos.

We left the ECC feeling great about the visit and with a new sense of protection, concern, and education towards the livelihood of Elephants.

Our last adventure in Laos with Sarah and Amanda was the upstream Mekong boat cruise from Luang Prabang to Houay Xai, on the boarder with Thailand. Our boat – Shompoo Cruise – was quite comfortable and with a good blend of passengers from several nationalities. We enjoyed the slow pace of the river and scenery and spent our days playing cards, reading and watching the world go by. We spent the night at Pakbeng which is half way between Luang Prabang and Houay Xai, and where we also had a farewall dinner for Sarah and Amanda, together with an early-birthday celebration for Sebastian. The following day, upon arriving in Houay Xai, the girls would cross to Thailand and we would jump into the overnight bus back to Luang Prabang. OK, that was the initial plan but as we arrived at the bus station, we learned that the 4 seats we had reserved had been already sold and we could either sit on the corridor (hellooooo, it’s an overnight trip of 10 hours people!!!) or travel the next day. Can you guess what we did? Yep, we stayed one night in Houay Xai to catch the bus.

Next stop – Vientiane, Laos

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The 3-month old baby elephant

 

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Elephant Conservation Center

 

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Shompoo Cruise at the Mekong

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View from our hotel in Pakbeng

 

 

 

Luang Prabang, Laos

Before I dive into our stay in LP, we just hit a major milestone in our travels: in exactly 3 months we are due to arrive back in Florida: June 15th. We had a nice dinner last night and discussed a few things we all need to improve in our family relationship to make the most of our last 3 months of travel. I think it was a very positive conversation and I am certain it will have a positive effect as we continue our adventure.

Luang Prabang, a UNESCO Heritage site, is much more than I expected in terms of beauty. This wonderful laid back town is quite unique, I can’t think of another place that I could even try to compare with. The pretty French colonial architecture has been well preserved as you can see from all the buildings in the old town. It has also a great night market that is much more tranquil than street markets that we have visited before in Southeast Asia. The town is boarded by the Mekong (the largest river in SE Asia) and Nam Kham rivers.

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Streets of Old Luang Prabang

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Old Luang Prabang

 

We had 3 separate stays in LP. The first 3 nights we stayed at the Mekong Sunset Hotel, a small guesthouse overlooking the Mekong. We walked around a lot, visited the main Wats, night market and cute shops. The best of all was certainly the authentic French bakeries. Sarah and I could not have enough croissants and baguettes. In fact, we returned to the same Le Banetton bakery, our favorite, twice in 3 days.  We left LP and went to the Elephant Conservation Center in Sayaboury (separate blog) for 2 days. Our second stay in LP was at the nice Sala Prabang, also overlooking the Mekong. We did a jewelry making class that the kids enjoyed and had our anniversary dinner at the French restaurant L’Elephant. We also woke up at dawn one morning to watch the procession of monks collecting alms. We took a tuk-tuk to the Kuang Si waterfalls and it was certainly worth the visit. Everyone (but me) went swimming at the refreshingly blue waters. Our third stay in LP was a bit shorter and only for one night. Yet, we managed to go back to our favorite bakery again and Louisa did a silk dyeing class. Luang Prabang is one of those places where you arrive and want to stay longer. 1 week is not even enough to see everything. Its a place to come, relax and appreciate the slow pace of life.

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Le Banetton bakery

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Monks at the Mekong

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Silk Dyeing class

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The student