One of Laosâ€™s treasures which for the moment seems to be off the beaten path for large masses of tourists is Si Phan Don near the countryâ€™s southern border with Cambodia. We made the journey to Si Phan Don from Luang Prabang in the North by flying to Vientiane in the evening, staying overnight and flying from there to Pakse early the next morning. We then continued by bus to the main island of Don Khong. Our next destination was Siem Reap, Cambodia and, since I personally dislike backtracking while traveling, we wanted to find a way to cross the border and continue on by land or by river without taking the bus back to Pakse for the direct flight to Siem Reap.
We’ve just added some new photos of our journey up the Mekong River from Luang Prabang to the Pak Ou Caves and the Whiskey Village. Check it out!
While in Laos we rented a tuk-tuk and drove 32km south of Luang Prabang to see the wonderful Tat Kuang Si waterfalls. The drive up the mountain through lush green land was wonderful and we saw cows, water buffalos and many smiling kids who were waving â€œhelloâ€ at us. We got some exercise climbing up to the highest point and cooled off on the way down. It was fun!
To continue the discussion about riding motorcycles in Vietnam, our recent daytrip outside of Hanoi and last weekâ€™s visit to Luang Prabang, here is a NY Times article about motorcycles in Laos which talks about the influx of Chinese motorcycles, toys and technology into this and other SE Asian countries.
We left Luang Prabang Tuesday evening and were about to catch a flight to Vientiane when the power went out at the airport. Now, call me petty, but I think but I like to have my airports all wired 24/7. While I was entertaining all the possible catastrophes of this little episode, all of the airport staff, vendors and tuk tuk drivers were leaving for the day. It was, after all, past 8pm already! After a small delay, we finally took off to Vientiane where we spent a short night in a deserted strange looking hotel. Very early the next morning, we caught a flight to Pakse, the main getaway to the south of Laos. This time there was no power failure at the airport but rather a HUGE airplane size roach walking around the â€œsecurity checkâ€ area.
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One of the recommended activities in Luang Prabang is a visit to the Pak Ou caves. The two caves are located 25km north of Luang Prabang in the lower part of a limestone cliff. Inside those mystical caves are hundreds of little Buddha statues hiding in the walls of the cave or seated on a rock. The caves are accessible by boat or by tuk tuk and we of course chose the boat option. After a nice breakfast by the Mekong, 1 Dramamine pill (me) and quick negotiation with the boatman we were on our way! We chartered a boat to go up the Mekong River all the way to the Pak Ou caves and split the cost with another traveler instead of going on a group tour. The ride north was gorgeous taking us along villages, animals and other boats.
Today we decided to explore the island across from us, Don Det. For the price of $1 a day you can rent a bicycle which is the best way to explore this area. We rode to Don Det and took a tour to see the Khon Phaoheng Falls (largest waterfall is south East Asia by volume, not height) and the rare Irrawaddy dolphins. Watched another wonderful sunset and chilled on the veranda eating a wonderful Lao dinner.
We woke up super early, probably because of all the roosters around the island who simultaneously began screaming at 4am. We had breakfast and rented bicycles for the day and rode all around the island meeting people, water buffalo and chickens. We rode all the way to the southern tip of the island where we saw the beautiful Tat Somphamit Waterfall. Back at the bungalow we hung out on the balcony sleeping in the hammock and reading. Itâ€™s a tough routine.
So far weâ€™ve stumbled upon two photography exhibitions while strolling around in Luang Prabang. The first was housed in a beautiful French villa showcasing photos of Lao life as part of the Biennale international de lâ€™image. The second exhibition was right next to the Palace museum entitled â€œFloating Buddhasâ€. The photos were taken by a German photographer who was invited by the monks of Luang Prabang to document novicesâ€™ study and practice of meditation. The photos were all shot with an analog camera in black and white achieving a wonderful dramatic effect. I liked it so much I bought a poster of the exhibition and with some luck, it will actually make it all the way back to New York.
We arrived in Luang Prabang on Friday morning and did not have a hotel reservation. At the airport, we met a fellow traveler, Laura, who mentioned she was going to a guesthouse that may have another room available. We decided to share a tuk tuk to the city (about 4km away) and see if we could stay at that same place. After a short drive, we got into town and realized that Lauraâ€™s guesthouse did not have any available rooms but the guesthouse next door-Levady had a room. We quickly snatched that room and started our adventure.