After a short bus ride and a un-eventful border crossing, we found ourselves in Lao PDR (aka please don’t rush) which seemed fitting given we were about to undertake the “slow boat” trip to Luang Prabang.
There are two options for the 2 day slow boat... one being the cheap, rickety old boat that jam pack more than 100+ people in like a mass bus trip or the other one that take no more than 40 people, with tables and chairs, lunch provided, a couple of sightseeing stops along the way and accommodation in a hotel at the end of day one. This was one of those times we waived the “taking a bit of luxury” card! Glad we did. We only had 10 of us on the boat, so we had plenty of room to move about, change seats, take a nap on one of the 6 day beds and there was plenty of food. The trip down the mighty Mekong was peaceful. It was pretty amazing to think one side of you is Thailand and one side is Laos. It was a trip I’m glad we did. We stopped at a couple of villages along the way. The first we all felt a little bit intrusive as they stood there staring at us whilst our guide explained the way of life. I kept telling myself though this was a way of getting money into their village as all visitors generally made some sort of donation. This village didn’t have electricity and was currently installing water piping through the village.
I had heard so much about Luang Prabang and yes, it is as nice as people say. I was a little disappointed though as I found the town to be just guest houses, restaurants... and many wats. It is purely a tourist town. Although now heritage listed, which what gives it its charm. Lovely wooden shop houses line the main street giving it the charisma it is known for.
Anyone visiting Luang Prabang, then a visit to Utopia is a must. This is a bar / restaurant that is super cool. It opens all day. You can visit for breakfast and partake in a sunrise yoga session (yup... that didn’t happen!). Or lazy lunch and afternoon beers (which we did) or join the party sessions at night. Whilst there we saw a list of things to do and see and one of them was a visit to the UXO information centre.
Laos is the most the most heavily bombed country in history, and it wasn’t even ‘officially’ involved in the Vietnam war. It happened to have the best access route between North and South Vietnam so the righteous westerners ‘saving the world from communism’ bombed the crap out of it. Because Laos was not part of the ‘war’ there were no rules on what or where bombs could be dropped so everything was a target including villages and anywhere there was a road route.
President Kennedy is filmed, out rightly denying any American involvement in the bombing of Lao, yet in the next clip they film the briefing of the bombers before they take off, then say their prays asking God to look after them and bring their men back safely!! WTF!!??? How about the hundreds of thousands of innocent people your about to kill? What hypocrites. (Sorry I will get off my soap box now).
However the numbers are staggering:
*7 bombs for every man women and child who lived in Laos
We had planned on undertaking a three day trekking, biking and kayaking trip. With the continuous burning and smoke we really were undecided what to do. It was a hard decision and toyed back and forth every day but in the end we opted out. Firstly not sure what part of the forest was being burned, but the smoke was impossible for photos and the smoke was making it hard to breathe. We decided that northern Vietnam would be better!
With heavy heart we left the lovely Laos to make our onward journey to Vietnam.