After the failure of '98, where we
(Morten, Jesper and the undersigned) only came in transit in
Thailand for three weeks, we try
again. We have been managed to lure a fourth with; Rikke. Laos
should be virtually unspoilt, with endless primeval forests. Sure
enough, the Americans threw 100 tons of bombs per inhabitant during
the Vietnam War, making Laos the most bombed country in the world
(and then they weren't even at war!), But it should have grown back
28/10 2000. We fly with Aeroflot, the old, honoured (or is it criticized) Soviet carrier, that still has a hammer and sail as a logo. Flight and food is all right, but apparently the movie is very Russian, I slept it off. A few hours at the Moscow airport, and then towards Bangkok.
29. We arrive at noon and take the bus to the centre of Bangkok, Thailand. Rikke says it looks exciting and then sleeps the whole trip, which takes an hour. We jump off at the Grand Palace and head down to the amulet market, while looking for sunglasses, sandals, movies and other essentials.
On the way, we go through fruit-, clothing- and everyday goods markets and then end up in a huge amulet market. The amulets are small - mainly Buddha figures - in clay, stone, glass or metal. Some are very old and therefore very strong - and expensive. In particular, they are carried by taxi drivers and postmen!
We get back to the Grand Palace, which you can
come in and see, if you are wearing long pants on. Rikke and I
change. -And then the girls must also have their heals covered
on their sandals!
Dining at a sidewalk restaurant. It was mainly very strong food, added a lot of strong spices and then peppered up a bit with fresh chilli! "Smooooking". The food is very special, and it is with some courage that we throw ourselves into it. Then we just wait for the stomach problems to kick in.
For the second time, we are recommended to
visit a special wat, which should not only be the most beautiful in
Thailand, but which is only open one day a year - and it is today!
We take a taxi and get to Wat Suthat.
Lightning lights the yard and we head out again. As we walk around the richly decorated building, the fair begins, which is reproduced by discreet speakers outside. It's been dark, the rain is starting to fall, and lightning and thunder are filling the atmosphere. We sit for a while and enjoy it, but get so cold.
Outside, it is impossible to get a taxi, so we head back towards the centre. We find the Royal Hotel where we were put off. It looks nice - very nice, but we still check the price: 1500 at a double room. Morten negotiate it down to 800 bat. Expensive, but we didn't bother heading into the dark city, and we have to get up early and leave with the bus in front of the hotel. I'm calculating a bit, when we've come up to the room: DKK 290 for a very large room with office niche, huge beds and large bathroom with tub. The issue of money is complicated by the fact that we spend the next three weeks in US $, bat, kip and kroner.
After a refreshing bath, we meet in the lobby
for a quiet dinner. It just rolls around with screaming kids, so we
prefer to go to a great Chinese restaurant just around the corner. I
get a variation on the hot dog and burger theme. A new hot bath (we
do not know, when we will get the next) and then to bed.
In the 50 minutes flight, Thai-Air manages to serve food. Large and not least slow queue at the visa counter. We need a passport photo, and Rikke gets sweat a few litres before it turns out that the man approves of our extremely poor photocopies. Maybe because they are accompanied by pictures of Franklin (US $).
Once arrived in Vientiane, Laos, we pay overpriced to get the 8-9 kilometres into the centre. It is probably a big village, but unlike all other cities we visit, at least there are no loose cows in the main street. It then gives a certain international touch.
We find a bank where we can raise the Thai bat, which we can then switch to Laos kip. We mean they are really called "ib", the "k" is just because you literally raise a few kilos at a time. We measure our use of money in centimetres. With only a few centimetres left, it is high time to find some more.
We walk out to the Arc de Triomphe, which is also called the vertical runway. They ran out of cement, so the construction stood still for a long time. Then they got some cement from the Americans for a runway, and what's more natural than completing the Arc de Triomphe?
It will gets really nice when they once have time / advice to paint it. There are crumbs all over the best temple style. It costs one penny to go up the stairs. On the following floors, there are heavily improvised souvenir stalls, some of the only ones we see in the country.
From the top, there is a magnificent view of the flat city of Vientiane. The vast majority are two-story houses; business in the ground room, residential at first. Morten is being photographed by some farmers, taken to the capital. They are fascinated by his size!
I don't get as many photos; it all seems
familiar, almost like a Thai provincial town. On the other hand,
there are also many ethnic Thais, and only 200 meters above
Mekong to Thailand.
They are preparing for the local festival with
a big market. A guy is on his way up a concrete lamppost. He uses
two bolts which he sticks in the holes of the pole. It must be sour
to lose one when you are near the top!
Wildlife is not exciting. Here are only gray spruce, domestic pigeons and geckos. As in Thailand, there are many potted plants in front of the shops and on the balconies. Many have Jatrophas, mother-in-law's sharp tongue and many others known.
The sun sets at 17.45 and 18.00 is night! We find a humble hotel for 90 DKK for a double room, and go out for dinner. At the city's fountain, we find a nice pizzeria and sit down. Wauh - that feels nice! We order drinks and four similar pizzas. The waiter who comes with beer and water removes cutlery and napkins. Well, we'll probably get some big plates.
Sitting and planning for the next days while
we wait - and wait! Grab the waiter - what about our food? Uh ...
should you have something to eat ?! We encounter this language
barrier many times over the next three weeks. Very few understand
just a bit of English. In fact, their language is most reminiscent
of Mars Attacks - gag-gag-gag!
We drive past rice fields, red-watered ponds, giant bamboo, flowering lotuses, bananas, coconut palms, tiny little jersey-like cows, giant water buffaloes, goats, hanging bugs pigs, silk herons and primeval forest / swamp. Almost all houses are made of bamboo, and stand on two meters high poles.
After two hours, we reach the mountains and
the vegetation changes character. Pineapple fields, but here are not
as cultivated. Peeing; the men in front, the women behind the bus.
The aisle is full up with rice sacks, cardboard boxes and live
chickens in bundles.
We arrive at Vang Vieng just passed noon. Nice village by the river. Found shelter for 15 kroner, then wade along the river to find some limestone caves. Skinks piling away as we come, starlings strolling around in the bush, gulls coming over. Rikke has animal attraction, so I only peel leaches of her.
We find the area with caves. There are two
monks sitting on a creek of the river, in an exceptionally beautiful
setting. A giant spider has spun its web over another small pond.
We get totally soaked back to town, buy umbrellas and get dry clothes on. Opposite the hotel is a back-packer coffee shop, where we get coffee for 1.50 with Milo! (fat cream with sugar). Rikke describes the day with: Wet + ouch-ouch.
1. We are entertained by the cocks
crowing and singing birds from four o'clock, but we first drag our
luxury bodies out of bed a little passed seven. Breakfast at the
residence, flute, pancake and fresh fruit.
We walk from one state-looking building to another. Here we are assigned another house, which designates a third. People on the street don't know what we're asking for. Finally we find it; a shabby little shed by the runway. A cleric effortlessly fills in the columns of a large book. Rikke is looking forward to seeing my "hair and beard" photo in the passport. He does not raise an eyebrow, but when Rikke tells him that she is a chef, he breaks down completely: Chef, like that in a kitchen - cook. He's totally done! We write our names and titles on a piece of paper, he is not too sharp at spelling.
It takes an eternity before he finishes
spelling and laughing, so we have to run to today's bus. We have to
drive 217 kilometres to Luang Prabang, the ancient royal
We get down the other side and the valley reveals itself. There are a couple of hours until darkness comes, so we trudge through the city. Fried chicken feet, ducks in rods (living in wicker baskets), markets and a café overlooking the river and its fishermen. At the northern end of the country, you get tea along with your coffee. The coffee is very strong, so comes with a thin glass of tea, sometimes green tea.
We move on, trying to get the stamp, among
other things. It turns out later that they don't bother worrying
about stamps anymore. Dinner consists of water buffalo with curry.
Here in the city we see a new type of taxis. Motorcycles with sidecars carry goods and people. It's damn cold in the morning and we head into the big market to find some sweaters. It turns out to be difficult. Either it's sportswear with big company logos, or just too small. Finally, it succeeds; fleece jackets size "too big" to "giant". They are quite expensive, but there are far between big, dark blue, warm, light and neutral jackets. It turns out to be a purchase of all time, not least on the mornings when Morten is blue-shielded by the cold. We finally find the office where they make stamps, but as I said, they don't anymore.
We return to the royal palace, which should be
difficult to see. It only opens a few hours each morning and it
requires an invitation. There are tourist groups and when we just
pay, we can easily get in.
The throne room itself is beautiful; mosaics
on the walls, beautiful "carvings" in concrete but the furniture is
nothing to write about. In the bedroom stands a large mahogany bed
without the slightest decoration, as well as a few large matching
We spot a large wasp that comes with a caterpillar that has paralyzed. It drop the caterpillar and starts digging a 5-10 centimetres deep tunnel into the gravel. It carries the caterpillar down, lays one egg, and covers the hole. On the way back to the city we see 30 meters high rubber and parable trees.
We check out at 14.30 and try to get on in the country. Well tired of sitting and bumping on the lorries of trucks, we are looking for a speedboat. After much questioning, a young man comes to us. He can sail us out to where the speedboats are sailing from. Sounds sneaky, but what. On the trip we see all the gardens, which are where the river was during the rainy season. Salads, beans, papaya and other vegetables.
Down in a long-tail canoe and 20 minutes down the river. Here we find one of the cyclamen green boats. They are no more than 4-5 meters long, but equipped with a huge and brand new 8V car engine. We sail further down the river in the canoe, to a place where we get the required helmet with visor as well as a life jacket delivered.
We get on board the speedboat, Morten and Jesper right in front of the engine, Rikke and I in front of them. We just get the butt down on the foam pads, then a massive roar from the engine sounds, and we whip up the current at 80-115 kilometres per hour! It is very expensive; DKK 250 per seat, but we save 2-3 days by truck and it can be fun.
I enjoy the first ten minutes of rush, but then begin to freeze violently. Rikke says they showed movies on the entire trip; She saw her entire life pass by several times during the three hours of the trip. I've never been so cold in my entire life, and Rikke has never been so scared. I can't help, but think about what would happen, if we hit one of the many 10 centimetre bamboo rods that stand on the bottom with one end and the other pointing at us at an optimal angle to pierce the boat and man. The bow swings a small meter from side to side, but the boat probably does not touch more than one metre.
One time, the skipper releases the gas; he has to pee. Even as our backrests fall off, he continues at constant speed. Of course we are in a hurry, we can't sail when it's dark. Then you can't see the width, the whorls (up to 3 meters wide and ½ meters deep). We pass the entrance of Pak Ou, but unfortunately do not have time to stop. Well, we're probably seeing other great caves of Buddha figures.
Five minutes before it gets too dark to sail,
we arrive at Pak Beng. The "harbor" is a large fleet,
built on two canoes. As we fight our way up from the boat, and with
stiff limbs we fight our way to the ground, we are almost assaulted:
Wer jo go to morrow? You ran speedbot ?. Rikke could kill them all,
and I throw them in the water. Jesper and Morten take it amazingly
calmly. It turns out, they can't hear one these, other than a
massive howl. There was no muffler on the engine.