Laos: Part One!

So, we bought a car.

It took us a long time. That could have been an entire blog series in itself: “Buying A Car In Cambodia”. However, I like to focus on the frivolous, the fun, and the fantastical. Car-buying in Cambodia is none of those things.

Regardless, we are now the proud owners of 1999, 4-wheel drive, Honda CRV. We are mobile!

As the time wound down to the last final days before the week-long Cambodian holiday of Pchum Ben, we were frantically preparing our drivers’ licenses, ownership titles, and insurance. We wanted our car to be solid, unquestionable, and safe. Why?

We were driving to Laos.

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Charting our route on Google Maps makes it look a bit intimidating. In hindsight, it isn’t. Beforehand, it totally was.

Laos is pretty easy to cross into, so long as you have a Passport, patience, and money. We have heard horror stories of border crossings—people paying $10 to some guy who has to “sanitize their tires”, paying $3 to get their temperature taken or face quarantine, people stuck at borders for hours… we didn’t really know what to expect.

When we got there, it was fairly painless. There was a visa fee, a few “overtime” charges, and some random fees for the car. I had to gulp down my frustration, but after about an hour or two, we were flying through Laos with the wind in our hair.
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As we drove up to Laos, we stopped at a little place called the “Mekong Bird Lodge” in Stung Treng, Cambodia. You can’t see it on the map above, but we followed the Mekong River all the way from Phnom Penh up to the farthest point of our journey in Laos. It is a huge—and long—river!

I really liked the Mekong Bird Lodge. It was the perfect stopping point. Sean and I soaked up a few views on the balcony of our $15 lodging.
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There are two things you can be sure of in rural Cambodia: potholes and roosters. Sean much enjoys taking photos of the latter.
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At the end of our first driving day, we had a relaxing evening overlooking the Mekong.

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A pretty unbelievable dinner table. I had heard the sunsets in Cambodia were divine, but I had no idea.

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In the morning at the Mekong Bird Resort. I loved how leafy everything was!

IMG_7383After we passed into Laos, our first stop was at Khone Phapheng Waterfall. It is the highest volume waterfall in Southeast Asia.

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The region on the border of Cambodia and Laos is called the area of “4,000 Islands”. As you can see, there really are a lot of islands—and these are just big enough to warrant a drawing on Google Maps! In reality, there ARE thousands, especially in the dry season. Khone Phapheng Waterfall is right on the border of Cambodia and Laos, where the Mekong loses elevation as it tumbles into Cambodia.
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There was a really cute garden area set up around the falls. I loved how everything was constructed out of wood. It was so natural and organic. I hate it when property is sold around a beautiful area and the natural flora gets completely razed to build some hideous all-inclusive resort.

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Plumeria is everywhere.

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Here I am in front of one part of Khone Phapheng. It’s very deceiving to get a good picture of it—it’s the highest volume falls, but by no means the tallest. It stretches very wide, but not tall. And I never said the Mekong was blue…

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As you can see, the waterfall just riddled the land with islands, rocks, cervices. It is all-encompassing.

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Me catching up to Anna and Chino at Khone Phapheng.

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You can get a good feel for the swollen, flooded explosion of the falls here.

After we left Khone Phapheng, it was a short drive north to Ban Nakaseng. There we would park our car and catch a boat onto one of the 4,000 Islands, Don Det.


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As we neared the shore of Don Det, we realized it was the perfect choice. There are a few bungalows on many of the islands, but Don Det was beautiful, and so, so laid back.

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So laid back in fact, that Anna, Kampot and I floated around the Mekong for hours, struck by the siren calls of Don Det. I never wanted to leave! (Maybe it was the Beer Lao talking.)
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The bungalows we found on Don Det were perfect. They were called “Mr Tho’s Bungalows”, and had everything we needed—and we didn’t need much! Just a hammock, a place to rinse the sand off our feet, and a fan by the bedside.

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We had so much fun strolling the island of Don Det. This is a Laotian family’s yard. How many animals can you spy?

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We decided to have a drink and play cards on the sunset side of the island in the evening. It was beautiful!

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Ah, yes, the wandering buffalo. From a gift shop in Wall, South Dakota, to Laos.

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As the night rolled on, we learned a few new card games, ate some delicious spring rolls and curry, and spent the whole evening laughing and enjoying each others’ company.

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In the morning we rented bicycles and cycled the island of Don Det.

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We found some men watching (or staging, more likely) a cockfight.

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There was a bridge, linking Don Det to Don Khone, which made for the perfect resting place.

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Anna and I found a lone piglet!

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Cycling through the rice fields of Don Det.

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Sean made a friend…

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And then he made more friends…

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The bicycle path was really just through paddy fields… it was something out of a day dream.

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Next time you eat your stir fry with a side of rice, think of me.

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