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A traveller’s tale of journeys through Laos

Welcoming Visit Laos Year 2018, Vientiane Times is publishing a series of feature articles and images
inviting you to experience the authentic nature, culture, history and hospitality of Laos, Jewel of the Mekong.

“During my five months in South East Asia, I spent almost 50 days in Laos, one of the nicest countries I visited,” said French traveller Ms Gaetane Bibot.
Laos was a country she knew little about compared to others but she included it in her travel plans on the advice of her son.
Gaetane began her travels in Vientiane where she had a great time driving around on a scooter, visiting the main temples and exploring the city.
While she found the Lao capital to be a small city, it had everything to charm her and pique her curiosity, including nicely designed shops, bars and international-style restaurants. Museums, temples, a palace, colonial hotels, malls, gardens and boulevards made Vientiane a great place to begin her visit to Laos.
She then headed to Luang Prabang, which she found to be a real pearl. This delightful town falls between two rivers, the Khan and the Mekong and has retained many of its old houses and colonial charm.
The early morning was a good time to watch the saffron-robed monks process through the streets to receive their food rations for the day from the local townsfolk.

The stunning Kuangxi falls in Luang Prabang province.

In the evenings she enjoyed shopping at the night market which is full of local handicrafts.
During the daytime, she enjoyed walking around and crossing the Khan River over the bamboo bridge, visiting the old temples and the former royal palace, and stopping for an espresso at one of the numerous cafes along the main street.
One day she visited the gorgeous Kuangxi waterfall and the quiet Butterfly Park together with a couple of young Dutch nature lovers.
Gaetane spent five days in a wonderful eco lodge called the Hillside Resort about 30km from the town centre. Here she enjoyed trekking in the mountains with a girl she met there who was doing a sort of yoga retreat and performed her routines outside where there was an amazing view.
The two of them decided to travel together for a while and went north to Luang Namtha province where there are numerous treks that take visitors on two or three day hikes in the hills, through the jungle and to villages inhabited by ethnic groups.
The pair loved discovering the primary forest, and the explanations by their guide who gathered the plants and roots that were later prepared for their dinner.
They slept in an Akha village and met the children who came to play with them.
The two women continued their journey by boat, starting at Meuang Khua, a nice little town from where they travelled along the Nam Ou river for five hours and then spent three days in the peaceful village of Meuang Ngoi Neua which is only accessible by boat.
This community has just one narrow main road lined with guesthouses, restaurants and small shops. It ends at a temple from which monks emerge every morning to receive food offerings from the locals.
The pair finished their boat trip in Nong Khiew where Gaetane’s friend was doing another yoga retreat. They again enjoyed being surrounded by mountains and watching the sun set and rise over the river.
Here Gaetane had to say goodbye to her friend and carried on alone to the south. She stopped in Pakxe, the provincial capital of Champassak for a few days where she visited Tad Yuang and other waterfalls.
She then explored the Bolaven Plateau, Laos’ main coffee growing area, where she spent a few days in the village of Tatlo at the Tadlo Lodge right next to a large waterfall. Two elephants arranged by the lodge took a bath in the waterfall twice a day, providing a wonderful show right in front of her bungalow.
In one of the few guesthouses in the tiny village, she met a young French couple who had decided to help seven poor children whose parents were unable to educate them.
The couple was providing food and beds and paying school fees for the seven children - a great and generous initiative.
Gaetane continued her trip to another tiny village in Champassak province from where she visited the incredible ruins of Vat Phou, which resemble a much smaller and older version of Angkor Wat.
The town of Champassak is on the largest part of the Mekong River and she decided to stay on the small Don Det island in the beautiful La Folie Douce hotel.
Gaetane loved cycling around the island and I met her one day as she was crossing the old bridge from the neighbouring small island called Don Khone.
We stopped for a while for a chat and then went for lunch together at my guesthouse where I asked her to tell me about her travels.
The 4,000 Islands area was her last stop in Laos, an archipelago of islands where life has another rhythm.
“I have never visited such a lovely and quiet place like this before,” Gaetane said. “It has no cars, just bikes and boats to discover Khonephapheng – one of the largest waterfalls in the world. I enjoyed seeing the river dolphins and going to the reggae bars where they played some great music.”
Gaetane left Laos full of good memories but was sad to leave such as amazing and beautiful country and hopes to come back one day soon.


 

By Patithin Phetmeuangphuan
(Latest Update December 20, 2017)

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