Laos: 8/6 – 8/12

(Laos) Luang Prabang >>> Vang Vieng 

8/6- Exploring Kuang Si Waterfall and Hiking Phou Si Hill 
8/7- Royal Palace Museum, Wat Xieng Thong, and Luxurious Spa Treatments! 
8/8- Boat Journey Along the Mekong River to the Pakou Caves and Minibus to Vang Vieng 
8/9- Caving and Not Caving 
8/10- Kayaking, Tubing through a Cave, and Chillin at the Blue Lagoon! 
8/11- Secured our Hawaii Housesit! 
8/12- Motorbiking around Vang Vieng, Splashing about at a waterfall, and Tubing through a cave!

8/6
Exploring Kuang Si Waterfall and Hiking Phou Si Hill
+ We woke up around 9:30 and headed downstairs for a nice big banana pancake breakfast. Then we booked the Kuang Si Waterfall tour which picked us up from the hotel around 11:15.
+ The ride out to the falls was around an hour long and after paying the entrance fee we headed through the gates and into the Moon Bear Sanctuary. This place must have had 30 or so rescued Moon Bears (they look very similar to sun bears), all lounging around or sleeping on various platforms, trees, and hammocks.
+ After lingering there for a bit and snapping some photos, we started our trek to the top of the falls. Along the way we passed a few levels of pools with lots of people swimming in them. Each one was at a different level and the further up you went, the less people there were swimming.
+ Despite the steep and muddy climb (in our flip flops!), we reached the top of the falls in good time and were surprised at just how pretty the view was from up here. We’ve seen our fair share of waterfalls and this one was still pretty awe-inspiring.
+ With an extra hour or so to spare, we hung around up top swimming in the icy cold water and walking across the bamboo bridgesand platforms over the water strung together with ropes.
. Corey even swam back into the jungle to explore some more of the stream which was a pretty neat and deserted experience. Liz sat on one of the platforms of the waterfall (before the big drop) and enjoyed the natural foot spa with the little fishes nibbling her toes!
+ We hiked back down on the other side of the falls that way we could have some different overlooks and then stopped again at the Moon Bear place before we exited. This time the bears were all much more active and we spent some time watching 2 of them wrestle around with one another. How silly!
+ Since we had missed lunch we were both starving so we grabbed a Laos blood sausage for Corey and a chicken kebab for Liz and ate them in the minivan that was taking us back to our hostel. They were both so yummy!
+ Once we had changed out of our wet clothes, we set out again on foot to see some more of the city. To give us some extra energy, Liz got a yummy coffee and Corey got a fruit shake (smoothie) for only 75 cents! Side note: We’ll never be able to pay US prices for smoothies again when we get home after having so many fresh and delicious smoothies here in SE Asia for soooo cheap!
+ Corey wanted to hike up to the popular viewpoint atop the Phou Si hill in the city, but Liz wasn’t so keen. So she went and found a nice place to relax and read her book while Corey hiked up and down the hill.
+ The hike itself was surprisingly interesting with many different Buddha and Buddhist statues, a cave, and even Buddha’s footprint! Plus the views over Luang Prabang and the Mekong River were pretty impressive too!
+ When we were reunited we hung out at the Opera House restaurant Liz had chosen and enjoyed their happy hour beers and eventually split a pizza for dinner. We used our Sherlock’ing observation skills and discovered the restaurant had their pizza delivered from another restaurant and then served it to the guests at this one! How funny!
+ On our way back to the hostel we wandered into a supermarket and bought a ton of snacks and drinks for back in our room. Then we went back to Thavisouk and showered off the dirty river water from earlier.
+ First we skyped with our friends Jamez and Sarah (and their kids) back home. Then to end the night, we enjoyed some of the different beers we’d bought from the supermarket and watched some Game of Thrones recap videos to get Liz up to date on everything that had been going on.

8/7
Royal Palace Museum, Wat Xieng Thong, and Luxurious Spa Treatments! 
+ Our original plan was to head to the Pak Ou Caves today but in the morning we were told we had to switch rooms. So that took a little bit of time to get everything packed up and moved. Plus our new room was just a dormitory with single beds, no sink, and no closet or TV. Ugh. Oh well. At least we still had the room to ourselves!
+ Before setting off for the day, we got some tasty Laos food from the local restaurant next door. It was cheap and Corey’s was spicy. Just the way he likes it!
+ The staff at our Guesthouse told us we could wander over to the river at any time of day and catch a boat up to the caves, but when we arrived at the river it was a different story. To get the cheap price, we needed to be there at 8 am or go with a tour. Now it would be a private tour which meant it would be double the price for us. We chose to just wait and do it tomorrow.
+ Still wanting to take advantage of the day, we headed over to the Royal Palace Museum which was one of the top sights in Luang Prabang. First we explored the Wat and then we entered the actual museum. It was full of interesting artifacts, articles of clothing and crowns from the King and Queen, and tidbits of Laos history.
+ When we’d finished that walk through, we checked out the Palace’s Royal Car collection and picked out which of the Palanquins we liked best and wanted our future servants to carry us around on. Lol!
+ It was absolutely blazing hot outside as we walked to our next destination: Wat Xieng Thong. Along the way, the clock struck 4 pm which apparently meant it was time for all of the monks at each of the Wats to go bang their big drum, strum their wind chimes, and play music! In particular, it seemed to be the children and teenage monks that were responsible for making the most noise. Or at least they were the most enthusiastic.
+ We got to see a few different Wats play their music as we made our way down the street and even made it into Wat Xieng Thong just in time to see their monks finish up the daily performance. Then we wandered around the Wat’s different buildings admired the beautiful and intricate artwork and displays.
+ We also liked the impressively long dragon boats they used to race in the water. Some of them were aout 30/35yards long! That’s around 100 feet!
+ From there, we made a quick visit to a bakery to soak up the A/C and snack on some (disappointing) croissants before continuing to a massage place we’d seen earlier.
+ While there were a ton of massage shops around, this one in particular had a great deal. We were able to each get a 1 hour full body oil massage, a 1 hour foot massage, and a 1 hour pedicure for Liz and 1 hour session of head/neck/shoulder massage for Corey. That’s 3 hours each for a grand total of US $26! That’s only $4.50/hour/person!
+ We each really enjoyed our 3 hour spa treatment (and 3 hours of not sweating!) and felt rejuvenated afterwards. Plus Liz was even more stylin’ than before!
+ Now it was about 8:30 at night so we quickly booked the Pak Ou Caves tour for the next day and then walked along the street in search of a promising dinner spot. We ended up settling on the pizza restaurant that had delivered to our dinner place last night. It wound up being a much more disappointing pizza tonight and we lamented our choice.
+ After our showers, we sat on 1 of the dorm beds while enjoying the last of the beers we’d bought and watched some more Game of Thrones  videos before going to sleep.

 

8/8
Boat Journey Along the Mekong River to the Pakou Caves & Minibus to Vang Vieng
+ We were both very tired in the morning but forced ourselves to get out of bed around 7. Then we checked out of our room, stored our bags, and downed a quick breakfast before our tuk-tuk picked us up for the Pak Ou Caves tour.
+ Our boat had less passengers than expected (only about 12) and we settled into a nice shady spot for the 2 hour journey up the famous Mekong River. Along the way we took in the scenery, watched local fishermen try their luck with their large scooping nets, and waved at children jumping into the water from a tree.
+ The boat did make a quick 15 minute stop at a little village where the locals tried their hardest to sell us all different things they’d weaved or embroidered, and although we thought they were pretty (and certainly worth the $1 they were asking!), we knew we had no use for them and no place to store them in our over-stuffed backpacks.
+ The caves themselves were famous for having 4000 Buddha statues placed in them (supposedly at least. Our guess was more like 1000). The long climb up the steep stairs did reward us with the opportunity to hit the gong inside the cave at least! Liz hit it so hard (with her giant muscles) that she almost caused the cave to collapse from the booming noise that reverberated throughout!
+ Although we had spoken to no one on the way up (half the passengers were Chinese tourists who just slept the whole boat ride), we ended up getting into conversation with a nice couple that lived in Bangkok and were on vacation. The guy’s name was Drew and he was actually from the U.S. and very much into the whole Credit Card points and miles game himself. We all nerded out for a while discussing the different sign up bonuses, hotel and airfare benefits, and the beauty of the Priority Pass and airport lounges! Plus he gave us some really good tips for areas of Asia we hadn’t been to yet!
+ After returning back to town around 1pm, Corey’s stomach was growling so we stopped at the first appealing Laos restaurant we saw with decent prices. Our meals were pretty big, and they didn’t taste bad, they just didn’t hit the spot.
+ So on the walk back to our guesthouse Corey got a mango/melon/passionfruit smoothie and Liz ordered 1 last milk tea. This cafe in particular served a really delicious one that she liked more than any of the ones she’d had in Thailand!
+ With our bill paid and bags in tow, we said goodbye to the Thavisouk staff and boarded our minivan for the supposed 6/7 hour journey South to Vang Vieng.
+ For once, the minivan wasn’t packed to the brim and everyone had plenty of personal space and space for the bags. Everyone except Corey that is,  since Liz fell asleep right next to him! It’s ok though because she looked cute when she was angry sleeping.
+ The bus ride was just as crazy as we’d worried and was full of tons of crazy twists and turns. And of course the driver seemed to be in a race against his imaginary Mario Kart ghost and drove like a madman the whole time!
+ In order to get Liz to sleep faster and avoid getting carsick, Corey sang Liz a football lullaby in the van to try and get her to fall asleep faster (since talking about football puts her right to sleep!)
+ After Corey finished working on the blog, he watched some Dragon Ball Super episodes.
+ Liz eventually woke up and together we looked at the scenery outside and laughed at all of the cows and goats that were constantly walking around on the street. The driver was clearly used to them as he didn’t even slow down when weaving around them!
+ To our surprise, we arrived in Vang Vieng in only 3.5 hours! Much faster than we’d anticipated but it was a welcomed surprise. We checked into our room at Army Barracks hostel and then headed out in search of dinner.
+ Thanks to Travel Fish, we found a great Israeli food restaurant and each got a big pita that was really tasty! Corey wasn’t full afterwards so he also got a bacon and cheese baguette sandwich the street for less than $2.  The sandwich was huge! He was stuffed after that!
+ Back at the guesthouse, we chatted with friends for a while before showering and laying down, exhausted from our super long day!

 

8/9
Caving and Not Caving
+ In the morning we ate the free breakfast from downstairs then retreated back to our room. Liz went back to sleep and Corey watched a few more episodes of Dragon Ball Super.
+ In the afternoon, Corey rented a motorbike from our Army Barracks Guesthouse and went off to explore a cave! He rode about 10 miles North of town on the main road before veering off and driving another 2 miles on really bumpy and muddy roads.
+ Along the way he passed children playing and bathing in the river and had to weave around a bunch of cows, chickens, goats, pigs, and water buffalo that would roam around in the middle of the street!
+ Once he reached the cave, he paid $1.25 for entry which included a headlamp and set off to explore. He was the only person visiting so he had the whole thing to himself! The cave was pretty cool and there were some sections so small that they required him to crawl on his stomach to pass through!
+ Liz spent her afternoon at the hostel reading her book and doing some stuff on the computer. Basically not getting muddy and not having to crawl around through scary caves. So we were both happy.
+ When Corey came back and showered off, we both hopped on the motorbike and drove to a restaurant on the other side of town called Aussie House. We each ordered their burgers and were impressed by the fact they were big and tasty! A rare combination here in SE Asia.
+ After driving around town exploring a little bit more, we went back to the hostel and then relaxed in our room doing research for our remaining days in Laos.

 

8/10
Kayaking, Tubing through a Cave, and Chillin at the Blue Lagoon!
+ We were doing a tour today so after packing our day bags, we went downstairs and scarfed down our breakfast as fast as we could before the truck showed up to pick us up.
+ Our group was about 30 people split between 2 trucks and 24 of those people were South Korean! Vang Vieng was apparently a huge vacation destination for South Koreans. None of the parties even knew each other beforehand.
+ The first activity was kayaking and after a very long briefing and instruction on how to kayak in general, we set off in our double kayaks for a solid 10 mile stretch of the river. One funny thing to note is that the Laos guide automatically assumed we could kayak because we were white. He wasn’t wrong though and had obviously done this enough times to know which Koreans needed a guide in their boat with them!
+ The river actually had some parts with pretty big waves but we didn’t flip and only got T-boned by some of the silly Koreans once! Success!
+ When we arrived to the Neverland Ranch, we took a nap in the hammocks while most of the group went Zip Lining. We could have gone also for an extra $15/person, but decided it wasn’t worth it.
+ Next up was a surprisingly large lunch followed by everyone ambling over to a cave where we would go tubing. Once we’d plopped our butts down in the tube (and freezing cold water), we pulled ourselves up river along a rope and into the cave. The cave itself turned out to only be a few hundred meters long before we had to abandon our tube and hike the rest of the way through the muddy cave.
+ After that, we got back in the kayaks and paddled the remaining few miles back into town. Then we all got back in the truck and rode up to Blue Lagoon. However upon arriving, we realized that with all the rain recently (it was wet season) it had turned the water brown so it was more like Poop Lagoon.
+ We hung out there for 2 hours with a nice British couple named Luca and Rosie from our group. We went swimming first and then Corey jumped off of the tall platform a few times into the water. Then we all hung out drinking a few beers and chatting about travel.
+ Watching the other Korean members of our group jump into the water was also really entertaining. They all had so much fun and had to really psych themselves up to jump off the platform. It was fun to watch!
+ When the truck got back to town, we said goodbye to everyone and then showered off and relaxed in our room for a bit. We didn’t feel like heading out too far for dinner (plus it was raining) so we just ate at our hostel.
+ We ended the night by hanging out with people downstairs in the lobby and drinking some of the free Tiger Whiskey that they hostel provides. Then when everyone left around midnight to go to some club, we went back to our rooms to watch some Brooklyn 99 like the party animals we are!

 

8/11
Secured our Hawaii Housesit!
+ Woke up early to do our Skype call at 8 am with the Hawaii Housesitters. Couldn’t get a hold of them for the first hour or so. Eventually did and even with our bad wifi dropping the call a few times, we managed to have a nice conversation and secured the housesit! We will be housesitting in Honolulu for more than a month! The best part is that we’ll have free use of their car so we can thoroughly explore the island! We’re very excited!
+ When that call was over, we Skyped Corey’s mom and then we had to spend the next few hours planning out our remaining 3 and a half weeks in Southeast Asia as now we had a definite departure deadline!
+ Then with that decided, we knew where we wanted to fly from and had to find the cheapest way to get there. It turned out we were able to use our United Airlines sign up bonus to fly to Hawaii which saved us almost $1000!
+ By the time we finished all the travel planning, we were starving so we headed down for a very late lunch. The place across the street served cheap Laos food so we just ate there.
+ We had wanted to go out adventuring today, but now it was late and we were tired so we just headed back upstairs to our cold room. Then Liz took a nap while Corey watched the rest of Last Chance U and went through all his emails.
+ At night we walked to the North part of town and ate dinner at the Pizza King and also used their good wifi to Skype Liz’s mom to tell her about Hawaii. Liz ordered a melon milk tea with jelly as dessert and it was delicious!
+ Back in our room, we booked our accommodation for Vientiane and Hanoi and then watched some Brooklyn 99 before falling asleep.

 

8/12
Motorbiking around Vang Vieng, Splashing about at a waterfall, and Tubing through a cave!
+ Knowing it would be our last day to sleep in for a while, we took advantage of it and slumbered away until around noon. Then we packed a daypack, rented a motorbike, and set off to explore the surrounding area of Vang Vieng.
+ We chose to take the scenic Northern Loop and did some serious off-roading on our motorbike. Our first stop was a waterfall Kaeng Nyui that required a bit of hiking to reach. When we finally arrived, all sweaty from the uphill climb in the hot sun, we were happy to see the very tall and powerful waterfall. We put all of our things into a dry bag and then waded into the chilly water to cool off.
+ The falls were so powerful that it made a misty spray at the bottom and we had to walk backwards into the water so we weren’t blinded by water pellets! Then we hung out in the water and enjoyed our Laos water massage and we even reached through the waterfall to touch the rock! Liz said she was happy she did it as it was the most extreme thing she’s done in a while!
+ Back on our motorbike, we continued our tour on the loop and this Northern section had no other tourists on it! The drive was very pretty and we had views of the giant limestone kaarsts and mountains as well as multiple rice terraces. We also had to drive around cows and turkeys that were wandering about in the road. Whenever we passed a local, we would each say “Sa Va Dee” (hello) and wave as they waved back. It was fun!
+ Coming down the mountain from the waterfall was very tricky driving with the motorbike. Liz was nervous as always but Corey did a fantastic job navigating the huge ruts, squishy mud, and big puddles.
+ Eventually we reached the paved main road again and we’re able to zoom along waving to the local kids and admiring the kaarsts in the impossibly green rice paddies
+ We reached the area we needed to park at to go to the water cave. This was a different water cave than the one a few days ago and required us to walk for about 30 minutes over a bridge, through a small village and across a rice paddy to reach it.
+ Again, we were the only tourists around and we paid to rent some tubes and headlamps and then we started pulling ourselves into the cave. Since it was wet season, the river was really high and we barely fit underneath some of the rocks on our way into the cave. We had to lay flat on the tube and squeeze into the opening! It was really neat way cooler (and bigger) than the other water cave.
+ The water was high you really couldn’t even see that the rocks in front of us were the entrance to the cave!
+ We ended up exploring the cave for well over an hour as it had multiple passages and places to explore. Corey really loves exploring everything and finding hidden areas that can only be accessed by the brave people willing to army crawl through tight spaces to reach other caverns. This is Liz’s least favorite part about caves. She was also very brave because she hung out in the dark cave all by herself for 12 whole minutes while Corey disappeared into one of the caverns to explore!
+ After exiting the cave by pulling ourselves through the water and squeezing through the entrance again, we walked back through the village. We hopped on our motorbike and rode the 45 minutes back into town. On the way back, we passed a bicycle that had the parent riding in front and a naked 10 year old boy sitting on the back with his bare butt for all the world to see! Lol!
+ Once we had turned in our laundry, we set off to go to a Mexican restaurant we’d been looking forward to all day. To our disappointment, it was closed so we had to wander around until we found another appealing option.
+ That turned out to be a BBQ place where we were the only non-Asian people there and ate our BBQ skewers off to the side while we watched a group of people filming something for TV at one end of the restaurant. Weird!
+ The rest of the night we hung out in our room texting with friends. Then Corey passed out while Liz read her book for a while.

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