Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 11 July 2014 • Abroad
I’m totally blaming Adventurous Kate for introducing Laos to me through her blog. She made it seem so fun for its rawness, crazy partying and all other fun activities in Laos. I just had to go there! Though I’m not a party animal, never been and don’t intend to be, I just thought I’d enjoy the fun ambiance.
In the end, I’m thanking Kate for introducing Laos to me through her blog. My trip to Laos with Mumun, Vindhya and Uci was one of my best trips so far. Thought I’d summarize it for you guys.
Here are the 7 fun activities in Laos that we had.
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River tubing in Vang Vieng was a slow beat activity for us, as we were only sitting in the tube, sober, with our butts touching the water, flowing down the stream of Nam Song River. Alongside the river were scenic high karst, as well as bars and restaurants built on wooden stilts, playing loud music.
Tourists, mostly young westerners in their teen or twenties, would have alcoholic drinks (and some say also drugs) even from daytime, AND THEN go tubing. And then they’d get even more drunk at night time. Though there’s no tubing after dark, the party still goes on alongside the river.
Some updates we got from friends and the online news is that Laos government had the bars closed down due to safety reason. I’m not sure how the impact is to the local economy, but nowadays it looks like the party is on again though perhaps not as wild as it used to. Maybe the scenic karst would get more attention than the booze. Just maybe.
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Luang Prabang is a hilly small town with a lot of artistic cafes and French-influenced buildings. I love this town. Life felt so laid-back and things were beautiful. That is, at least, from my tourist point of view of the 3 days of our stay.
We rented bikes from the Thong Bay Guesthouse, where we stayed, for a whole day. It cost only US$2 per bike per day. We started the day very early in the morning, before the sun rose, to see the famous alms collecting by the monks uptown. These monks have probably been used to tourists taking pictures of them, and as it turned out, alms giving could also be done by tourists. I hope our presence didn’t distract the solemnness of the ceremony.
We then continued biking downtown to get some breakfast, and later at night to meet our new American friends, whom we met after tubing in Vang Vieng. Though my legs were pretty worn off over biking up and down the hilly streets, I loved every second of biking in Luang Prabang. It was relatively safe because there weren’t too many cars passing by.
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Honestly, I expected more from Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng, blame it on the hype and the postcard pictures. Blue Lagoon WAS beautiful, but it turned out to be a creek running through a grassland, not really a lagoon.
However, we had a good time at the creek. The water was clear blue and freakin’ cold! Swings were hanging from the tree branches, allowing you to sit in the water while watching others jump into the water from high branches. Mumun jumped as well, making up for the time when she (and I) chickened out in Green Canyon.
Afterwards, Vindhya and I joined some local guys playing takraw on the field and had a lunch picnic on a rented mat, while Mumun and Uci were exploring a cave nearby.
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Yeay! I often look for cooking lessons in my travels. Though I never followed up my intention to practice the recipes at home, I had enough fun just learning them and finding out different ingredients. I signed up for a lesson at Tamnak Lao restaurant that cost US$30, which I considered pricey for this budget trip.
We started with going to the traditional market, where Leng Lee, the head chef, showed us local ingredients. Being in the same region of South East Asia, many of Laotioan ingredients are the same to what we often use in Indonesia, like the kaffir lime leaves, soy sauce and coconut milk.
The cooking class started at 10 a.m. until about 3 p.m. We learned four recipes: Luang Prabang Salad, Chicken Larp (chicken salad), Feu Khua (fried sticky rice noodles with chicken and veggies), Kheua Sen Lon (vermicelli noodles with vegetables and fungus), and Geng Phet (chili casserole). Embarrassingly, I had no idea what a measuring spoon was until my first cooking (the simple salad!) tasted like a mess, it was inedible even for myself! But I did well on the following recipes, especially the Chicken Larp! (And I immediately bought a set of measuring spoon once I got back to Jakarta!)
I’m glad my friends enjoyed my cooking on our way to Chiang Rai in the evening, making the US$30 even more worth spending.
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As I have admitted here, I love shopping when traveling especially abroad. Shopping in Laos included, because they have such great night markets in Vientianne and Luang Prabang! Although it was a budget trip, we all definitely had a budget post for shopping. However, we didn’t think we were going to be faced with a night bazaar on the very first day of the trip in Laos!
As much as we wanted to buy everything, we had to be wise in spending. And we surely haggled!
More about our shopping in Laos and throughout Asia, here.
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Songkran water festival in Thailand was the first reason for this trip to happen. We decided to travel to Vientianne, Vang Vieng, and Luang Prabang in Laos, and continue to Chiang Rai then finish in Bangkok, Thailand, just in time for Songkran. It was still a few days before we expected water fighting would start, and we thought Laotians didn’t celebrate Songkran.
But we were wrong.
Before the D-day some people in Luang Prabang was already splashing each other and unprepared tourists, like us. While trying to keep dry, we tried to cover ourselves or run like hell. In one incident, I walked toward this little girl that kept on dowsing water at me with her plastic bailer. She probably thought she had won the war and that I was helpless. But, oh no, she didn’t! I grabbed her bailer, scooped water out of the big drum beside her, and poured water right over her head. Ha! You don’t mess with a hungry unarmed me, missy!
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One of our favorite times in Laos (or almost anywhere in the world) is meal time. Vermicelli noodles, grilled banana, baguette sandwiches, larp, pancakes, and pizza! Beats me why, but there are so many pizza restaurants, especially in Vang Vieng.
One night, we ordered a happy pizza. It’s not your ordinary pizza because it makes you “happy” afterwards. You know what I mean? We were happy, we laughed our asses off over everything, until suddenly we realized we were happy beyond control and turned paranoid. A tuktuk ride and yelling at the driver later, we were back in the hostel safe and sound and slept like a baby. Until the couple next to my bed had sex and caused my bed to rock back and forth and got Mumun thinking that it was an earthquake!
Another funny thing we noticed was that in Vang Vieng, almost all of the restaurants have Friends or Family Guy played continuously on DVD. It really accommodated our laziness after being stuffed with all the good food. Just slouching while watching the sitcoms. Oh, life in Laos was so good!
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A week in Laos is definitely not enough. And pointing out 7 points of fun activities in Laos is also not doing the country justice. Laos is so much more than I’ve known, so much more fun than what I can write. It is, in general, more raw than Thailand and more relaxed than Burma. And if I have the chance to go back to Laos, I will definitely explore the more unknown places of this friendly country.
Have you been to Laos? What’s your idea of fun activities in Laos?