Week 7: Thailand and Laos

This week Jenessy and I travelled to Thailand and Laos to celebrate her time here in SE Asia before she went to work in the Geneva office. We started our trip on Friday morning by flying Luang Prabang, Laos. We had a four hour layover in Bangkok but unfortunately it wasn’t enough time to get into the city and go through customs all over again so we stayed in the airport. 

We arrived in Luang Prabang in the afternoon and were immediately struck by the landscape. the city sits right at junction of the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers and is completely surrounded by towering mountains arising out of nowhere. The city really only has three main streets that follow the peninsula that it sits on but has a series of side streets and alleys as well. These smaller streets were just wide enough to walk two by two and were walled in tropical flowers and fauna. 

We shared a taxi into the city and walked around until we found a cheap guesthouse. That evening we walked around the city, getting a sense of it and made our way to Mount. Phousi. We made the short hike up to the top which ending in shrine amazing view of the city and the surrounding valley just as the sun was setting. We made our way down the mountain and explored the night market until we found a nice restaurant on the Mekong where we got a bite to eat and enjoyed a few Laos whiskeys. 

The next morning we checked out a few pagodas, Wat Xiang Thong being of particular note as the intricate mosaics and gold gilding all over the complex were extraordinary. We caught a quick breakfast and then rented a Moto for the day. I had never driving a motorcycle before and we got off to a pretty slow start but by the end of the hour long drive to Kuang Si Waterfall I was feeling confident twisting through the mountain passes crossing the narrow bridges. We hiked up the stream of small waterfalls and swimming holes full of water of a cream blue color due to a mineral deposit and arrived at Kuang Si Waterfall. It was massive and extraordinary. We climbing to the top of it where you could climb up trees hanging over the falls to look straight down to the crashing waters. on the suggesting of a blog post Jenessy had read we set out to find a nearby cave that was only supposed to be 3km away. Unfortunately we went the wrong way, and instead of following a clear path that was neatly laid out we decided to bushwhack in the general direction we thought was right. After a few hours of summiting nearby mountains hoping to find the right trail or happen onto the cave we decided to head back. After a few more hours of only getting lost briefly we arrived back at the top of falls only slightly worse for ware and came upon the clear sign and trail heading to the caves. We ended up checking out the caves which were definitely worth the trip and on our way back we stopped for a dip and few jumps into one of the swimming holes we saw on the way up. 

The next day we drove four hours north the Nam Ou River and arrived in Nong Khiaw village. This village had everything that Luang Prabang had in views just magnified, the mountains were truly extraordinary and we were completely surrounded. We found a wood and thatch room on stilts right on the river with a balcony and a hammock and settled in. The first day we took a hike to nearby caves where the people of the village had fled in order to escape bombings during the Indochina War. Laos remains one of the countries with the most unexploded ordinances across its country side and people are still losing life and limbs coming across them every year. We arrived late after the cave and just managed to pickup some food that we took back to the guesthouse. We sat on the balcony and watched as the fog rolled across the river and through the mountains on its far side. The next day we renting some kayaks and paddled up the river for a few hours and then hiked up one of the nearby mountains and took in some breathtaking views of the area. 

We returned to Luang Prabang the next day where we had a relatively lazy and relaxed day strolling around the city, and we were off to Bangkok the next morning. Bangkok was overwhelming and huge compared to all the cities Ive been to thus far in SE Asia. We had a great time exploring the city during that day and night until we both needed to catch our respective planes. Jenessy set off for Geneva at 2:00 a.m. and me for Phnom Penh at 6:00 a.m. I was able to catch a few hours sleep at a burger king in the airport and now back at work in Phnom Penh. The trip was amazing but Phnom Penh is a very special city and I found myself missing it.