Here the two Basque girls posting, Itziar and Ainhoa, glad to take part in such a blog!
Let’s start talking about when we met in that infernal 28 hour bustrip, supposedly the best way to get from Sapa to Luang Prabang (Laos). To sum up, we will say there was a lot of nonsense stops in the middle of the jungle, the monzoon above us, rockfalls, lots of biscuits, endless curves, rice fields, incredible views, a sudden change of bus in the middle of nowhere, thermometer shots in the border, deliveries on every little village we passed through, disgusting meals (suspiciously doggy) and an annoying Argentinian couple who did nothing but complain about EVERYTHING they could. But luckily for us, the Catalan trio made the trip surprisingly easy to handle. After all, we dare to say that 28 hours in a bus is not such a big deal anymore, and now we know that a journey to Barcelona is just around the corner.
At 11pm we arrived to Luang Prabang and not even talking about that, we already knew we were going to spend the following days together. So we head to Khammanny Inn, where the boys had previously booked a room. After sharing the Laobeers we deserved, the problem came when there was no more place left for the two of us; but as the gentlemen they have shown us they can be, the guys offered one of the three beds they had.
And the real Lao experience started next morning when we woke up in that fantastic hostel, which was ruled by the most friendly, competent and helpful girl we would find during the trip. In Khammany Inn the rooms were always clean and the breakfast was included; they had the most cozy atmosphere you can imagine, not to mention the movie room and their terrace where we shared endless conversations. It was in one of those, when we found out we were five young “separatists” ready to discover the secrets SE Asia was keeping for us.
Luang Prabang is much more than the second city in Laos, something very surprising taking into account it is literally lost in the middle of the jungle, just hemmed in by the Mekong and Khan rivers. If we must describe Luang Prabang with one single word, it would be peacefulness. From the very first moment we fell in love with its French colonial influenced streets, where time seemed to stand still, something that has probably a lot to do with the Lao way of living. It’s hard to think of any other people as laid-back as the Lao, you can always count on a “sabaidee” (the Lao “hello”) and a smile, and unlike in Vietnam, you can leave home without the fear of being victim of the annoying street-sellers.
We spent our first day knowing the surroundings with the bikes we had rented; seeing some buddhist wats (temples) and enjoying local shockingly cheap BBQ brochettes. But the anecdote of the day came when after almost keeling over climbing a hill with the bikes, we ended up meeting a young monk novice who took us where he lived. The boy’s tranquility was so contagious we even started to talk lower and walk slower. But everything went back to normal when he suddenly brought out his smartphone and asked for our Facebook names.
The following day we hired three motorbikes and together with Andy and Laura, an awesome Australian couple we met in the infernal bus, we got to know different attractions our Bible (a.k.a. the Lonely Planet) recommended; Kuang Si Waterfalls for example. These beautiful multi-level cascade pools with sky-blue waters are a must, and from its top, where you have outstanding views of the jungle (and a free feet peeling by little fishes), you kind of feel you are visiting part of the paradise. However, we must mention “THE MOBILE PHONE INCIDENT”, which we still can’t exactly explain how happened. While taking pictures with Marc’s waterproof phone, we realized it was suddenly missing. But luckily, and after twenty minutes of tension and diving into those freezing and opac waters, Marc himself found it when no one was giving a penny anymore for the cause. So the day finally was perfect. Moreover after the little football match the boys improvised with the kids of the village when we left the waterfalls; and the sunset we saw from athe terrace of an abandoned restaurant we found at the bank of the Mekong in our way back to the city.
Next morning we decided to wake up early for a change, and go to visit Pak Ou Caves. But to be true, the caves are not much more than a lot of Buddha images of different sizes and what we enjoyed most was the short boat trip we needed to take to get there. That evening, as the lazybones we finally admitted we were, we did absolutely nothing but chill in the pools of something that looked like an old hotel and visit the night market. This was already our third day in Luang Prabang, neither of us had stayed so long anywhere before but it was easy to get trapped once we learned to go with the Lao national motto, “no problem”. So one more time our particular Bible was right, we were “forced” to adjust our timetables and stay a bit longer than we had planned.
10th of July was a great day; Albert turned 24 – but this we weren’t supposed to tell – and we went to ride elephants! After a quick guided visit to a handicraft little village next to the elephant camp, where we got to see how they make rice wine and whisky; the Mahouts (the elephant carers) introduced us to the huge animals (they really are), and seated on their backs, took us on a ride through the jungle. But the best part of the day came when after feeding the elephants, we had the chance to have a bath and play with them in the Mekong! :O The day was just being perfect and the thing is that we didn’t even realized what we were doing until we saw the pictures; this is for sure an experience we will all hardly forget.
Away from ending the day, we still had the night to celebrate Albert’s birthday. So we went to have a cook-it-yourself Lao hotpot-barbecue for dinner; and for dessert, we surprised him singing “moltes felicitats” with a shiny-blue-veryAsian-meringueish birthday cake we ordered at the restaurant and a little wooden elephant. We hope he enjoyed as much as we did.
Previously that night and after a couple of days of meditation, the boys had finally made up their mind and decided to change their original route to postpone Thailand and come south with us. It was obviously because it suited them better, but also because, I guess, we were all enjoying spending time together. We had a very similar way to travel (despite the Catalans used to take longer, much longer, than us to get ready…), and it was spontaneous; we even had the same eating routine, which basically consisted in having one big meal per day and eating a lot of Oreo biscuits the rest of the time.
As said, this was our last day in Luang Prabang, but we still had something left to do; say goodbye to the city. And we couldn’t find a better way to do it than sneaking into Phu Si, a 100m hill in the centre of the old city where there is a stupa and amazing 360° views of the surroundings, and share a bottle of rice wine we bought that morning.
And that is all, early next morning we headed to the station, ready for another never-ending bustrip adventure.
(Sorry for the LONG post, but we were told to post about five days we spent together and Luang Prabang can go on forever!)