Moonroots

Find your roots and grow, wherever you go. Travel-Yoga-Lifestyle


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Lazing in Laos Part 2: Vang Vieng

Reaching our destination at 3 am and being escorted by a breaking-down tuk-tuk to the only open hostel made for a memorable arrival in the relaxed town of Vang Vieng. (And the fact that we actually got there, thinking we’d missed it altogether when the 5 hour bus ride turned into 8.) ‘Famous’ to travellers for intoxicated tubing down the Vang Vieng river, I can definitely see this place as somewhere one could get stuck in a routine of chill days and nights, with just about enough commotion to keep you feeling peaceful but not bored. Helps that the surrounding area offers tons to be explored, whether you are into bicycles, mopeds, dune buggies or travelling by foot or tuk-tuk.

Perhaps a blessing in disguise, the debaucherous river float that we’d heard so much about had ‘closed’ only a couple of weeks before we arrived, meaning that the multiple riverside bars were no longer up and running. Although it probably would have been cool, some of the effects on the town aren’t exactly culturally respectful. There were numerous signs at the border crossing featuring bathing suited cartoons gallivanting down streets shamelessly, and advising against such behaviour. Nevertheless, with a good sized group of happy people, we rented the tubes, brought along ‘supplies’ and set off for a day of respectfully soaking up the sun and scenery with new friends. photo (24)

The water was the perfect temperature, and the day was hot, making the stretches of river that flowed through the shade of towering mountains around us refreshing and awakening. From the stories I’d heard, I was expecting huge rapids and multiple ominous drop-offs, maybe a couple of whirlpools, but the conditions were calm and pleasant, though occasionally having to lift your butt to not get destroyed by rocks pretty much comes with the tubing territory. We made one pit stop on the river bank, lengthening our celebrations in the sun. photo (25)tubin

As a lone sitting duck or foot-linked to a raft of fellow travellers, I was in constant awe of the landscape around us. The sun, the water and the positive vibe (and maybe a few drinks), made my day on the river amazing, and a highlight on my trip. Oh and despite the horror stories only one person got hurt… Highly recommended activity. Just be nice, stay hydrated, and don’t litter! photo (21)

Continuing the trend of beautiful bodies of water, we spent the next day at a mystical oasis at the base of a mountain, known as the Blue Lagoon. A rope swing hung off a generous tree with excellent jumping platforms over cool robin’s egg blue water was enough to make it seem to come straight out of a dream. There was ample room to swim, either near the swing or under the bridge to the other side of the pool, or to just keep cool on the rocks waist deep. photo (29)photo (26)

Over the bridge there was a little concession and a large grassy  area  fit for sunbathing. When we felt the need for some adventure, we continued past the grassy field and upward on a vertical trail to the coolest cave I’ve ever been in.  It was like being in Indiana Jones, complete with a reclining gold Buddha near the entrance, with sun rays bursting through the hole in the side of the mountain. photo (27)photo (28)

To my amazement, what I thought would be a tiny tourist trap of a cave was actually an immense cavern filled with stalactites and stalagmites. Headlamps were necessary unless you wanted to plummet down a hole, or off a giant rock into more rocks. They also let us marvel at the awe-inspiring rock formation and size of the cave. With careful footing we made our way to the very back (as far as I know) past a muddy ‘cave drawing’ handprint wall and returned to the mouth, where the mountain spit us out a little dirtier and a lot more impressed.

Though I can’t say much about dining or nightlife here, the natural beauty of Vang Vieng makes it a destination very worth visiting.

As we only spent a night in Vientiane, there won’t be a Part 3, but the capital city was very pretty!  A lot of  good looking French architecture and cute cafes.

After a quick look see we were off to the airport, next stop Vietnam!


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Lazing in Laos Part 1: Luang Prabang

The mighty Mekong River. Home to giant catfish , intimidating whirlpools, and surrounded by the natural ethereal beauty of mountains and jungles of vibrant vegetation that make almost every photo National Geographic worthy. This was our path into Laos, a country that I’ll be honest, I’d not really heard of until I planned to go to Southeast Asia. (Funnier still, I’d planned to go to Malaysia, Indo and Singapore, but ended up in 3 completely different countries. Getting sidetracked, Back to Laos). P1070159

We rode the river boat for 2 days of 9 hour periods that included extensive photo-taking, reading, taking in the scenery and falling in and out of a trance staring into the murky mysterious depths. We passed small villages situated on the river bank as we powered upstream, and I couldn’t help but wonder about our coordinates on the globe, travelling on a body of water that touches 7 different countries. A very cool mental image. P1070160

 

Luang Prabang was the first destination, where we stayed at a decent hostel close to the ‘city centre’ with a quaint outdoor common area. Dinner most nights looked like a huge colorful buffet stacked with tons of enticing stir-fries and vegetable dishes. Near the night market and down a little alley, there were tables packed with dumplings and spring rolls, and more almost identical buffets, as well as aromatic grilled fish and meats. The night market was welcoming and not too big, with a lot of unique ‘handcrafted’ items and beautiful drawings and paintings that made browsing very enjoyable. It also included the fairly standard market fair of clothing and jewelry, with a heavy emphasis on eye catching silver pieces. Outside the market and food alley, carts of fresh fruit shake vendors lined the road, each competing for our attention as we strolled. They also sold baguettes, a popular breakfast in Laos, stuffed with meats and vegetables and at very few thousand Kip! (Laos currency)

I did expect to find myself at a bar at least one night here,  but not at a bowling alley, where locals and foreigners take part in some belligerent bowling after the bars close. It made for a relatively wholesome activity, and a fun night out!laos5

 

During lazy days, you could find us lounging riverside on the open patio of Utopia (which also had a beach volleyball court), or exploring the city by foot, which included stairclimbing to a hilltop temple with a stunning view of the wild country below. laos4laos3laos2laos1

 

With misty turquoise waters cascading through the jungle, falling over artfully placed rocks downstream and forming dreamy ethereal pools, Kuang Si waterfall was the cherry on top of our visit to Luang Prabang. A ride through hilly roads in the luscious green countryside took us out to this magical place, where we wandered on a forest trail past a bear conservation centre that was full of the beautiful creatures, to the first mystical pool.laos6laos8

 

Fish nipped at my feet when I stayed still, so I swam continuously in the crisp water, making my way under a fall to receive a natural shoulder massage. Invigorating. I took a turn on the rope swing and we proceeded up the trail that runs along the water. The colors and surreal vibe of the falls made me feel like I was on a holodeck in Star Trek, every level and pool as striking as the last.laos7laos6

 

I felt mist on my face as I neared the mother of the baby falls, a towering surge of water from the top of a mountain we couldn’t see. There was a steep trail going up, so of course we took it. The top was a slip and slide of mud with and untrustworthy fence at the edge, and the view was spectacular, stretching over tumbling hills and valleys.laos9

We were the last ones to leave as the sun set, marking the end of out visit in the beautifully sleepy town of Luang Prabang. Next destination, Vang Vieng!