Leaving Phnom Pehn, about two weeks ago, Robyn and I headed up
the seldom-traveled Mekong towards the supposedly closed Cambodia/Laos
border. Getting to the border required two days travel on crowded
pickup trucks over useless road. The road was reckoned to be one
of the 'least secure' in Cambodia, and seemed to have an unusual
amount of random people walking around with automatic weapons, but
we arrived at the end of the road without incident. Half way up,
at the city of Karatie, we enjoyed a few hours on a canoe in the
river in the midst of a rare local species of river dolphins.
From the last town in Cambodia, we took a two hour motorized canoe
ride to the border. I thought that getting through the 'closed border'
(locals only) would require an unusual amount of finesse and a delicate
bribe. As I sat in a chair in a small shack on a small island in
the middle of the Mekong with a big, surly, greasy looking immigration
chief sitting on my right (blocking my view of the unlocked rack
of rifles) I was looking at my toes and trying to be obsequious
as I refused to pay his illegal fee. Meanwhile, on my left (to my
alarm) my indignant wife stood towering over the immigration chief
with a finger in his face telling him in no uncertain terms about
what she thought of his excessive bribe. I thought - ' this is not
what I had in mind '. This guy did not look like he was used to
assertive females. I felt for him. In any case, we got through.
In southern Laos, we stayed a couple days on the biggest of 'the
four thousand islands' and spent a day biking the island. Further
north we explored the quiet but impressive temple of Champasak.
After two days of travel, we arrived in the sleepy capital of Vientiane,
which at only 100,000 people is sleepy indeed. There, we were able
to spend a lot of time wandering around the wats(temples), admiring
the French colonial architecture and apreciating the riverside atmosphere.
Another couple days brought us to the drop dead beautiful town of
Vang Vieng, half way up to the northern border and in the center
of some beautiful karst mountains. In this backpacker haven, we
wandered around several local caves, enjoyed the cool waters of
an aqua blue swimming hole, explored a Hmong Village and spent a
day tubing down the local river watching the locals go on about
their chores on the riverbanks.
Currently, we are in the traditional capital of Luang Prabang.
We decided to celebrate our 6th anniversary by staying in the best
hotel in town, which is the renovated residence of the former Queen.
The hotel restaurant was also meant to be excellent (chef is the
daughter of the last king's chef), so we had dinner there as well.
Although the proper atmosphere did not lend itself to Robyn giving
me 'real time tips', later she suggested these - 1) after you finish
a plate, don't put it to the side, put your elbows on the table
and stare at your empty place setting while waiting for the next
course to arrive and 2) don't pick up and hold your French onion
soup bowl on an angle near your mouth while shoveling the goodies
with your spoon hand.
Next we head through a couple small towns on our way into China,
where we hope to set ourselves up for Chinese New Years on January
24th. If we haven't responded to an email you've sent, it's because
the Internet connections are mind numbingly slow - we'll have a
better one when we get home in a few weeks.
Laos Party Cell
Keir and Robyn.
|Only pickup trucks can navigate most of Cambodia's 'highways'.
Our pickup truck (above), to the last town in Cambodia, broke
|The Laos immigration shack at the border.
|The scenery at Vang Vieng.
|Hmong children are curious about the pictures in our book.