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Hilltribes from Yunnan, Laos, Vietnam ,Yuanyang

And a bit of Bangkok, KL and Angkor Wat


mapA detailed map of our travelplan

The photos we made.



Luang Nam Tha

When we enter Laos we have the feeling we are in a time warp. Gone are the frenzy construction activities. The houses are made of Bamboo and wood.
The Chinese bus driver is so friendly to drop us off at the centre, which is 8 kilometers before the bus station. 5 euro pays a very nice room with attached bathroom and AC in a clean hotel; even tough in local currency that is 60.000 kip!

Luang Nam Tha is a small town, just 1 main street lined with hotels, restaurants and trekking companies. We buy a day trek to visit some local tribes. At 650.000 kip (55 euro) a fortune, but it includes a guide and transport.

We end the evening with a dinner in an Indian restaurant, but the food is not that excellent. Beer Lao, the local brand is nice enough to flush down the onion Bhajees.

Wednesday 28 October: We soon come to understand why trekking in Laos is so nice. It is because an effort has to be made by both sides. Before going on a trek you are given a small lecture on the do and don’ts, which gives you a basic understanding on how to behave when you are in the villages. On the other side the villagers are being educated in understanding why people want to come and visit them. The beauty of this mutual understanding is that you do not meet begging children. No candy or pen harassment. This is unique in the whole of SE Asia. The kinds laughter is a free one.


So what do the villagers get out of this deal I asked. Apparently, all the village elders of a region are being brought together for education by the government. There they are made aware that tourists bring money to Laos and that the school their village has is partly being paid by this income. I must say that the whole of Laos is full of posters showing the do and don’ts.


The first village we go to are called Lantan, and they are from Tibeto-Burmese descent. The people are very friendly and seem a bit shy at first, but they do not when I ask if I can make a photo. The village is very quiet and I understand that in daytime everybody is working in the fields. This is the downside of a day trek. All the other villages are similar, quiet ad deserted except for the youngest and the elderly. Still we very much enjoy wandering around the villages, which are still completely made out of wood and bamboo. It gives the whole place genuine authenticity.
We have a lunch in the Laotian way. We find an open place in the jungle, our driver cuts some banana leaves that serve as blanket and the food is being placed on the leaves. How to eat the sticky rice, the veggies and the meat? The guide explains with a big smile how to eat Laotian style. He says to use 3 fingers (thumb, forefinger and ring-finger) and use them as chopsticks. We finally learned it the Chinese way and we are already trying another system! First you take some sticky rice, roll it into a small ball and make a bowl in the middle. Here you can put the veggies or meat in and than put it in the mouth. Easy? Well, it does take some practice, but the food is good so it is fun and tasty at the same time.

Laos has 25 different kinds of green. Our guide tells a bit about life in Laos. He comes from a small village, 6 hours away from the nearest road. From there it is a 12hour bus drive to Luang Nam Tha. But we never get hungry he says as the jungles gives us all the food that is necessary to get by.

After lunch, we visit a cave, some more villages and a small town. Before we know it is time to drive back to Luang Nam Tha. We feel a bit lazy as we did very little walking and most of the distance was done by car. You can always take another tour tomorrow says the guide. Yes, the trekking possibilities in the area are countless. Unfortunately, time is not on our side and we will have to come back to do more active trekking another time.

Luang Prabang

Thursday, 29 October: Today we take the bus to Luang Prabang. Vientanne may be the capital of Laos, but it is LP that gets all the raves.

It is already night by the time we arrive in LP. We are not worried as I already made reservations at the Rattan guesthouse. We are given a very small room as the room we made a reservation for was given away the day before, but we are promised a big one the next day. Indeed we are a day behind schedule. A shower and we are off for dinner. Nazim, a very nice Indian restaurant gives us the curries we crave for. Recommended! We try to get to bed early as tomorrow morning we will participate in the monk food donation. On the way we pass the night market, which is full of small stands with the usual tourist trinkets. Hassle free. I notice that everywhere there are posters warning about pedophile activities. Do not turn your head away, turn them in it says. Laos does not want to be a second Thailand. With an evening curfew in LP, the party animals are not really encouraged to come. Those who come for party, drugs, drinking and other bacchanalian activities are in the wrong country and should head for the beaches of Thailand.

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Friday, 30 October: We get up at six, which is way to early for me, but the monks are hungry and need their breakfast. The friendly lady of the hotel takes us to the main street around the corner. We both get a ceremonial scarf to place on our body. Then Rita and the lady sit down, men are supposed to stand up. I excuse myself, saying that I prefer to put the ceremony on film, while Rita burns her fingers while she scoops the rice out of the rice basket to make small rice balls.

After breakfast we go by boat to the Pakoe Caves. Nothing special but is a nice boat trip on the Mekong river. For the Laotians the caves have a similar meaning as the Lourdes cave in France. People come to pray and to ask the Gods for some help.

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It is a bit after midday when we are back in the city. It is very hot and humid, so I am looking forward to a nice dip in the pool near the waterfalls. This is a very nice place to spend a relaxing afternoon trying to escape the heat. The water feels freezing and I feel a lot better when we go back to town. This time we go “French” in a stylish restaurant. Laos was part of Indochine and you can still see signs of this occupation. Schools are called écoles and everywhere baguettes with “la vache Kiri” are being sold as snacks. There is a great variety of French-Italian restaurants and you could stay here without ever having to eat sticky rice once. We quite enjoy the coffee supply, and find ourselves going back several times for a nice cup of Java.

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Saturday, 31 October: Today we have booked a day trek to the Khmer and Hmong tribes around LP for 50 euro including lunch. This time we really have to walk. It starts with an easy stroll along the riverbank where we visit the Khmer villages and then we start to walk uphill. Even hidden below the trees we start to puff and the heat makes us feel exhausted quickly. Ken, our friendly guide makes frequent halts and we have plenty of water with us. Finally we arrive at a village on a hill and hopefully I ask if this is where the climbing ends. “No” says Ken, “the Hmong live in the mountains, this is still Khmer area”. We decide on another rest as it is lunchtime. An excellent rice and curry gives us back some strength. I ask if this is a heavy hike, but apparently this is a moderate one, as the three day hike I really wanted involves a lot more of steep uphill walking. “We don’t get that many old people like yourselves for trekking” the guide says smiling. Yeah right, that will help boost his tip! After lunch we walk further until we arrive at a Hmong village, which is deserted, as everybody is working on the fields.


99 9We are pointed to the differences in houses. The Khmer will build their houses on poles where the Hmong will build from the floor up. The reason is simple; the Khmer houses are near the river and are prone to flooding.  Then we follow a path for several hours in the plain open. Only now we realize how nice it was to walk under the shade of the trees. This is hard work and we are exhausted when we reach one of the larger villages. The guide takes us to the shop of his brother where we indulge in clod beer Lao. As it happens there is a wedding party going on and we are requested to participate in the drinking and dancing.
At 5.30 the music stops and everybody goes home, I guess because tomorrow is another working day.

The Lao way of meeting a girl: you walk up to the girl; make a greeting with your hands to show respect and than ask her to dance. Sounds pretty old fashioned to us.

I notice a couple of satellite dishes in the village and ask what their favorite channels are. They can watch over 50 channels. The Thai and Laos channels are the most popular ones, but they also watch Cambodian, Vietnamese, Indian, Chinese and even the BBC world can be watched. I get the feeling that Laos has turned its back to China and is looking more to Thailand as a role model.

The Rattana hotel problem

we are knackered by the time we are back at the hotel. And just now do we have a problem with the weasel that seems to be in charge of the hotel. The bill does not add up and is much more than I expected, so I tell he to give me a copy. He can’t, he says he will write me a copy. He comes to the room to hand me the copy. I notice that some numbers have changed. When I want to pay in dollars the rate is so bad I tell him I will go and change at the ATM, than he increases the rate a bit so I give in. Other complaints we have about the hotel: small rooms, even the big ones, the pricy laundry comes back greyer than when we gave it for washing and the poor breakfast cost the same as the excellent JoMa coffee shop just around the corner.

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Sunday, 1 November: Again a travel day as we will be taking the bus to Vientiane. We stock up with some baguettes dressed with processed cheese, tomato and eggs and prepare ourselves for the potholes to come. Our Ipod is a wonderful time killer on these trips. Slowly we see the mountains disappear, the bamboo huts are disappearing and stone houses appear. Also appearing are cars as the traffic becomes more intense. We realize that for the last few days we have been in a tranquil area of the world. Slowly the white clouds in the sky make room for a dull smog sky. For a capital, Vientiane has a provincial feel, but coming from the north it feels busy. When we arrive at the Malinaphu guesthouse, our room is gone, as we did not reconfirm. No problem, the hotel next door is as good and 5 dollar cheaper. We had noticed an Indian restaurant at the corner and decide to try it. They have a bottle of French wine on sale for 10 usd, which we empty with love. The food is perfect and we soon forget the bus ride from LP.


We find out, by accident, that tomorrow the annual That Luang festival takes place. During this festival monks from all over Laos come to Vientiane to have their begging bowl filled. We decide to focus our visit on the festival.


Monday, 2 November: We get up really early and by 6 o’clock we are at the Wat That Luang. The religious festival is held in and around That Luang Stupa, the National Symbol of Laos, where hundreds of monks gather to accept alms and floral votives from the people.



Already, this early, there is a constant flow of people. Armed with money, food, candy and flowers to donate to the monks. Everybody seems to be wearing his or her best clothes. Thousands of monks are standing at benches, anxiously awaiting their gifts. The whole place is abuzz with footstalls, balloon sellers, flower stalls and the place has a fun fair feel with merry-go-rounds and loud music blaring out of the loudspeakers.

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By 8.30 am we find the place to busy and decide to walk back to the city.

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We pass by Patouxai, the “Arc de Triomphe” of Laos and find it a monster. When we arrive at the hotel we decide to rest a bit. Heat and traveling has made us very tired and a nice nap makes us feel all well again. The rest of the day we spend hanging around the area. Coffe and cake, sending e-mails and so on. In the evening we go back to the what to make photos of the full moon, but we do not stay long as we have trouble walking in such a big crowd while the loudspeakers are on overdrive. We watch the festival further on the TV in our A/C room. Tommorow we leave Laos, way to soon, but Air Asia is going to fly us to Kuala Lumpur for a song.


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Arun Wat at night

Yunnan Kuala Lumpur







Map of Luang Nam Tha




Uesful Websites:

 www.talesofasia.com: a very informative website about travel in the Mekong

www.visit-mekong.com: a website that has some information about the Mekong area countries

www.orientaltales.com: stories and photography to be used when arm chair traveling

www.travelfish.org: travel info, forum, and a good source of information

www.thingsasian.com: forum, photos, etc.…

www.travelmedia.com/mekong: travel information about the countries visited
















































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On the bus we meet a nice American who lives, semi-retired in SE Asia.  To keep himself busy he has started a little mapmaking company. www.hobomaps.com

The maps are quite nice, we use the LP map we got for free from him quite a lot to find restaurants and so on.




































Dog eating: Our guide tells us a horror story about dog eating. Buddhists normally do not eat dogs but some people will do, especially in winter as dog meat is excellent against the cold. However it is the Vietnamese that are crazy about dog meat. The way they kill them is horrifying. They poor boiling water through their mouth, thus not only killing them, but also cleaning the stomach. During the Vietnam War they used to do this with the American POW’s to show them that they are nothing more than dogs.

























Our troubles at the Rattana Hotel. Watch out!

Recommended at: www.travelfish.org, but not by us !

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