After staying in Luang Prabang for a week, I made a plan to take a route that is not so tourist-y. A bit off the beaten track, so to speak. And what an adventure that decision made… From Luang Prabang first a 10-hour bus to Phonsavanh.
In Phonsavanh, a lady found fields and fields covered with mysterious jars. The jars are made out of rocks. From fairly small (that you can hold – although they’ve all been taken by tourists by now…) to massively big. Some are covered with a flat rock, but most are just scattered about. And no one knows what they are doing there. So, conspiracies abound, because they could be sacrifice vessels for the gods (there’s a cave-temple nearby), or for fermenting rice (making whiskey). Maybe the Plains of Jars were just ancient cupboards where they kept things from going bad. Who knows?! It was quite interesting walking around the first and biggest field, with jars scattered about. But to be honest; they’re just jars made out of rock. Not that spectacular. Even quicker than temples or waterfalls, I got over it pretty soon. And now the next question.
An 8-hour local busride over a “really bad road” (although none of the roads seem very good, and everyone we ask keeps smiling, so how bad can it be), or going back on ourselves, making the same trip maybe a bit less bumpy, but also definitely with 2 stops and over 24 hours in the tourist bus that would be a lot more expensive. We’re about to find out how bad a “really bad road” actually is in Laos.
The busride from Ponsavanh to Savannakhet
This was the busride from hell. I really need to tell you about this seperately so expect an update about that soon. For now I’ll just say that I was incredibly happy, after two days of buses, to not be on a bus for a couple of days. Even if that meant spending those days in…….
There’s not much here, really. I had difficulty finding nice food. There’s a nice waterfront, and a dinosaurmuseum with about three bones found in the area. And a Lao guide explaining where they came from. And a fairylight replica of the dinosaur. But that’s about it. Being here was all about resting, and getting ready for the rest.
Pakse and the Bolaven Plateau
Pakse is a small town, not much special. From there we rented a moped and went exploring in the Bolaven Plateau area. You could explore the area for many days. I think the two days I spent looking for, and at, waterfalls and pretty little villages was enough though. We saw the highest waterfalls in South East Asia, which were pretty impressive. The atmosphere got a little bit ruined (or funnier) when a tourist bus drove up and the Asians that came out started their usual routine of taking pictures “holding” the waterfalls, two were even so original as to bend over so it seemed the waterfalls were coming out of their mouths. A good laugh, especially when they found us spying on them. Oops… Tad Lo the waterfall-village in the area, didn’t do much for me. The people there weren’t friendly at all and asked high rates for a small dish. It was lots of fun exploring the area in this way though.
After Pakse we continued to the 4000 Islands, an area in the Mekong that transforms into hundreds of little islands during the dry season. During the wet season, the islands shrink or even completely disappear. I think this was my favourite area in Laos. On Don Det (our island) was a chilled out vibe, you could go tubing or swimming. Most bars offered a free sunset cruise and there was a great Indian place. I think that I ate Indian once every three days in Laos. Unfortunately the country is not rich enough to experiment with food and it doesn’t have many local dishes. They know how to make some great Indian food though!
All in all, Laos has been an experience. Sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad. I can’t wait to see what Cambodia has got in store… But for now, this is what it all looked like!