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7. February 2018 21:03
by Rene Pallesen
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Catching local transport - Laos

7. February 2018 21:03 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

For getting around the towns in Laos we mainly used Tuk-Tuks. These are small motorbike powered mini

For getting around the towns in Laos we mainly used Tuk-Tuks. These are small motorbike powered minibuses and the experience can be very mixed. Most of them are generally good, but some have bad brakes have a plume of smelly two stroke engine smoke trailing behind them. We could easily fit our two families into one and I'd joke that there would even be room for another couple of adults.



The kids loved the tuk-tuks and have the fresh air blowing in their hair while riding.



The only downside is that you'd never quite know what the fare would be until you started bargaining and from town to town the fares seemed to be very different. Even though I believe I am reasonable proficient at bargaining, I'm still confident that we paid more that the locals would be paying for the same trips.











For the longer trips we would catch either local buses (mini vans) or in some instances it was worthwhile us hiring a private bus as we were enough people to fill it.

From Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang we hired a private van taking us across the mountain pass at Kasi. Last time I went through here it was in an open bus and at the pass it was raining and really cold. This time round we had a beautiful clear day with a great view of the valley below from the top.





The week before they had a lot of rain and a landslide had taken out large parts of the last section of road (I read in the local newspaper a few days earlier that the road was closed). Our little van was struggling getting enough grip and our driver had to reverse to get enough of a run-up in the next attempt to make it through the steep and muddy section.

The larger trucks were really struggling getting through.



6. February 2018 16:03
by Rene Pallesen
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Morning Markets - Laos

6. February 2018 16:03 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

The morning markets are interesting. This is where the locals still go to buy their fresh produce an
The morning markets are interesting. This is where the locals still go to buy their fresh produce and all kinds of specialties are being sold here. It would be easy to go here and get the ingredients for some really delicious food.

There are also some unusual things that we don't see in our western kitchens. such as:

Dried Squids:



Fresh fish - of cause, but this have sharp teeth.


A protein and herb table that would make most chefs (and diners) salivate:






The Chillies in Lao are more hot than in Thailand - We loved the heat.


A pig:


River crabs:


Beetles:


Dried rats:




Caterpillar - these are yummi when fried:


Frogs:

River snails:


Dried squid, shrimps and fish:






5. February 2018 16:03
by Rene Pallesen
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Silk - Laos

5. February 2018 16:03 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

They still manufacture silk they way they used to. It was interesting for the kids to see the proces
They still manufacture silk they way they used to. It was interesting for the kids to see the process from small caterpillar eggs that hatch to worms to the production of the silk itself.






I had always wondered where the colour blue (Indigo) came from. I knew it used to come from a seashell, but I was fairly certain that this wouldn't be the case here. It turns out that they use a special leaf from a plant that when mixed with water and left fermenting/oxidising turns into a blue dye.





They also use plants for most of the other colours.





After they spin the thread they use traditional weaves to make it into pieces of garment. These days the silk garments are fairly expensive - hundreds of dollars, but it used to be really cheap.

5. February 2018 16:03
by Rene Pallesen
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Bamboo Bridges - Laos

5. February 2018 16:03 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

During the dry season the people of Luang Prabang builds traditional bamboo bridges across the small
During the dry season the people of Luang Prabang builds traditional bamboo bridges across the smaller river. This saves them a lot of time (and cost) to cross directly into the centre of town rather than a long detour to the other larger bridges.

It also earns them a small income to charge foreigners a small fee to cross the bridges.







4. February 2018 22:02
by Rene Pallesen
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Pak Ou cave - Laos

4. February 2018 22:02 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

A two hour boat ride north of Luang Prabang is the Pak Ou cave. Since we were traveling two families
A two hour boat ride north of Luang Prabang is the Pak Ou cave. Since we were traveling two families the best way to get there was to hire a slow boat just for us.



The flow boats are long narrow boats that are ideal for navigating the Mekong River. This part of the river is full of underwater rocks but the boats seem to navigate these treacherous waters with ease.

Having the boat for ourselves gave us more flexibility with regards to how long we wanted to spend at the cane and also meant that we have more room to move around.



The front of the boar is where the captain sits and steers the boat. After this there is a section for the passengers followed by a small pump toilet and then the living quarters for the captain and his family. Out the back there is a small kitchen for them to do the cooking.

The cave is upstream into an area full of limestone mountains.



The many boats moor at a long and wobbly floating bamboo bridge that takes you to the cave itself.





The cave itself is not big but it is full of small Buddhas that have been put there over hundreds of years. You can tell that this used to be an important place of worship.





Now however the place is so crowded with tourists (guilty here too) coming in on boats that it is hard to move around. I could not stop myself from taking this photo of Buddha holding up his hands to stop more boats arriving.



At the top of the hill the hill there is what I think is a more 'pleasant' cave. It is equally interesting and much less crowded because most tourists don's make it up the many steps to the top.

4. February 2018 16:03
by Rene Pallesen
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Lao Lau (rice whiskey) - Laos

4. February 2018 16:03 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

The traditional Lao Lau is still being made. Just north of Luang Prabang on the river there is a lit
The traditional Lao Lau is still being made. Just north of Luang Prabang on the river there is a little village on the river called Whiskey village whos main income is from the production of Lao Lau.



When I was there two decades ago this is what the locals were drinking (now they drink beer instead). I still remember the foul taste from the home brew that was distilled in large oil drums after having been fermented in large clay pots. Whenever I see it I always wonder if distilling strong alcohol right next to an open flame is the wisest of ideas!?!?





The process itself hasn't changed, but these days most of the whiskey is sold to tourists and I tastes a lot more pleasant that it did back then.




3. February 2018 15:03
by Rene Pallesen
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Food - Laos

3. February 2018 15:03 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

The food in Laos is good. It is traditional cooking mostly still cooked over an open fire.You see th
The food in Laos is good. It is traditional cooking mostly still cooked over an open fire.





You see them start cooking the food well before sunrise in big pots.

The food itself is mostly a fusion of Thai and Vietnamese. It has all the noodle soups from Vietnam, but with the more street food and spice of Thailand. The picture below is a typical noodle soup with a traditional cube of coagulated blood.





We were eating a lot from small street type restaurants following the rule that is had to be popular with the locals. The logic behind this is that the locals would know what is good and would also be choosy regarding the quality of the food, so chances are that it would be fresh and not cause food poisoning (none of us or the kids had any issues on the trip).






There are some dubious food there, such as some of the meat BBQ where they sometimes have the meet cooked earlier on the side of the BBQ and then just re-heat it when you order it.







Also be careful with some of the food stalls where the food may have been sitting there for most of the day and often from the day before.





From a 'snack' perspective there are some personal favourites that I absolutely love such as the BBQ fried squid - the packet stuff is just not the same.



Also the Bamboo and coconut fried rice is delicious - they sell them at bus and train stations and especially the purple rice one is yummi!



The freshly made puffed breads over an open fire - they will use two rakes to flip them until they are done.

2. February 2018 00:02
by Rene Pallesen
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Temples - Laos

2. February 2018 00:02 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

The temples in Luang Prabang are some of the most beautiful anywhere. Yes, Thailand has some amazing
The temples in Luang Prabang are some of the most beautiful anywhere. Yes, Thailand has some amazing temples, but these are different. They are smaller, and more intricately decorated.




























1. February 2018 23:02
by Rene Pallesen
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Luang Prabang - Laos

1. February 2018 23:02 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

Luang Prabang is without a doubt the cultural highlight of Laos. The old part of the city is beautif
Luang Prabang is without a doubt the cultural highlight of Laos. The old part of the city is beautiful and there are good reasons why is has been heritage protected.

I believe it has the most beautiful temples of South East Asia - they are not the largest or even the oldest, but the amount of details that has been put into them is absolutely stunning.



In addition to this there are a lot of other very interesting things to see in and do in the city, which I will cover in later posts.

The city itself is situated between two rivers where one of them is the Mekong which is still fairly busy with slow boats and ferries (The chinese are building a large bridge across the river north of the city)





The section between the two rivers form the city itself which consist of four parallel streets each about a kilometer long.



Everything within the city itself can be covered on foot and in the evening the main streets are blocked for card and reserved for pedestrians.

The place is dominated by a big hill with a small temple and stuba on top. It is very popular with tourists to climb the hill around sunset. And there is a great view of the mountains from the top.







There are some things that have changed in the city since I was there the last time. The most noticeable is the amount of tourists and fine hotels - and here it is really the more wealthy middle aged Europeans you see. The main street of the old city is full of modern western European influenced restaurants, souvenir and antique stores.



Fortunately you don't have to travel further that to the parallel streets to fine more low key Laos places to eat.

Also, last time I visited, I stayed in a small guest house near the city centre called Tanoy Guest House. When I stayed here I became good friends with the family and the place was named after the oldest daughter who's name was Tanoy.

The place is still there and apart from a larger fence it looks pretty much unchanged.


29. January 2018 21:01
by Rene Pallesen
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The War - Laos

29. January 2018 21:01 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

The 'secret' war in the 60's and 70's had a major impact on the country. A massive amount of bombs w
The 'secret' war in the 60's and 70's had a major impact on the country. A massive amount of bombs were dropped by mostly the Americans in mostly the Northern and Eastern part of the country. This was partly an internal civil war but also to stop the North Vietnamese using the country as a supply route.

To get an insight into this was I can highly recommend the books by Christoper Robbins called 'The Ravens' and 'Air America'.

The impact today is that un-exploded ordnance (mines, cluster bombs etc.) is covering large parts of the country and that every year lots of people including children gets injured or killed.

It is also very noticable, especially in the Hmong villages that there is no presence of old men. This is because most of these were killed either during the war where especially they took heavy casualties despite the American support or through 'education' camps after the war.

Last time I went to Laos I went to Plains of Jars which was one of the most heavily bombed areas and the debris was everywhere. We weren't going there on this trip, but to give the family and friends an insight into the history and the dangers to present people we visited the COPE organisation in Vientiane.

Here is Aiden in front of an unexploded (disarmed) clusterbomb. Looks just like a ball and tempting for kids to play with.



These were dropped from canisters on aircraft with several hundred in each load. It is estimated that 1/3 of these didn't explode on impact.
 


This map shows the areas most effected.



If you look for the bombs they you see them everywhere - mostly disarmed and used as fence posts.



There is also remains of anti aircraft guns such as this one in Luang Prabang. The barrel had been removed but everything else still worked on it and they could turn it by rotating the handles, much to the amusement of the kids. During the war kids only a little older than our kids would have been fighting at the front lines.