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snippets of blackwings life

Vientiane – The sleepy Lao capital

PagodaAfter another bumpy ride from Viang Vien to Ventiane in a “Super VIP” Bus (they should take courses in Malaysia, to find out, what VIP means…) – Basically: It was hot, I felt squeezed in and the ride virtually took forever. And it was expensive. Transportation in Lao all in all… Sucks.

Mekong viewBut here we are: The Lao capital… Vientiane. Seems really sleepy for a capital – It perfectly resembles the way of life that I have seen in Laos. On the first afternoon I used the time to walk around a little bit – And within a few hours I knew most of the city center stretching alongside the Mekong.

GateIn Vientiane I chose PP guesthouse, right next to Mekong river (which had really low water, cause of dry season) for just 50000 kip per night. In Vientiane everybody got prepared for Sonkran, the Buddhist New Year, which last from April 13th til April 15th. As I wrote before, Sonkran is celebrated using vast amounts of water – in order to pour it to others (for refreshment…).

World peace gongI arrived at the 12th – and I got completely soaked even on the way from the Bus station to the guest house. But I knew what to expect, so all my valuables were tightly sealed in zip-lock bags. Other tourists were not so lucky – and freaked out. Because of this, I have very few photos of this procedure – Because I did not want to get the camera wet. During the night, there was a huge thunderstorm – But after that it really cooled down a lot. During daytime it was around 35c…

That LuangOn the 13th, I decided to get a bicycle again, to visit the That Luang, the national symbol of Laos, which is located about 4km east of the city centre. I cycled around for hours – and got some minor sunburn again. Actually there was quite much to see – and That Luang is definitively worth visiting.

Beer LaoI spent the afternoon with cycling around the city and chilling in some cafes. Later in the afternoon/evening the water pouring increased drastically – Almost everybody had kind of SuperSoaker water guns or used something else to get the others wet. I did participate in this funny game right next to my guesthouse, where the owners gratefully invited me to join them – And I greatly enjoyed it. Later in the night, around midnight, another thunderstorm passed by, so the party died down a little bit – But loud music was played almost all night long at the Mekong esplanade…

I left Vientiane at the 14th by plane – And be REALLY sure to bargain down the price the TukTuk drivers try to charge you! They start at something like 8 US$ for the 10 minute ride to the airport. I finally got it for 4 US$ – which is STILL really overpriced… But sometimes you have no chance!

filed in laos, on tour

Viang Vien

After some days without blogging… I’m back to it :) Internet connectivity in Laos, especially in Vian Vieng was a nightmare… Slow, unreliably and really expensive – So I decided not to waste time by blogging, but for chilling out instead…

Mountain ViewSo, let’s get to the details:I left Luang Prabang by minibus – simply because all regular busses were sold out… Grr. So I had to take the more expensive, less comfortable and crappy option… Result: Squeezed into a mini bus for almost 7 hours in a bumpy ride through the Laotian mountains…

SunsetSo I reached Viang Vien in the late afternoon and the first hassle was to get a TukTuk to the centre… because the minibus station is somewhere 3km outside the town. So after hard bargaining we had them at 5000 kip per person… I took the Doukhoun guesthouse in the centre – which was a good option for 40000 kip per night. Clean room, own shower and pretty quiet.

Tubin' PeopleOn the next day, I went kayaking – instead of Tubing. Tubing, this is the thing, Viang Vien is world-famous for. It basically means: Floating down a river, stopping in any bar on the way, getting dead drunk in the early afternoon and doing artistic swings and slides into the water… Yes, perfectly right for highschool graduates – But I felt a little too old for that, so I decided to go kayaking. This finally turned out to be a better option – Simply because the river had low water, because of dry season, resulting in an almost non existing current.

MountainsBut: Kayaking was fun – mostly because of watching the unmotivated drunk people in their tubes trying to fasten the process of tubing down :) Besides that, I did some tubing in a cave, which was quite amazing. The surrounding nature is great – High mountains and everything really green.

Bucket barOn the last bar I met some climbers, especially Geordie from Canada… Lucky me, because he had all gear with him and invited me to join him for the next day. So I rent some shoes at Green Discovery and we got back to the “Sleeping Wall” the next day. The funny part was: That spot was installed by Volker Schoeffl from Bamberg…

Climbing itself was wonderful – The routes ranging from 4+ to something in the 9th grade were perfectly bolted and nicely located… I lead some of the 6+/7- tracks successfully and all in all, we had a great day. Finally in the late afternoon we decided to take the next day off and go back for climbing the day after.

Mountainbiking.Actually, I did not take the day off – I chose mountain biking instead (to kill some different muscle). Flo from Bremen, who I met while climbing joined me for that tour. We started really early in the morning (8am) to catch the “cold” air in the morning. The day resulted in a full day tour of around 50km over bumpy roads including visits of several caves.

Cavin'I spent the last day with climbing again – But way more relaxed than the first time. All in all: Viang Vien has a lot of activities to offer: If you prefer to get drunk: There is tubing, the bucket bars and loud techno music all night long (and even magic or happy shakes…). If you prefer sports: Climbing, caving, kayaking and mountain biking is a good choice. But: This place is quite expensive when it comes to food and internet access.

filed in laos, on tour

Luang Prabang

Khuan Si WaterfallAfter meeting Ulrike, Katharina and Dorothea we decided to get on a TukTuk to the KhuangSi waterfall – And after bargaining and getting of the cab at least 5 times we got a good price and finally got there. The waterfall is located about 30km southeast of Luang Prabang and situated in a rainforest conservation. After a nice lunch we proceeded to the waterfall – Really nice located in the middle of the woods withmilky blueish water! Very refreshing and relaxing with the buzzing heat!

SonkranizedWe spent there several hours walking around and climbing up to the main waterfall… But the most interesting stuff happened on the way back to Luang Prabang: Because of the Laotian New Year (on April 14th) and the dizzling heat, it is a tradition for kids to spread water to bypassing people… and yes. We got wet. But it is worth it, cause the Lao kids really love it and it is really refreshing!

SunsetLuang Prabang itself is definitively worth visiting – I really like this charming place right on river Mekong! Its relaxing atmosphere, the impressive temples, the wonderful Lao people are worth staying there for some days. Even that the place is quite touristic, it is not too packed – Probably because it is low season for now. The sunsets at the riverside are really impressive as you can see.

Painting monkI spent another day visiting the huge number of temples – Because there are that many, I decided not to upload a photo on that. Just go there yourself and get impressed by the unique architecture and style! Because of the New Year all temples are being renovated and repainted.

I plan to go mountain biking again the next day, but that really depends on the weather, because there are huge thunderstorms supposed to cross by…

filed in laos, on tour

River Mae Khong

Yeah, I got some Internet access again – finally. Now, I am in Laos – to be precise, in Luang Prabang. LP is the world famous unesco listed world heritage site right at river Mae Khong (= Mekong).

LightningGetting there was a multi-day adventure. First I took a local bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong over incredibly crappy roads… After this almost four hour ride (with having about every km a stop for someone leaving or entering the bus), I chose a guesthouse in Chiang Khong. This place seemed quite “left” – very few travellers around, and people almost begging for someone to stay at their place… So I got a decent room right at river Mekong for just 150 Baht. A room like this would have cost probably 350 in Chiang Mai. Anyway, after a heavy thunderstorm around 8pm I finally got to bed, because on the next morning I wanted to cross the Thai/Laotian border.

So at next morning at around 7.30 I got up and walked down to the pier and got my departure stamp of Thailand. For 40 Baht a tiny ferry takes you over the river, where you can get the Laotian Visa. This one takes some forms to fill out, a recent passport picture and…. 30 US$ in cash.

Mekong river boatAfter getting another few stamps in my passport I reached down the road in order to get a SlowBoat ticket for the two-day river cruise down to Luang Prabang. The scammers around the immigration point tried to sell me a ticket for 1200 Baht – but at the official office it is just 900. The boat finally left at around 11:30 – and I was lucky to be early. Cause the boat was completely packed and I got a very good and quiet seat in the front of the boat… Next to me were some nice US guys and some people from Regensburg and a couple from Sweden.

Mekong cruiseAfter the boat finally arrived around sunset (=1800), we knew each other quite good, had a few Beer Lao and enjoyed the scenic view of the Mekong Riverside… The second day was the same – nice, untouched nature and a long time to bridge. We had again good seats – just because two of the US guys decided to et up at 5am to save the seats! (The boat left at 8.30).

So finally – here I am in Luang Prabang!

But when I reached this decent place in the middle of nowhere, something really crazy happened: I met Ulrike, Katharina and her sister Dorothea which are currently on a round-the-world trip! I did not know that they where around… Very funny meeting a co-worker and former co-student of mine in south-east-asia! So we had some food together and decided to get on a trip to a waterfall tomorrow :)

filed in laos, on tour, thailand

Back to Asia

After some long break in posting here due to some major workload (or better: overload), I finally get back to blogging – Cause it is time for another trip/vacation again :)

Tomorrow, on 24th of March I will board a flight from Frankfurt via Dubai to Bangkok using a pretty cheap 400€ Emirates flight. After taking some AirAsia connection to Chiang Mai I plan to travel far up northern Thailand into the Golden Triangle visiting even Myanmar… I plan to take some boat trip down the Mekong to get to Luang Prabang and finally to Vientianne. On April 14th I will catch a flight to Kuala Lumpur, but actually, I will spend the last week in Singapore and Bangkok, visiting some friends of my Singapore 2006/2007 adventure.

My flight back to Germany will be on April 21st – So there is 4 weeks of vacation. Stay tuned, frequent updates will be posted!

Update: As there were frequent requests: Packing list (german)

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