My time in Laos was fleeting and a mixed bag of laughter, lush people, loneliness and bad luck.
Flying into Luang Prabang potentially ruined the rest of Laos for me; I loved it. There was culture, there were other travellers, I could party by night and explore by day, it was SO CLEAN (a rare and appreciated treat after trawling the litter filled streets of Cambodia and Vietnam for the preceding three months) and the residents were fluent in the universal language of the smile. I was a full time tourist there.
I ate the fresh croissants from the French bakery, I climbed Pousay mountain and went to an evening of traditional Laos fairytales and folk music. I swam in a real blue lagoon, attended an outdoor screening of a 1927 film about Laos and did morning yoga by the Mekong river. I rose early to witness Tak Bat; the alms giving ceremony, and went to bed late after drinks in the famous Utopia and midnight bowling with an old college friend I randomly bumped into in my hostel.
In Vang Vieng I was reunited with some beauties I met in Vietnam as well as getting acquainted with a whole new A Team. We went caving, tubing and a too much drinking; watching friends in restaurants by day and drinking the free whisky provided to us by our hostel by night. Ridiculous fun and even more ridiculous shenanigans.
Then I decided to go South. And that’s where everything else went south too.
First stop, Thakhaek. I wanted to find someone to do the legendary loop with. I did not. The journey to the cave was horrific.
Savannakhet has a dinosaur museum so that was worth visiting but again, maybe not worth it for the journey. I also didn’t meet anyone. I hadn’t made a friend since leaving my A Team in Vang Vieng and I was feeling blue. They had split up and four went North, two to Vietnam and two to Bangkok. I was starting to regret my decision to move down the country.
“Move on then!” My friend from home said as I spoke to her about my situation. But the problem with that for me is, I get a little OCD with my hitspots. I have a list of places I want to see and if I don’t tick them off, I live in fear of regret and missing out. So I force myself to move from one place I’m not enjoying to the next, despite my obvious unease at the situation and the fact that I could have stayed with friends. I’ve said multiple times myself that the people make a place. I don’t know why I don’t listen.
Laos transport, as you can also see from my previous post, is unimaginably bad and just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does. My journey to Pakse was not supposed to end there. I was to change buses, go on to Champasak and spend a day exploring the Khmer ruins there. After a 6 hour journey that became 8 on an air con bus that’s air con was broken (and no windows) I was done. This was honestly the worst bus journey I have ever been on. Hot does not even come close to capturing the temperature on that tin can. There were so many people on the bus that they were even sitting in the aisles. Every time we stopped to pick people up (and and if you’ve ever travelled on a local bus in Asia you will know this happens every five or ten minutes, literally) a whole gaggle of women waving cooked chickens in my face would get on in an attempt to sell them. So many people were pouring on the bus that we couldn’t even get off to pee. Not that I needed to. I was losing water from by body faster than I could get it in and I honestly nearly passed out from dehydration multiple times. Just to add to the ambience, they also had their music on so loud I couldn’t hear my own over it. I was listening to Machine Head. FULL BLAST. I still couldn’t hear it. I was done. Champasak would be no Angkor Wat. I made the decision to stop in Pakse and go straight down to Don Det the next day. Hammocks and kayaks and riverside views.
The journey was only 3 hours for once and simply on an air con bus followed by a long tail boat. Perfect.
I met a girl in a bar whilst watching Family Guy (because sometimes all you need is something familiar that reminds you of home) on my first afternoon there so we went out for dinner that night. She was heading for Siem Reap the next day so I filled her head with recommendations on what to do and where to stay and informed her that she must say “Hi” to my friend Charlie Browne (a conversation I’ve regretted ever since as they now send me jealousy inducing pictures of themselves together every other day and I so want to return (July, July, July!))
The next day I bumped into my old friend from college again and so spent the day with him and his friends riding a bike (VICTORY!), visiting waterfalls and drinking whisky by an unnecessary campfire.
After three days I felt I had exhausted Don Det of its limited activities and it was time to move on. I booked my journey to Bangkok (21 hours, kill me now) and prepared to leave Laos and my Laosy luck behind.
In Laos I was ripped off for a pair of earrings I later lost one of, lost my playing cards in Vang Vieng along with my dignity and met no-one on the road whilst missing my number ones. We lost a friend at a jungle party and had a run in with a man and his unnecessary AK47. I discovered changes in two of my moles (I’m fine), had the shits whilst staying in a hostel with only a squat toilet and had my flip flops stolen*. Got prickly heat on Don Det and nearly died of heat on a bus between stopovers. I also arrived in Bangkok to find that I had used a dodgy ATM in Pakse and someone had rinsed me of $250.
I’m not sure that I can say altogether I was a fan of Laos and it seems, Laos was not a fan of me either! But I did make some amazing new friends there and life is not always a dream when travelling. I left Laos behind two days ago and so far, it seems my run of bad luck stayed behind with it.
Round three in Bangkok and this time, I’m all about it! Cinema trips, cider excursions, connect4, shopping, buckets, sky bars and 2am skinny dipping. And I’ve only been here two days. Ah Thailand, I’ve missed you, you beauty.
*A fact I was more angry about than necessary given that they are only flip flops due to the fact that this happened to me 10 years ago on Koh phangan so I am always super careful when taking them off and bring them inside with me. My friends all laugh and say I’m super paranoid so the ONE TIME I leave them outside and trust it won’t happen, they get half inched. Livid.