Days 136/137, Saturday/Sunday 19/20 May 2012, Vientiane

I had a wee sleep in this morning, by my standards anyway and wasn’t up till 8.00. it is pouring down outside which is just perfect as it means I can have a good session of lying down, reading and catching up on emails etc. I was planning on spending the whole day doing nothing except organising the remaining two weeks in SE Asia, but the internet died soon after breakfast – and didn’t get going until late afternoon, bugger.

The rain stopped around mid-day and I ventured out for a stroll under what started out to be cloudy skies, it was quite humid and once the clouds cleared after a couple of hours got quite hot as well. Foolishly I brought neither sunglasses nor sun screen and regretted both of them ,especially the glasses, as the sun got brighter and brighter.

Vientiane has quite an historical relationship with France, the street names, use Rue and Avenue and the main thoroughfares are wide open and shady.


Vientiane even has its own Arc De Triumphe replica – Patuxai and was built in 1969.





From there I walked up to Pha That Luangis, a large golden stuppa and the most important monument in Laos.




The site was started in the 1500’s and there were four wat surrounding it, of which only two remain.


I loved these small family plots inside one of the wats.



There must be two lonely people.


One of the great things in Vientiane, and soe rare in SE Asisa, so many places – including one of the parks are smoke free.


I walked back to the GH and after a wee cool down then went to a local hair dresser for a light trim – I was not filed with confidence, so didn’t get a full haircut or let her loose on my face with a razor. So I went back to the GH and attacked my facial hair with a razor myself. It took 45 minutes !

It was getting close to sundown so I went for a walk along the bank of Mekong, long with hundreds of the local people and not a small number of tourists. I found a perfect spot to capture some of the people passing by on their bicycles. And again, unusual for SE Asia – motorbikes were banned along this strip – so nice !





I had dinner on my own in a local cafe and then went back to my room and watched another episode of Sherlock – it is great. It was a very noisy night in town tonight, mainly tourists drunkenly yelling on the street. I didn’t get a huge amount of sleep.

Sunday morning was as slow a start as yesterday. Today the internet was going and I resolved to stay in my room and complete my plan for the next two weeks. With guide book, laptop and smart phone often all being used at once, I spent almost eight frustrating hours trying to come up with a workable plan. At every turn I was frustrated with time tables that did not get me to where I wanted to be when I wanted to be there, so decided to give up on road/rail transport for some legs and fly -which meant then trying to find combinations of airports that worked…. grrrrrrr !

But I finally got there. It was not the plan I started with, I am not going to any more historical sites, just two weeks of beeches and diving, with two overnight train rides to get to my first location – Koh Tao on Thailand’s east coast. Now the planning is done I believe I have made the right choice. Two weeks of mainly relaxation, with some diving – and some healthy living thrown in, should get me ready for my trip to England.

I ran into David and Debbie in the GH reception and they invited me along with them to go bowling, what an awesome idea. And a whole load of fun !!




and Debbie.


Bowling shoes – the person who invented them must have had a sense of humour. I mean what self respecting person wears green and gold ?


You have to love that poise, so graceful 🙂


And I did kick some ass – it was my lucky night – two strikes !


This was followed with a very nice Indian meal at a local restaurant and, for me, one more episode of Sherlock in bed.

It was with a sense of relief I closed my eyes – the remainder of my time in SE Asia is all planned and accommodation in most places is booked. All I need to do is turn up.

I have updated “the plan” page with the new plan.

12 hours on a bus, well – make that one and a bit buses

Day 135, Friday 18 May 2012, Savannakhet to Vientiane

Frustratingly I was still awake at midnight so I popped half a pill in the end so I could some sleep. The room was too warm to sleep with the fan off and too noisy with the fan on. I was awake at five and spent the next hour pondering on whether to go direct to Vientiane, which was my intention yesterday or go to Tha Kaek – which was the plan the day before. I want to go to Kock Lo cave which is about half way between both places, and it sounded like a hassle getting from Kock Lo to Vientiane so I will go to Vietiane and hope they have day tours there – which will be fine by me.

With that in mind I was up at 6.00, on a tuk tuk to the bus station by 6.30, and the bus to Vientane by 6.45. Sadly the bus made it about 100 metres out of the bus station before breaking down ! it is now over half an hour later and I am typing this as we wait. The bus has four human passengers and a seemingly endless supply of mosquitoes.


The King of Bus never moved another inch !


Though not through lack of effort from the man in the hole.


And now it is the following day….

After an hour of waiting we were bundled onto another bus which was not quite the standard of the one we left – but at least it was moving. It was pretty much the same as the one I was on yesterday – with a wee bit less leg room and a whole load more passengers, though for the first four hours to Tha Kaek I did have both seats to myself.

We stopped for a break at Tha Kaek and I grabbed a wee, a snack and some water and jumped back on the bus to ensure my window seat for the long leg to Vientiane. As I was waiting for the bus to leave I spotted my Dutch friends from Don Det – David and Debbie, getting out of a tuk tuk and on to the bus, awesome – some much needed company. The journey from Tha Kaek took almost seven hours and the bus was packed, with people sitting in the aisles for most of the way, but I had a seat and a window, which was better than some. I also noticed that even though some were sitting on a plastic stool in the aisle they paid the same price as me.

If you can put it on a stick, its for sale !




It was a long slow journey, but at least I had people to talk to. We arrived in Vientiane at 6.30 PM – just under a twelve hour trip and my back was killing me.

We found a guesthouse and booked in for the night, and arranged to meet for dinner. The first thing I did when I got to my room was wash my hands and splash some water on my face. The amount of dirt that came out was just amazing – the joys of a long open window bus ride. Debbie had a yearning for pizza and there was no way I was going to argue with that, especially as I had only eaten a bag of crisps all day.


An early night followed, exhausted.

An interlude in Savannakhet

Day 134, Thursday 17 May 2012, Pakse – Savannakhet

I had booked my bus ticket to Savannakhet (SK) through the cafe on the corner and had to be there at 7.30 for an 8:00 departure – conveniently enough time to spend money on coffee and a basic breakfast. At 7.50 an Asian guy and I were bundled into a small three wheeler and sent in the direction of the bus station. The Asian guy was Vietnamese, but had lived in Germany for forty years, spoke adequate English and good Laotian. We chatted while we waited for the bus.

The bus was a ‘big’ bus – ie a standard road bus, not a VIP bus, no air con for instance, but it was comfortable with the most leg room I have had on a bus for months, plus the windows worked well enough. The bus was mostly empty all the way to SK so I had two seats to myself which was luxury.

I am feeling really dirty and greasy at the moment and some of my clothes just feel disgusting to put on. I am in desperate need of a shave and haircut and the plan was to spend a couple of days in SK, see the sights, get some washing done in a machine (hand washing works OK, but a machine wash is really needed every now and then), get a shave and haircut and plan the rest of my days in SE Asia. I also had my first mozzie bites since I was in Da Nang for the wedding over a month ago.

The bus ride was Ok, a long and very slow (a bit like this blog at times) five hours to SK. I spent a lot of that time reading the guide book and trying plan a trip that would maximise my time, not waste too much money and allow me to do some diving. I have now scrapped my long term plan of going to Chiang Mai in Nth Thailand and going Sth Thailand instead. It saves significant travel time, and money. I may also dive in both Thailand and Malaysia now – wahoo ! Just need to mull it over and detail how it will all work now. I can come back and see Nth Thailand and Nth Laos another year.

However SK was a disappointment, the guide book recommended hostel didn’t have wifi, which I need to do my planning, so I went in search of another. After consulting at the tourism office I discovered that most places had closed down as the season was over and what was left – apart from hotels, had no wifi at all – so back I went to Souannavong GH. It was OK, at least it had a hot shower and I could hand wash a few essentials. I decided to see the limited sights of SK this afternoon and sod off to Vientiane in the AM.

I rented a bike from the GH and rode around for a while, I couldn’t find the main tourist site which is an old stupa, though I later the discovered it was thirteen kms away. As my bike would have suited a small girl more than a large man, I decided to not go and see it. SK is the second largest city in Laos and the old French downtown area does have some faded charms. I enjoyed riding around the old quarter and snapped a few shots as the sunset.















I discovered Lin’s cafe had wifi, beer and a nice menu so after a shower I grabbed my laptop and settled in there for three hours, consumed a carafe of cheap Chilean wine, ate some lovely food and had a good time.

I got chased by dogs on the way back to the GH, which was a bit tense for a moment, nothing happened mind, but I walked more cautiously after that as there are a lot dogs roaming the streets here.

Wat Phou.

Day 133, Wednesday 16 May 2012, Champasak – Paske

Damnit, I should never have left Don Det ! Crap sleep in Champasak… As always I was up early(ish), I had breakfast and a quick catch up blog post and then took a walk up to the ATM as I was running low on cash. The ‘ATM’ is actually a guy in the bank who gives you cash from your card for a small fee. However, he requires ID – which I did not have in my pocket due to my licence being in the wallet I lost on Don Det. It was a quick trip back to the guest house to get my passport. Seeing as it was already approximately a billion degrees at only 8.30 am, I grabbed a bicycle from the guest house and rode back to the bank. However, my USD debit card was not acceptable as it does not have my name on it (for exactly this reason) so I had to suck up the pain and get cash on my visa.

Once I had enough money to pay my room expenses I settled up with the guest house and took my recently borrowed cycle and pedaled off in what I hoped was the general direction of Wat Phou – at this point there really is only one road, so it was 50/50 ! The ride took about half an hour under scorching sun, frustrating at times as there are no road signs – to what is the only reason that people come to Champasak. The only sign I saw on the ride suggested Wat Phou was on the Mekong, about 100 metres before the road took a sharp right inland. The ride was great and I found a lovely roadside Buddha.


as well as some awesome shutters 🙂


and of course, a wat.


I finally made it to Wat Phou with only having to double check directions once at a un-signposted intersection. Wat Phou is a Khmer religious site and dates back to the 5th century, pre-dating Angkor by a number of centuries. The site is built into the base of a small hill range, which makes it quite different to the sites around Angkor. It was originally constructed as a Khmer Hindu temple, but in the 11 – 13th centuries it was rebuilt as a Theravada Buddhist site of worship and the remains today are mainly from that period.

And now I am going whinge, like the pom I am !

This is the most significant Khmer site in Laos, it pre-dates Angkor – so  it is old, really old, and in terms of SE Asian architecture, quite important. It is a major tourist attraction – why do none of the staff speak even rudimentary English as so many Lao people do? Not meaning to be the arrogant/ignorant English speaker, but come on – even the French speak some English. It was embarrassing for me and the staff as I tried to understand why I needed to pay more for a golf buggy to drive me to the site. I ended up with the buggy – a waste of money.

The two largest sections of ruins are under re-construction, and I mean with cranes and stuff, so not accessible, and hardly photogenic. And yes I agree with the rebuild – if it is to Angkorian standards.

It was noisy, lots of construction noise and as there was an extraordinary number of vendors in the site playing radios, full of awful Lao pop music.

There was not a bit of signage as to what was what – and stupidly I grabbed a French guide – that was my fault.

Whinges over, the bad things….

Ok some of these are good things, just wrapped in bad things, I mean who cannot resist a centuries old stone guard draped in pink !









Ok, they may be half hidden in modern tat, but they are still cool, this elephant carving and Buddha foot carved into the hillside were just amazing !

There was some good stuff to see, but probably bad timing on my behalf with all the work going on, maybe a sign before we handed over our $$ advising that reconstruction work was being carried out would also be good. I would have visited anyway, but you know – customer service. There were some awesome carvings here, which I really liked.

The good things….







The carvings – awesome to see some Khmer carvings on site again.



Vishnu riding Garuda – carving on the sanctuary.





The Elephant, the light was terrible for this shot


The crocodile. This was possibly the site of human sacrifice, in the very early days, pre conversion to Buddhism.


A Buddha figure, where it lay- I loved this.


Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed Wat Phou, just not as much as I should have, given how much I love ancient sites, especially those of the Khmer – and how long it has been since I have been to one.

I had a quick ride back to town, now I knew the way, but it was stinking hot and I was glad to get back into the shade of the GH and sink a large water and a Beer Lao over a quick lunch. After lunch the GH owner took me to up to the main road so I could get a mini-van the hour or so back to Pakse. Turns out the wait was more middle of the road than roadside.


And the mini-van was more back of truck – at least it was air conditioned ! The Keen’s are looking a wee bit shabby.


To be fair I think I was supposed to be in the back of the cab, but being a six foot westerner rather than a five foot Laotian, it wasn’t going to happen. I was dropped at the market bus station and met what was possibly the only honest tuk tuk driver in Pakse, his opening offer was half the price I was advised was fair – I accepted on the spot and got a ride back to the Sabaidy 2 hostel – the warmest in town, and got my old room back.

I asked after Danny when I arrived and was advised she was still up at the hospital, so I hung around relaxing for a while in the warmth – watched another episode of Sherlock – loving it. I caught up with Danny later in the afternoon and she was glad to see an old face again – Mike had been through yesterday and Laura the day before. We shared a curry for dinner and she borrowed my laptop to Skype her parents and give them the news about the crash and the burns. While they are not life threateningly bad, I think she has finally realised she may not be able to fully continue her travels, and that infection is a probability, scarring is a definite and things wont be easy over the next few days that she has to stay in Pakse. Now that Laura, Mike and I have all left town for good, those of us who were there at the time of the accident. The people that come through the GH in the future, though I am sure they will help out, they wont be the same as those of us that were there and had that ‘bond’.

We said our farewells early, I wished her all the best, and regrettably I never got an email address : (

Canoe across the Mekong

Day 132, Tuesday 15 May 2012 – 4000 Islands to Champasak

I was awake early again after another pretty good sleep, awesome ! It will be such a shame to leave, but it is time to move on – so today I head back north to Champasak to visit ancient Wat Phou.

The mini-bus leaves at 11.00, but I still wanted to get to Khone Phapheng falls as I missed visiting them the day I lost my wallet. I sunk a quick coffee from the guesthouse, rented a bike from next door and pedalled off to Don Khon Island.

The falls are only a couple of kilometres away and I was there before 8.00 Am, early enough to beat the bike park security guy (though he got me on the way back and i had to pay the parking fee – few cents) but not early enough to not have to pay the entrance fee to the falls area.

I was the first tourist there and way too early for all the vendors to set up shop !


There are a large number of vendors who live here and sadly the place is just one big rubbish dump – the falls are stunning, but behind every bush there is garbage, so terribly sad. I realise that this is not the west and an environmentally friendly garbage disposal system is not at hand, nor is any garbage collection. However, this is a stunning area – one of Southern Laos key tourist attractions, the local people earn most of their income from the park – they should respect it.

Anyway – the falls…. they are not tall, but they are huge, water entering from every direction – I would love to see this in the wet – and I am planning on a return to Laos to see the river when it is full. It is an awesome beast.








After the falls I rode back to the GH for breakfast and then packed up my stuff for Mike to ferry me along with my Dutch and Czech companions from the past two nights over to the mainland to catch our buses to the different places we are going. I had a good time on Don Det !

I was in a full mini-van of people going to Pakse, I was the only one to be dropped off in the village of Don Muang on the edge of the Mekong. Back in the dark ages+ of my early travelling I would be almost terrified to be dropped off alone in a new town, especially the remote edge towns where long distance buses deposit tourists so they can get local transport to the tourist areas – where people don’t speak English. Nowadays, while not exactly ecstatic about the whole thing, I am at least comfortable with it and do relish the challenge of my next goal – in this case getting over the river to the town of Champasak.

I was walking down the towards the river, staring at this massive storm heading towards me, I wondered if anyone was making the crossing giving the pending storm but some guy came up to me and asked if I wanted to go to Champasak – not that I could think of any other reason some falang with a backpack would be heading down to the river ! I said yes and he guided me across the littered beach to his canoe – yep a wee fishing canoe, I was expecting at least a large canoe, but at least he had a motor.


Once he cleared all the fishing nets away I was bundled in and we headed out across the river with a lovely cross wind building as we left!


There was a couple of tense moments as we approached Champasak as the wind got quite strong and the waves were splashing over the side on to my pack and day bag. My pack had a waterproof cover on it, but naturally my day bag with everything important in it had nothing – and neither did I. I really thought we might go over, I was very confident I could swim to the shore as the current was not strong, but after the experience of losing my wallet I was terrified I would lose everything ! luckily nothing happened except I arrived on the beach at Champasak soaking wet – to the amusement of many of the locals.

I staggered up the hill to the main street and was picked up by a tuk tuk driver – who just happened to have a guest house, I agreed to check it out and got in – luckily as it hammered down.


The gueshouse was pretty cool, a few westerners so I agreed to stay, decent price and it had a Mekong side restaurant and bar which was cool.


I hung out there for a while, waited for the rain to stop, had some lunch, dried off and then went for a walk around down town Champasak. Champasak has some lovely old, fading and dying colonial buildings, as well as the more traditional Laos homes and temples. It is pretty much a one street town.







I loved the buildings, sadly, like the one above, a number of them are derelict and abandoned.

After the walk I settled down on the deck over the Mekong with a bottle Beer Lao and leached wifi from the hostel over the road – like everyone else was doing.


A while later Laura, who I met in Pakse and a French girl arrived at the GH, and it was great to have some company. She had just been in Pakse and had gone for a hospital visit with Danny (I now know it is not Dani), which was cool.

Laura gave me this photo she took of the four us in Pakse hospital. I am the one who is twice the age of any combination of two of the others…


It was another pretty good – if damp day.

+ I refer to the dark ages as a long time ago, not that it was a dark time ! (I am loving these things that I don’t know the name of )

Day trip up the ‘Kong

Day 131, Monday 14 May, 2012 – 4000 Islands.

I had another good sleep, Don Det is quieter and cooler than most places I have been to, the bed is not the most comfortable but I am sleeping so well for some reason, long may it last.

Mike was going over to Ban Kasang on the mainland to pick up some supplies so David, Debbie and I went with him to hopefully get some cash from the single ATM in the area. If I could get cash then I would do a day boat tour with Mike up the river to visit the real 4000 islands area, if not then I was going to be spending the day trying to find money so I could pay Mike for the accommodation and food I have had over the past few days.

Fortunately I was able to get cash (YES !) but for some reason David and Debbie couldn’t, at least they had some Euros they could change – I had used all my meagre USD supplies in Luang Prabang. We were the first people into the bank for David to change money, they got it out of the safe in A4 paper box lids…

Dan Kasang waterfront.



So, I was on for the river tour and one more night on Don Det. Mike bought a great looking fish for lunch and we were back on the island for an hour while Mike and his wife prepared food for the trip.

We left at 10.30 and headed up river. Mike has told us that the real 4000 islands do not start until further up stream, that there is really between 8000 and 10000 islands at the moment and that it will be all totally different after rainy season – when most of the islands will be under water.


About fifteen minutes up river, and past Don Det, lies the gateway to the 4000 islands, a fairly shallow section of river that changes almost daily, we motored slowly though this section hitting the bottom once and getting stuck up a channel and having to back track another time. Once through there we were in fairly clear water and motored up through the islands. The area is about 60 kms long and at its widest point is over 15kms wide, that is one big river and though you cannot see its vastness from a boat it is still an impressive sight.


Mike was taking us to his favourite island for a bbq lunch and swim, however when we arrived it was populated by a few guys who were living there for a few days while fishing.


Mike was a bit ticked by this as it was a perfect spot, nice beach with a shade tree – and there are not too many of those combinations around, as we found out while searching. In the end we just pulled up at a beach. Mike made a fire and BBQ’d the fish.


While his daughter, Joy made a quick sun shelter.



We spent a couple of hours lounging, swimming, drinking beer and eating that lovely fresh fish – and then the weather starting to come down.




We could see a large storm front moving down the Mekong, so decided to run slightly ahead of it – enjoy the clouds and the pouring rain in the distance but aim to stay dry and safe at the same time. It was a good ride back to the guest house, it was a shame it was only 3:30 PM rather than after sunset, but it was not going to be safe in what is basically a big canoe on the river and there was going to be no sunset anyway.








After a chill on the hammock in front of the bungalows I joined David and Debbie and the Czech people for a quite dinner and a drink.

Early to bed. Exhausted – after doing not much all day !

I lose something important – it had to happen I guess

Day 130, Sunday 13 May, 2012 – 4000 Islands

It was a reasonably cool night and I managed a pretty good sleep, there is no air con in the bungalow and i didn’t need the fan either, such a relief after the humidity and heat of Pakse. I was up early in the am, I should have gone for a run as the weather was perfect for it, but it didn’t occur to me until later in the day unfortunately.

My bungalow is the middle one, the Mekong is about three metres in front.


After a breakfast I rented a push bike from the guesthouse next door and went riding. I took a ride into the main village on Don Det, where all the backpackers hang out and it was pretty feral, not my scene at all. The place is OK, a busy wee village, but it is full of what I call the crusty+ backpacker. This is the weed smoking, dreadlocked, tattooed load of young people who are just travelling to get wasted rather than looking around seeing and experiencing different things. I don’t like them and try to avoid them as much as possible, and well – they probably don’t like me either…

So, I am glad I am staying about ten minutes away by bike and with town done I turned round and cycled back the way I came with the intention of going back to town later in the day as they at least had wifi in some of the cafes and I had none at my place.

Along with Don Khong and Don Khon, Don Det is one of the only islands in the Si Phan Don (4000 islands) that are allowed to have tourists staying. Don Khon is connected to Don Det by an old rail bridge. The French were the first westerners to visit the area and after numerous attempts to make it up the Mekong which failed every time at the ferocious water falls that are around Don’s Det and Khon they built a railway to bypass them in the mid 1800s (I think). The railways do not exist anymore, but the raised pathway and the bridge are used by the small amount of local traffic.




I crossed over the bridge to Don Khon and cycled around for a couple of hours before heading back in the mid day sun to the GH to rest for a while. The islands are quite nice larger than expected and the paddy fields are dry as a bone. I would love to come back when it is wet though.

I found this nice beach on Don Khon and went for a walk around the rocks. You can see from the dirt deposits on the top how high the river gets in the wet.



And then to the far south of the island where the French load their boats on to the train.



A rice paddy (in summer)


One of the many temples on Don Khon.


bits of Don Det.




I had tentatively arranged with the Aussies from last night (Matt and Jess) to meet them for a ride to town for lunch and wifi, after hanging round a bit I rode off on my own my own knowing I would see them eventually. I made it up to one of the cafes full of crusties, and after twenty minutes of using their wifi and I still hadn’t been served I left in search of something better. I stopped in a cafe half way back to my place and Matt and Jess arrived a few minutes later. I went to get my USB drive from my wallet as I had copied some movies over for them and then realised my wallet was not in my pocket, or anywhere else for that matter – Shiteburgers ! I knew I had it when i left the guesthouse as I put the USB drive in there so it must have fallen from my pocket on one of the bike tracks. Thankfully Matt and Jess covered my lunch, embarrassingly for me ! and I spent an hour or so frantically riding around to see if I could find it, to no avail. I didn’t have much money in it and my eftpos and one debit card – of which I had a spare, but the biggest pain is going to be getting a new drivers licence. (It is 2 days later I have just got internet access and checked on the NZTA web site- it is going to be a pain !)

I pretty much did nothing else for the rest of the day : ( I had options to get cash, ATM on the mainland and Mike the GH owner was going over first thing, and if the at failed I could get cash on my credit card but at usurious exchange rates – but at least I could pay my bills…

That afternoon David and Debbie a Dutch couple arrived to stay, and a Czech / American couple dropped in for dinner. We had a good night drinking beers and chatting and watching another amazing lightening storm on the horizon, again there was no thunder just spectacular flashes of lightening. Soon after the show finished the wind picked up and was getting very strong. Mike advised us to pack our bags just in case it got bad enough that we should leave the bungalows for the shelter of the restaurant – and then the power went off…

It is nigh Impossible to manually focus on lightning, so sorry for out of focus photos !



The winds died down after half and hour or so, so we all went our separate ways and went to bed.

+ wow, this is the first one of those thingies they have in real books where you add some additional stuff at the end that doesn’t really fit with the flow of the narrative. Pretty much how much of this blog has been though, so I am surprised I waited so long to use it. So, on with the content of the +. Crusties were a name given to a group of hippy like characters where drifting around England in the late eighties, going to festivals etc. They were not quite so peace and love as the hippies were. Plus they didn’t wash clothes that much hence the crusty name.

I had to use + rather than the more traditional * as MS Word doesn’t like you starting a sentence with an asterix.

Time to move on

Day 129, Saturday 12 May, 2012, Pakse – Don Det

Ok – scene set here… I am sitting on my bed in a Mekong riverside bungalow on the island of Don Det in the far south of Laos. The bungalow has a light and a fan and a mosquito net over the bed. There is no power outlet and the bed takes up most of the space in the room. I do have half a bottle of whisky and will have the occasional nip, though I have had a great meal and a couple of beers with the four other guests in this guesthouse. It is 11.18 (right now) and there is some moderately loud old old school electronica coming from the owners place, sounds vaguely Orb’ish or Tangerine Dream maybe, there is lightening outside, but it is not raining, so yeah – it is weird but kinda cool.

Right – on to the day. In the download frenzy the night before last I grabbed series one of Sherlock and after posting last night I watched the first episode in my room – wow, it was really good ! I am a big Sherlock Holmes fan, so a modernised version with a great cast and a crisp as all heck script – I was a convert. Will have a few Sherlock sessions I suspect.

The night was a bit cooler than the last couple so i managed a wee bit of sleep, though I was up early and off to the local cafe for 7.30. I grabbed a couple of coffees and some breakfast foods and took the ten minute walk to Pakse hospital. Dani was pretty much coma’d when I got there so I ditched the food, took a coffee and wandered back to the cafe for more coffee and my own breakie – I should mention the coffee in Laos is just awesome : ) sorry Vietnam, but theirs is better. I had a wee lie down and sauntered back up to the hospital at 10.00.

After a wee bit of shagging around and hunting down the right people Dani was released just before 11.30. She has to go back in a couple of days and will have to really look after her foot. Her bill for the stay was sooooooooooooooooo much less than what I get nailed for when I was sick in Hong Kong, in fact if it was me, I probably wouldn’t even claim it on my insurance. But then she had no meals apart from what we delivered, and minimal care – so different situation I guess.

Once she was safely back in the hostel, and at least able to tap into the backpackers coming through for assistance, and with Mike and Laura dropping by in a day or so, i was happy to move on. I packed my bag, grabbed a coffee, said my farewells and took a (now I know I was ripped off) expensive tuk tuk to the bus station to get a bus south to the 4000 Islands area.

The bus is a open air covered truck with bench seats, not a bus bus, but luxury compared to a Burmese pick up – even with the sacks of rice up the aisle so no one had leg room – and the Laotian idea of full has nothing on Mynamar either !


At I wasnt on this one, I am wondering if the four motoribikes are the transport for the four fridges !


The ride was interesting, it was supposed to be two half to three hours, but took four – I discovered that the bus that left an hour after mine arrived at the ferry before me ! I think I have some kind of bad luck thing going on. Sadly we passed what was pretty obviously a fatal vehicle accident on the way, the driver of the van was still in the remains of his vehicle – life is hard and medical facilities rare down here. We also drove through a large electrical storm, which had some of the Laotians on the bus in some state of concern/fear – i was the only westerner on the bus.

I was starting to get A – frustrated, B – pissed off and C – concerned as the trip dragged on, the bus was limping a bit at the end and we started to visit obscure villages to drop off hardware and I was wondering if I was going to make it to the ferry in time to get to Don Det Island as there are limited options for sleeping on the mainland side. We arrived just on 5.00, it was raining and I took a hurried walk down to the wharf where I vacantly stared at some mud for a while before spotting what looked liked some western legs getting onto a canoe off in the distance. I hurried in that direction and was welcomed with a big wave and realised I was probably just getting one of the last boats over. I joined an Aussie and Belgian couple (who had been on the 2:00 PM bus). Our boat driver is Mike a German guy who has been living here for a while and runs a guesthouse with his Laos wife (and may or may not feature in more posts, but I am in his bungalow tonight). The five us checked out some of the guesthouses around here and decided to stay in Mikes for at least the first night. It is dirt cheap, with rudimentary bungalows on the edge of the Mekong, however he has a restaurant which was the big appeal as it was getting late and Don Det is a basic island, to say the least and the walk to the main part of town was twenty minutes.

I can say the food was outstanding ! – I had a pumpkin burger – a pumpkin based vege pattie with (OMG) mashed potato – it was devine, and I mean so so good. Mashed spud – I missed you : ) We all had great food and chatted over a couple of beers till 11.00 or so and went to bed. Where I took a photo of my feet in the mossie net and wrote this blog post.


PS. My go at being vaguely intrepid by catching a local bus to Don Det while successful in that i arrived safely, took two hours longer than an air conned mini-van plus cost a fair bit more !!! DAMN

An unanticipated stay in Pakse

Days 127/128, Thursday/Friday 10/11 May 2012, Pakse.

Pretty rough night, it is very hot and humid here in Pakse and the fan in my room is next to useless as it appears to be pointing at the floor, when I try and adjust it to point at me it just flops back down to pointing at the floor again. Oh well !

I had breakfast at a cafe over the road as it was cheaper than the hostel, but the guy working there was so miserable I am not going to go back again, though the good thing was the coffee was drinkable.

I will introduce my new travelling companions, who like me are solo travelling and have been on the road for a while. Mike – 27 from New York, Dani – 22 from Jerusalem and Laura – 18 from Quebec. A rather diverse group, especially me, but Mike and I have some similar music tastes – it seems to be my saviour at times ! Our plan was to meet at 9.00 with some French people, rent motorcycles and then ride up to Tat Lo in the Bolaven Plateau for a day or so. After waiting around for a while the four us of gave up on the French and went to the bike shop. Mike was the only one of us with recent experience on a bike, so Laura was going to ride with him and Dani and I were going to ride solo. The shop did not have any full automatic bikes so we were getting the inappropriately named Suzuki Smash – a 110cc clutchless manual bike. My bike – about $9 a day to rent.


I got mine first and took it for a tentative ride up the lane behind the shop, it was a bit weird but not too difficult. Mike and Dani had theirs soon after, as Mike had ridden before we decided to go for a quick scoot round the block to get used the semi-manual bikes while Dani had a lesson from the shop guy. Mike and I got a couple of blocks away when he ran out of gas – not such a good start. I rode off in search of a gas station and found one a km up the main road, they would let me fill my bike but would not sell me a container for Mike, bastards ! I got totally lost trying to find Mike; the streets are reasonably straight forward here, and not a lot of traffic so easy to ride. But when your focus is on riding you tend to pay less attention to directions. I went back to the bike shop to retrace my steps and was shocked to find Dani had crashed her bike out the back, hit a stove and poured boiling water all over her legs and feet. Laura was with her in the shower, soaking her in cold water. I raced back out to find Mike and then found a gas station about 100 metres up the road from where he had run out of gas. We shot back to the shop and handed all the bikes back and Laura took Dani to the hospital on a tuk tuk.

Mike and I went up to the hospital a couple of hours later, there is a fairly new extension to the main hospital which appears to be private, it was clean and tidy and not crowded. They had gotten a staff member from the other hospital who spoke good English to come and help out which was good. As we arrived Dani was being put into a room on her own, which was even gooder. She had been covered up with bandages and was on a saline drip, and I am assuming antibiotics. We all pretty much spent the rest of the day hanging round the hospital or the hostel with the odd feed mixed in.

After dinner Mike and I joined half a dozen French people for a few drinks,that turned into a midnight chat and music/movie swapping session and half a bottle of whisky for me….

The room in the hostel felt about 500 degrees and i could barely sleep, even the whiskies on board didng help, so lousy sleep and a mild hangover in the morning. We had arranged to meet at 7.00 am and then head to the hospital and see how Dani was, seems she probably had a better night then we did, well at least until 5.00 am when they came in to change her sheets for some weird reason.

I tracked down the doctor and it sounds like they will let her out tomorrow if there is no infection on her foot. They changed all her dressings this morning and apparently it all looks good, which is great news.
Mike decided to join the French people and get a bike and make the trip we were going to do yesterday up to Tat Lo. I am not so bothered as it was not on my plan anyway. Laura left later in the day on the same trip and I decided to stay in town for one more day to get food and drink to Dani and keep her company in hospital and then the others will take over when they get back if she is still stuck there.

I drifted to and from the hospital a couple of times during the day, took some lunch and dinner in at appropriate times and hung round a bit. I ended up with an early night in the stinking hot hostel lying on my bed listening to music and typing this post.

I know how miserable it can be on your own in a hospital in a foreign country where most of the staff do not speak English, it is incredibly isolating and can be very confusing when the nurses come in to do something that you do not understand – like change the sheets at 5.00 AM. So, happy to be paying forward a bit.

One of the things that has really impressed me with a lot of the young people I have met on my trip is how smart , worldly and considered they are. Though my kids do have one or two truely amazing friends, my views on the younger generations in general have not been entirely positive. However these views are changing for the better as I get to spend time chatting to people like, Mike, Laura and Daniela, along with some of the others I have spent time with over the past few weeks. Travelling really does broaden ones mind – in ways you do not necessarily expect.

Beer Lao delivery vehicle.


Monk walks and on to Pakse

Day 126, Wednesday 9 May 2012, Luang Prabang to Pakse

Weird night, I heard voices on the street outside and thought – cool, it must be time to get up and go see the monk walk. I staggered out of bed, checked my watch and realised it was only 1:30 and not 5:30, back to bed. But I never really slept soundly again damnit.

I did get up at 5:45 when the alarm went off and was out the door soon after to catch the monk walk, though disappointingly I really only got the end of it.  Luckily I did not listen to the advice of the guest house and go at 6.30 as I would have missed it all.

At dawn the monks from the local monasteries walk the two main parallel streets in Luang Prabang and collected alms, mainly from the local people, though some tourists also buy food and give to the monks. This is of course, a major tourist attraction in LP, and I was amazed at how many westerners are actually here – they obviously wheel out all the gentle folk on package tours for this ‘attraction’ – the tourists I hardly ever see when travelling more cheaply. I had a similar experience at Bagan in Myanmar, very few people around until sunset when all these tour buses magically appear and discharge a flood of tour groupers, who rapidly consume all there is to see and then disappear back on to the air conditioned buses to return to the sanctuary of their resorts.

There are numerous signs around LP advising people to respect the monks, don’t fire flashes in to their faces, keep out of the way and don’t crowd them. As you would expect, this seemed to be largely ignored. I kept my distance and took what photos I could without flash.




It was an interesting experience.

I cannot say this enough, I really liked LP, it is quiet and considered, a little cooler than Hanoi was – though still 33 degrees ! it is off season so things are a little cheaper than peak. My guesthouse is comfy and close to where I want to be, I have met some good people to hang with, and apart from being sick again I am pretty chilled. It is also very clean and tidy!


After breakfast and a wee break I grabbed a tuk tuk to the airport, check in was an hour and half before the flight time so I was there very early, unbelievably I actually went to sleep in the departure lounge on the most uncomfortable seats ever, I only woke when a boarding announcement was made. We all got on the plane and it left almost forty minutes early : ) so cool…

A re-enactment of actual events…



It was an ok flight, i regret not having my camera for the landing approach as there was some great shots to be had. The Mekong is so much clearer in the south of Laos compare to the north and the land is significantly flatter as well as far more arid.

I shared a ride into town with some other travellers and found my way to the Sabady 2 hostel, the guide book recommended place. I have a cheap room, fan only and share bathroom, but half the price of Luang Prabang, the advantage being there are other travellers here.

I checked in and then dumped myself on an outside table with a group of other people, all a lot younger than me, but got myself involved in the conversation and end up having lunch, and then dinner with the group, as well as a wee wander around Pakse.

We had dinner at a Mekong side restaurant, of the four things we ordered, only one person got what they expected, it wasn’t me. My veges turned into a chicken dish that was the hottest thing I have had in asia, I couldn’t eat it ! The good news is my stomach seems OK now – yes !