OK a bit late but here we go:
March, 2nd – Central Laos – lovely friendly people mountain villages, sad relicts of war…
In Phonsavan it is hard not to be reminded of the wars happened here. You find cafes called “crater” full of relicts out of the war, bombs, bullets, grants… even our guesthouse was fully equipped: Lamps out of bombs, key rings out of bullets etc. The USA were flying more than 580.000 missions over Laos and dropping more than 2 million tons of bombs worth two million dollars a day between 1964 and 1973. These are more bombs as in the whole of the 2nd World War! The “funny” thing is that they declared the war in 1974; so for 10 years it was “only” a CIA operation. Many failed to detonate and only a tiny percentage has been removed and it will take more than 100 years to make the country save. Therefore it is no good idea at all to leave the roads or tracks… We did a trip to a crater field in the sunset following the dirt roads and it was depressing but impressive and a bit scary to see the big wide holes on this hills. It makes you think a lot… In some villages the recycle bomb materials to knifes, spoons or jewelries – we think you should not buy any from them because this would make them go to look for more material. Still to many people die while walking over mines.
Another “attraction” of Phonsavan of course is the jars of Stone Age (Plain of Jars), which are possibly 2000 years (nobody really knows) old and their purpose remains a mystery. Some suggest they were used as stone coffins or maybe for storing Láo Láo (rice whisky)… it will be a mystery forever perhaps -which idea we like ;-)
The Road number 7 from Phonsavan to the west was a real pleasure! When we hit the road 13 direction south the traffic increased immediately but still nice with incredible views on the Karst Mountains until we reached Vang Vieng. It was a completely different impression compared to the rest of Laos when we entered this small city: shops everywhere and you can get everything you want. When we took of our gears in the guesthouse we recognized that one screw of our pannier holder was broken and on a different place as well the steal from the frame needed some little fixing. Luckily the owner of the guesthouse was a Kiwi and could lend us a driller. After fixing the screw Sascha found a place to get the rest welded. Early afternoon everything was fixed again and we had time to enjoy driving around the little side roads through the mountains nearby.
Vientiane was not really our cup of tea. Far too expensive and suddenly it was really hot again which we were not really used to anymore after the mountains. The original idea was to get our visa prepared here already for Thailand but unfortunately we forgot to check the weekday and of course it was Friday! For sure we did not want to stay here for 3 or 4 days. At least we found a nice local place out of the center where we enjoyed dinner with a view over the Khong River and live Lao music. The next morning we left very early.
Heading further south we left the main road and turned to road number 8 where we stayed in Khoun Kham. From here we explored the incredible cave “Kong Lor” which is worth a visit without a question!!! Watch the pictures… and it was even thousand times better live! And at the entrance you have a paradise lagoon where you can relax and having a swim. After the excursion through the cave we had a swim with all the locals in the lagoon. Further we continued east taking the 8s passing the dam lake to Thakhek. Partially the road was bad but all in all ok and interesting to see the dead trees in the floated areas.
From Thakhek we went south for a long distance; about 230km on the 13 until we left to the east again to Salavan. From there we did a great tour around the Bolavan Plateau over Thateng, Sekong Pakxong until Champasak. Shortly we were thinking of staying a night in the jungle in a little village, but the clouds coming up made us a bit afraid as we were driving on a real sandy dirt road. Luckily we decided to continue as we got catch by heavy rain thunder and lightning just when we reached the asphalt road in Pakxong!
In Champasak we found a place to sleep for very little money. We had a trip around over there and spending the night again at the river side of the Khong. Yesterday we reached the area of the 4000 islands, taking the ferry to Khong Island. It is the most north located island and the biggest one with a nice relaxed authentic atmosphere and not overloaded at all. Today we spent the morning exploring the island in each corner, watching the buffalos, the fishermen, visiting the temples, chatting with the villagers… The afternoon will be without riding the bike. Relaxing, updating the blog, reading, having probably fish for dinner… of course sitting directly at the riverside of the Khong ;-)
Tomorrow we will leave to explore some of the other Islands here around and getting closer to the Cambodian border – latest by the 12th of March we have to leave Laos…