Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Slow down, it's Laos

I'm very glad of my choice to move on to Laos, I arrived in Savannakhet on Sunday evening after a fairly long bus ride from Hue in Vietnam. As soon as we passed the Vietnamese border, the sky started clearing, the temperature rising, and the roads cleared as well - there are just much fewer people in Laos.

I loved it straight away. I got to a nice guesthouse recommended in the guide, joined by Tatsuro, a cool Japanese guy at the beginning of a 2 year round the world trip. The guesthouse is pretty close to the Mekong so we just had time to drop our bags and go enjoy the sunset with a BeerLao with the locals at one the food & drink stalls set up there in the evenings. Funny to think I had just crossed the whole width of both Vietnam and Laos in a day to find myself right across the river from Thailand.

I like Savannakhet, there isn't really much to do but I guess that's just what I wanted after being on the move all the time since I left Kunming. Yesterday was full sun and over 35 degrees - perfect to just walk around in the sun and have a nap in the afternoon, followed by beer & sunset time.

I rented a motorbike today to go out for a wander in the countryside, saw the closeby Budddhist stupa of That Ing Hang which apparently is an important pilgrimage site in February when thousands of people visit. I also went to a few villages out on dirt tracks, as well as a couple of lakes, there to irrigate the rice paddies in the dry season such as now. Lovely weather, a few clouds showed up so it was hot buy I didn't get burned in the sun.

Considering I can't drive (don't have my license) and hadn't been on a scooter in about 15 years this was pretty adventurous for me and glad I did it. That said, going on a loop biking for several days on dirt tracks feels slightly out of reach just now - I'll probably need some more practice. Next time I think I might just go back to normal cycling, it's easier to enjoy the scenery like that as well.

I rounded the day off with a traditional Lao massage. Lots of stretching and pressure points - good stuff. I'm now back at the iLounge Cafe for a drink and dinner. Good company, cold drinks, good Thai & Lao food and free wifi!

Tomorrow I'll be moving South to Pakse, then on to Champasak to see the Pre-Angkorian ruins of Wat Phou. After that I'll be heading to Si Phan Don, or 4,000 Islands, where the Mekong stretches out to a width of about 14km before Cambodia.

Not sure I'll get a lot of Internet access down there, most places don't have electricity apparently. A few days on a hammock watching the Mekong flow by sounds great though!