The next stop on our adventure was Laos. You can see the route we took on the map below.
After another “interesting” bus trip across the border, we arrived in Pakse. We rented a motorbike for the day and tried to drive to Wat Phu Champasak however got lost and drove for 2 hours in the wrong direction… So we returned to Pakse for lunch and tried again afterwards – we made it the second time!
Tha Khaek was the starting point of “The Loop”, a 500km, 4 day motorbike loop into the mountains of central Laos. James and I each had our own motorbike (my first time driving!) and we had a lot of fun driving around, exploring caves and meeting people however not so much fun accidentally hitting animals (I clipped a calf and a duck flew into my face…). The route we took was Tha Khaek to Nakai, Nakai to Lak Sao, Lak Sao to Nahin then Nahin to Tha Khaek with about half of the road sealed and the other half unsealed.
We spent a day exploring Vientianes main sights by bicycle, including a visit to the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) which I found super interesting – the OT was coming out in me! We also took had a look around the night market which was really nice and got even more addicted to the roti pancakes on Christmas Day.
Originally we hadn’t planned to go to Vang Vieng as the whole drunk tubing thing really doesn’t interest us. However we met a couple of girls on our Mekong cruise who said they had just been there and it had all closed down, so we decided to stop there on our way to Luang Prabang – I’m so glad we did because we had so much fun! All the drunk tourists and riverside pubs were gone which meant the town was very quiet and we could just relax by the river watching Friends or Family Guy all day. We also did a 1 day kayaking trip which was awesome fun (we were also the only boat that didn’t tip over… just saying)!
After another “interesting” bus trip we arrived in Luang Prabang, feeling a little sick after such a terrible bus driver! We spent a day having a look at the sights as well as a day at the Pak Ou caves – the boat trip to the caves was probably nicer than the caves themselves though. We also celebrated New Years Eve by sending up a lantern and letting off some firecrackers!
From Luang Prabang we took another long and windy bus ride to Phonsavan, the home of the Plain of Jars. The actual jars themselves were very cool due to their size and the mystery behind their appearance! We also learned a lot about the Vietnam War, how the Americans treated the Laotians (ie. terribly!) and all the leftover bombs (UXOs) that are still sitting in the surrounding fields – it was all incredibly eye opening! However what makes Phonsavan so memorable was the 3 other backpackers we hung out with the entire time we were there and explored the jars by motorbike with. We managed to meet up with 2 of them later on in Thailand too which was awesome!
An Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) sight that had been marked out to: a) protect the public from stepping on it, and, b) remind the team of where to dig to find and detonate the UXO safely
We crossed the border into Thailand on January 6.