| Part 2: Luang Prabang, Pakse, Bolaven
plateau, 4000 islands region
28.12: Luang Prabang
Savan guesthouse, Luang Prabang.
Weather: overcast in the morning,
then around 10am the sky opens up, more and more. The remaining part of
the day we have sunshine with a blue sky with some cloud every now and
then. It gets warmer during the day and fresher at night.
I wake up at 7am and get ready for breakfast at 8am. At 9am we leave by
bus, to where the Nam Khan river flows into the Mekong. Brief
photo stop, then we walk to the nearby temple and take some photos of
the monks. Then, at 10am, we drive to the jetty where we will take the
boat for today's trip to the Pak Ou caves. We briefly make a toilet
stop at the nearby Wat Xieng Thong temple, and we seize the opportunity
to again take some photos...
At 10:12am our guide finally manages to get us to walk into the boat,
and today's boat trip begins. On the way to the Pak Ou caves the sky
opens up and the sun shines through. Great views of the Mekong river,
which right now is carrying enough water (we are still not deep into
the dry season). Lots of photo opportunities.
At 11:50am, one hour and a half after we left Luang Prabang, we finally
reach the Pak Ou caves. The caves are kind of cute, with lots of Buddha
statues. We are there until 1pm, then we cross the river to the other
side, where the restaurants are.
For lunch I order fried chicken and sticky rice. What I get is chicken,
which has been fried for such a long time, that it became dry and hard
like rubber. The dry sticky rice is also not too eatable.
We stay near the restaurant until 3pm (some group members go shopping
to the adiacent village), then get back onto the boat and get further
upriver to the Ban Muang Keo village, which we reach at 3:30pm. There
the villagers have specialised into weaving cloths and making rice
whisky. Some photo shooting, some shopping.
At 4:20pm we get back to the boat and rush back to Luang Prabang,
hoping to be there in time for the sunset (Tim wants to climb onto the
Phusi hill for a nice view). However the sun sets around 5:30pm, while
still on the way to Luang Prabang. So we stop at a village near Luang
Prabang, where there are some shops selling local artifacts (paper
lamps, cloths etc.). Some shopping, some more shoot-everything-in-sight
photography, and at about 6:30pm we get into the bus and drive to Luang
Prabang, where we arrive around 6:50pm.
We get out of the bus at the night market, and from there split up,
everybody for himself. Personally I walk to a restaurant in the
"backpacker zone" and in the process I have to cross a street which has
four lines of souvenir stalls, for a length of about 300-400m (at
least). It seems that tourism in Luang Prabang has increased
substantially since my last visit in March 2000. Or perhaps this is the
peak tourist season, and March is off-season.
I have dinner until about 7:30pm, then I head towards an Internet cafe.
The first one is painfully slow, so I walk to another one (lots of
Internet cafes in the street - 100-200 Kip/minute). Around 9:10pm I
walk back to the
guesthouse. I leave my dirty laundry in a place near the Khun Savan
guesthouse (18000 Kip for 2.2 Kg of laundry).
29.12: Luang Prabang
Savan guesthouse, Luang Prabang.
Weather: same as yesterday, overcast
in the morning,
then around 10am the sky opens up, more and more. The remaining part of
the day we have sunshine with a blue sky with some cloud every now and
Laos is no longer the country I experienced five years ago (see the Laos 2000 travelogue). Luang Prabang is
much more developed and active nowadays, totally geared towards
tourists. The main street almost reminds me of Khaosan road in Bangkok.
Today we drove to the Kuang Si waterfalls and along the way very few
houses in the villages still had the leafs roof. Most houses I saw now
have a corrugated metal roof. I even saw many houses of stone (bricks).
It seems that Laos is on a fast development pace.
The day starts at 7:30am. After a shower and breakfast we leave at 9am
and first drive to the Laos airlines office, where I pick up the
tickets (I made a reservation through the Thai travel agency, prepaid
half of the price and received a voucher by email with which I'm
picking up the tickets). Everything goes surprisingly smooth except for
the long wait. Almost everything is done manually at the Laos airlines
office and the lady takes a lot of time to process the customer in
front of me.
At 9:45am I have the tickets and get back to the bus. I feel a bit
guilty because everybody has been waiting for me, but on the other side
had suggested that they go to the first temple and I'll meet them
there. But no, today there is a change of plans, because Tim wants to
go first to the Kuang Si waterfalls and do the temples this afternoon
(and wait for the sunset on top of the Phu Si hill).
After some photo stops we manage to reach the waterfalls shortly after
11am. This time the waterfalls look different than in March 2000, as if
the water was more bundled. Might be because there is more water.
We spend an hour at the waterfalls until noon, then have lunch at a
food stall near the waterfalls. The food is inexpensive as usual - most
dishes go for 10000-20000 Kip (USD 1-2).
At 1:20pm, after finally having said hello&goodbye to the tiger and
are kept in cages nearby (warning sign: don't put your fingers inside
the cage - the tiger bites...), we start the trip back to Luang
After a few stops (photo + shopping), we reach Luang Prabang at 2:40pm.
There we visit the Wat Visounnarath Buddhist temple - kind of nice, but
not too impressive - and the nearby Wat Aham, which is smaller than Wat
Then we head to Wat Xieng Thong, where we stay until after 4:30pm.
After we drive to the staircase to the Phu Si hill. We climb up the
stairs, reaching the top. Full of tourists, also waiting for the
Nice views from the top of the hill. The sun sets at about 5:30pm.
After that we walk down to the street and head towards the bus.
I fetch my (small) backpack, which I had left in the bus, and walk back
to the guesthouse, picking up the laundry
on the way. In the evening I process the images and check my emails.
Tomorrow is my last day in Luang Prabang and the last day with the
group. Will probably visit again some temples and take a taxi to some
village near Luang Prabang. My flight to Vientiane is scheduled for
Internet cafe: 100-200 Kip/minute, reasonably fast (but some Internet
cafes are slow).
30.12: Luang Prabang -> Vientiane
Mali Namphu guesthouse, Vientiane. USD 15 for a double room.
Weather: overcast in the morning
then the sky opens up and it is sunny for the rest of the day. Fresh in
the morning, quite warm, even hot later in the day. In the evening warm
enough in Vientiane (24°C when we land) to walk around with shorts
and a T-shirts. Looks like it is finally getting warmer.
I'm woken up by the alarm clock at 7:50am, and am ready for the
breakfast at 9am, only to see Tim and the others walk away at 8:30am.
Woudln't have minded joining them for the museum visit, which yesterday
was planned for 9am, since the sky is overcast anyway.
So I instead finish my breakfast and at 9am start walking around
Luang Prabang. I'm expecting that the sky will open up like the
previous two days, around 10-11am, so to kill the time by going to an
Internet cafe and checking my emails and my site until 10am.
After that I walk around a bit, because the sky is still covered. In a
temple I have a brief chat with a monk. He's 16, has been in the temple
for about half a year, is planning to spend two more years in the
temple and then wants to study information technology at the university
in Vientiane. He says he is saving money for that because his parents
are poor. But how much money can he save in two years? Anyway, this guy
is ambitious and will probably have a more affluent life, if his dream
By the way, I ask this guy for a scenic villlage with nice traditional
houses. he tells me to go to Ban Xang Hai.
At 10:20am the sky finally opens and the sun shines through. Time to
start the temple photographing session. Until about 12:30pm I walk
around Luang Prabang, shooting photos of temples and other subjects,
every now and then running into AsiaExplorers people who have split
At 12:30pm I walk to a restaurant, where I have a lunch. At 1:30pm I
look for a riksha to drive me to Ban Xang Hai and find one pretty soon,
who is willing to do the trip and be back at 5pm for USD 15 (I don't
negotiate this fee as it seems reasonable).
At about 2pm the trip starts. It turns out that the village is on the
way to the Pak Ou cave. Almost sure this is the same village which I
visited five years ago. But when we arrive at this village at 2:40pm
(after a couple of photo stops) it turns out that this village has
completely changed. No more wooden houses with leaf roofs. Almost all
roofs are now of corrugated tin and lots of houses are made of bricks
and cement. Lots of construction activity is undergoing while I'm
visiting the place. In fact the whole town is one huge shopping mall
- everybody, every house is now selling tourist stuff. What a radical
change since last time I came!
Looks to me that the peaceful and laid back Laos which I experienced
five years ago is now completely gone (unless perhaps for some isolated
place in the mountains).
So, around 3pm I get back to the taxi driver and ask for a rural
villlage with traditional houses with leaf roofs. We drive to another
village near Luang Prabang, behind the Wat Pa Phonphao temple. But even
this one is like the other one. Concrete houses, satellite dishes etc.
So, at 4:20pm, we drive back towards the hotel. On the way we make a
brief stop at the Wat Pa Phonphao hilltop temple, where I meet some
Buddhist nuns. In fact the entire place seems to be run by Buddhist
nuns, as I
can't see any male monks.
At 4:50pm we are finally in the hotel. I pack my things and at 5:20pm
and ready to go. While walking out of the room Tim jumps out. Surprise,
surprise he is in his room instead of being somewhere sightseeing and
shooting photos. Tim says he needed some rest, which is kind of an
understatement. Also the husband of Li Ping gets out of the hotel room.
Brief chat, we'll keep in touch, I'll let you know when I post the
Around 5:50pm we are at the airport. How much shall I give the driver
now? We did more than we originally agreed. He asks for USD 30, and we
settle on USD 24. When I pull out the Kip he says, dollars please.
Funny, in this country they don't accept their own currency...
The flight to Vientiane leaves on time with an ATR72 propeller plane.
Who manufactures this plane ? It's the same type of plane which we used
for the Vientiane-Phonsavan flight. At the airport I quickly retrieve
my luggage, then head towards the exit. At the taxi reservation counter
I book a taxi. The trip to the hotel costs USD 6 (= 65000 Kip) and
takes 15 minutes. All in all we are at the hotel at 8:30pm. I tell the
driver to pick me up the next day at the hotel at 5:15am. (later I hear from backpackers that if you
walk out of the airport and just fetch a taxi and negotiate the price,
you only pay USD 3 to get into Vientiane).
After that I briefly check my emails. While walking around I run into
an international 24h ATM. This one, from the Joint Development bank,
however only gives cash advances on VISA cards - Mastercard is not
Tomorrow I have to get up very early at 4:30am in order to catch the
6:30am flight to
-> Pakse -> Bolaven plateau
Guesthouse in Tad Lo, Bolaven Plateau.
USD 6 for a basic bungalow with fan (no A/C, two beds, some furniture,
no TV/phone, but own bath with hot water. Good location near the
waterfall. Should be ok in the winter, but not in the summer, because
there is no A/C. It's probable better to stay in the Tad Lo lodge,
although I can't comment on that, as I haven't been there.
Weather: fresh, but not cold at 5am
in Vientiane. In Pakse the sun is shining and it is warm (some clouds
in the sky). In the Bolaven plateau the sky is partly overcast, partly
blue (it even rains a little bit). Later in the afternoon the sky opens
Very early morning wake up at 4:30am. As I later learn I could have
slept half an hour longer, because I see people arriving at the
departure hall at 6:05am, while I'm there at 5:30am sharp. In any case
I'm ready to leave the Mali Namphu guesthouse at 5:18am. The gueshouse
guy is there (!) and hands me a breakfast package (some fruits, some
slices of bread, butter+jam - nothing special, but not bad for 5am).
The taxi drive to the airport takes only five minutes (yesterday it
took the driver 15 minutes to get from the airport to the guesthouse).
The taxi driver asks for USD 10, which is a bit steep considering that
yesterday I paid USD 6 and the drive is very short anyway. But ok, he
woke up at 4 something am to bring me to the airport, so we settle on
USD 8 (85000 Kip).
Still not 100% sure but the plan for the south of Laos would be to
settle down in a guesthouse in Pakse and do the Bolaven plateau as a
day trip with my own car + driver. Will have to find one at the airport
in Pakse or in Pakse town. Then the next day it would be great to go to
Si Pa Don island by boat and to do the Champasak temple as a stop in
between. That would give me a day of buffer, in case something
unexpected happens. Still unsure if it would make sense to spend one
more day in the Bolaven plateau or if I should spend the night in the
Well, the plane lands at 7:50am in Pakse, 10 minutes later than
scheduled. Everything now happens very fast. As soon as I retrieve my
luggage and reach the exit, somebody offers a tuk tuk to me, USD 4 to
Pakse. I take it (am not in the mood to negotiate prices down, besides
it's quite low anyway). On the way to Pakse, chat with the tuk tuk
driver. What are you doing today ? Wat Phu (Champasak) ? No, am
actually planning to go to the Bolaven plateau. Ah... I can bring you
there by tuk tuk... No please, I want a car ...
So the tuk tuk driver brings me to the Sodetour travel agency in Pakse
(13 Road Ban Phabath), which is near the Adam Internet cafe. Maybe the
tuk tuk driver gets a commission ? Some discussion and we agree on USD
100 (=4100 Baht - initial asking price was USD 120) for a car+driver
for two days, making a round trip across the Bolaven plateau. The car
itself is actually a comfortable minivan, with A/C and I'm the only
passenger. The driver hinself is a very friendly and relaxed guy.
So it's 8:20am and I have already organised the trip to the Bolaven
plateau. I'm surprised about how fast things went. Since I'm hungry I
to the Adam Internet cafe and check my emails while having breakfast.
Around 9am we leave Pakse, initially driving through the town, along
the Mekong river, then to the market in Pakse, which at this time of
the day is already brimming with activity. Brief stop
there, some photos, then at 9:40am we continue our drive. Pakse itself
looks like a dynamic and relatively well developed city.
The Bolaven plateau road is wide, straight and smooth. The plateau
itself has a very gentle and soft slope, with no or few steep parts.
Compare that to the narrow and winding roads in northern Laos. The
Bolaven plateau is a relatively well-off and developed farming area,
with good roads and infrastructure. Mobile phone (Lao GSM) coverage
almost everywhere we pas through.
The next stop is the tea and coffee plantation at Km 32 from Pakse,
which we reach at 10:18am. We stop there for half an hour. Then we
continue driving and reach the impressive Tad Fen waterfalls at
11:14am. This is a twin waterfall dropping over 100m from an opposite
cliff. Most impressive waterfall I have seen in Laos so far, and
perhaps alone already worth the trip to the Bolaven plateau.
At 11:45am we continue driving. The next stop is the Tad Yueang
waterfall (we arrive there at 12:04pm), smaller than Tad Fen, but very
nice. On the top of the waterfall there is a picnic area, popular with
tourists from neighbouring Thailand.
It's almost 1pm when I finish shooting the photos of this waterfall, so
I have some food at the food stalls next to the waterfall parking. I
can see that people have mounted big loudspeakers and are making tests.
Probably here there will be a New Year Eve party tonight.
Shortly after 1pm we leave and drive towards Paksong, making brief
photo stops every now and then. We reach the not so impressive central
market of Paksong at 1:45pm. We don't spend too much time there.
Paksong itself is not an interesting town. It looks like a "centrally
planned" artificial city.
We leave Paksong shortly after 2pm. We spend the next few hours driving
across the Bolaven Plateau, passing through Thatheng and making several
stops along the way and in villages. The weather improves and the sun
finally shines through.
At 5pm we finally reach the Tad Lo waterfalls. Less spectacular than
the Tad Fen waterfalls, but still very nice in very charming setting.
The driver brings me to a guesthouse, which is relatively basic, but
OK. Later I hear from other travellers that most other guesthouses in
the area are fully booked. I guess probably tourists from Thailand came
over to celebrate the New Year here and filled all guesthouses.
I take a few photos of the waterfalls before sunset, then settle down
in the room. Don't do much for the rest of the day. The driver tells me
that he booked the elephant for tomorrow's jungle trek at 10am.
-> Pakse -> Champasak
Thavisab hotel, Champasak. 400 Baht
(USD 10) for
a big room with A/C, fan, private bath with shower and hot water, even
a TV. No phone or fridge. Despite what the Lonely Planet writes, the
price seems ok.
Weather: spotless blue sky in the
Bolaven plateau, very hot in the sun (strong sun by the way). Later in
the afternoon some clouds in the sky, when approaching Pakse. Quite
warm in the evening in Pakse and Champasak.
I wake up at 6am, then sleep again. In the end I'm ready at 10am for
the elephant ride. Kind of interesting, with a walk through the bush,
across the river, brief stop in the village, then back to the start,
all in 1h 40 minutes. But very hot, with a very strong sun (even
stronger due to the altitude) directly striking from above. It would
have been better to do the elephant trip at 8am, as the driver had
originally arranged it. I'm charged only 50000 Kip for the ride (it's
50000 Kip per person, but an elephant can carry two people).
After the elephant ride I'm back in the guesthouse, where I have some
food. At 1pm we leave the guesthouse for the drive back to Pakse. I've
picked up Tina and Milos, a Slovenian couple who is travelling in Laos
too and who is also going to the islands. Together we drive back to
Pakse, stopping at a few villages (Longaom, Hoay Hoon Tai and others)
on the way and at the Pha Suam waterfalls. Next to these waterfalls
there is a "cultural village" with traditional houses and people
wearing traditional costumes. By the way, we are the only western
tourists at the waterfalls - there are only Asian tourists (probably
mostly Thai) there. We have some food/drink at the waterfalls, then
head back to Pakse, arriving at 6pm at the Sodetour travel agency.
There Tina, Milos and I talk about the next steps. I wouldn't mind
the night in Pakse and tomorrow morning hiring a car for one day, going
to the islands with a stop in Wat Phu. But Tina is sort of in a hurry
and wants to be in Champasak already tonight (Champasak being 35 km
south of Pakse). In the end we take a car for USD45 (15/person) to
bring us to
Leaving around 6:10pm we reach the river crossing point on the Mekong,
opposite Pakse, at 7pm. There, there is no ferry to carry us through or
the driver does not want to get through with his car. Whatever. I'm
forced to carry the heavy suitcase on my back until the small boat,
because there is sand and stony terrain along the riverfront through
can't roll the suitcase. Same situation on the other side of the
river. I'm starting to think that it would have been better spending
the night in Pakse and taking the car the next morning.
On the opposite side of the river there is a tuk tuk which brings us to
the Thavisab hotel (actually more of a guesthouse than a hotel). Tina
hesitates for a while before accepting to stay there, because the room
costs USD 10 and she would like to spend less. Dear Tina, all
guesthouses are fully booked in Champasak, and there are only USD 1
dorm places available, where else do you want to go ? For a moment I
think about offering them to pay half the cost of their room.
After that, at 7:45pm, I go by tuk tuk to the only Internet cafe in
Champasak (how is this possible - this place is really to the edge to
nowhere). There the owner tells me that they actually close at 6pm and
go to sleeping at 8pm. But I'm allowed to briefly check the emails.
Again I wonder whether it would have been better to spend the night
in Pakse and make the trip by private car for USD 110 to the waterfall
at the Lao border with a stop in Wat Phu.
-> Don Khong island
Souksan hotel, Muang Khong, Don Khong
island. 20 USD for a clean and comfortable room with two beds, A/C,
fan, (of course) electricity, bath with hot shower.
Weather: blue sky with a very thin
layer of clouds which reduce slightly the sun's intensity. No rain,
very hot. Later in the afternoon clouds over the Khon Phapheng
waterfall, which obstruct the sun.
GSM coverage with Lao GSM also in Khong island - I'm surprised.
I get up at 8am and am ready at 9am for the tuk tuk trip to Wat Phu
with Tina and Milos. The tuk tuk drive takes over 30 minutes, partly
because of the distance, partly because the driver stops at a petrol
station. Already at 9:30am it is hot and uncomfortable - would have
been better having a car with A/C.
We reach Wat Phu at 9:35am. The entry ticket to Wat Phu costs 30000
Kip. Initially we visit the (small) museum of Wat Phu, actually just an
exhibition hall. Wat Phu is one of the only two UNESCO world cultural
heritage sites in Laos. The temple is relatively small, if compared to
Angkor, but it is interesting to see another Khmer site. Interestingly
the site is still used as a pilgrimage site by the locals.
We're at the site until 11am, then get back to the tuk tuk. The tuk tuk
brings us to the hotel, where I pack my things. At this point I change
my plans and decide to get to Khong island by private car. I ask the
tuk tuk driver if he knows somebody who could bring me there. After
some searching we find a guy with a pickup truck, willing to do the
trip for USD 60 with a stop at the Khon Phapheng waterfalls first. No
A/C however in his car <sigh>.
It's 12:10pm when the trip finally starts. We first wait for the ferry
to cross the Mekong, a pretty long wait which lasts almost half an
hour. At 12:40pm we finally start crossing the Mekong. It's almost 1pm
when we reach the
Then it's a very fast drive to the Khon Phapheng waterfalls (top speed
is 110 km/h), which we reach at 2:20pm. In between we stop at a petrol
station where a pretty lady in an elegant dress refills our tank. Lots
of pretty girls
and women in Laos by the way. If you are male, single and looking, head
The ticket for the Khon Phapheng waterfalls is 10000 Kip. The
waterfalls are very impressive - very wide and big volume of water
flowing. I spend around 20 minutes at the waterfalls, then get back to
The driver then drives back north for about 10km, and then turns left
towards the Mekong. We take the ferry in Ban Hat at the southern tip of
Don Khong island, around 3:10pm. After crossing the Mekong we drive to
the hotel in Muang Khong. I spend the rest of the day essentially doing
nothing. Around 6pm I check my emails in the Internet cafe of the
Souksan hotel (expensive at 1000 Kip/minute, min. 10 minutes, but I
don't know if there are other Internet cafes on the island). By the
way, here it is possible to burn CDs.
Souksan hotel, Muang Khong, Don Khong
Weather: same as yesterday: blue sky
with a very thin
layer of clouds which reduce slightly the sun's intensity. No rain,
very hot. Some clouds which obstruct the sun later in the afternoon.
Actually the strong sunshine wakes me up already at 7:10am, but I
decide to sleep longer and only get up around 9am. After breakfast I
talk to the hotel owner and I ask him if there is a way to see a number
of places, all in one day. Basically I'd like to have a look at Don
Khong island, see the dolphins and do a boat trip around the islands.
The owner suggests USD 50 for a day trip inclusive of car and boat,
coming back at 4-5pm. Seems ok, as I'll be able to cover all places I
want to see.
So we leave the hotel around 10:30 am and drive north, for the round
trip across the island. At 10:53am we stop at a newly renovated (in
fact they are still painting the walls) Buddhist temple, probably Wat
Phu Khao Kaew. Then we head south along the western coast of the
island, briefly stopping at the Mou Ngse pumping station, which is
provide water to irrigate fields in Don Khong. But according to the
owner (he is driving me around) nobody yet wants to plant rice in the
dry season, so the pumping station is essentially unused.
At 11:20am we are in the sleepy and hot Muang Saen village, on the
western coast of Don Khong island. We continue our drive and at 11:38am
briefly stop at a
place where people harvest and sell sugar from palm trees. At 11:45am
we are at the ferry pier in Ban Huay/Ban Hat, but the ferry just left,
so we have to wait for a while. The ferry in Muang Khong/Hat Xai Khun
no longer operates. According to the owner they will build a bridge
at some time in 2007-2008.
We then drive south along the road Nr. 13 to Veunkham (or Voen Kham as
spelled in the Lonely Planet), arriving there at 12:48pm. That's
actually a border crossing point as the opposite riverfront is already
Cambodia, but trips to watch the dolphins are allowed, without having
to officially leave Laos.
At 12:55pm I get into the boat and we head towards the place where
there are supposed to be dolphins. We stop at a rocky islet, where
already a couple of Japanese tourists are waiting. According to the
owner there are just 20 dolphins left, so I wonder if I will see any at
all. But after about 20 minutes the first dolphins show up, very far
away (perhaps 400-500m from where we are). It's not possible to get
closer, because we are already at the Cambodian border and the dolphins
actually are in Cambodian waters. The dolphin watching continues for
about 10 minutes, then the dolphins disappear. At 1:50pm I tell the
boatsman to bring me back to Veunkham.
At 2pm (it's only 10 minutes between Veunkham and the dolphin spotting
place) we drive back along road Nr. 13, turning left at the junction to
Ban Nakasang, arriving there at 2:43pm. There the owner speaks with
some people and arranges for a boat to bring me to Don Khon. Ban
Nakasang is actually the place where you fetch the boats to go to the
Don Det and Don Khon islands.
The boat leaves shortly after that, heading towards Don Khon, passing
along the channel separating Don Khon and Don Det. Lots of bungalows
along the river on these two islands (but no electricity yet). We
arrive at Don Khon at 3:05pm. There a lady with a motorbike picks me up
and brings me to the Li Phi waterfalls, which we reach in about 15
minutes. These are more rapids than waterfalls, as they are smaller and
the fall is only a few metres (entry ticket is 9000 Kip).
We then head towards the west coast of Don Khon, where there should be
a good place to spot dolphins, according to the guy who sold me the
ticket for the waterfalls. It turns out however that you have to take a
boat from there for 70000 Kip (non-negotiable). So I just stop there
briefly, then tell the lady to bring me back to the boat to Ban
Nakasang. By the way, while walking to the west coast we spot a snake
on the way.
Don Khon looks nice, but is perhaps a bit boring after a day or two.
There are coconut trees along the waterfront, which gives the island
kind of a tropical look.
At 4:40pm I'm back at the car. We are back in the hotel at about
5:30pm. In the evening I don't do much. The owner of the hotel allows
me to connect my notebook to the LAN of his Internet cafe, so I can
download all emails. While reading the emails, I hear that the plane
which was carrying back the Laos AsiaExplorers team to Penang (flight
TG429) developed an engine problem and had to make an emergency landing
in Hat Yai. This is pretty scary, as I'm using Thai Airways flights
over the next two days to get to Kuala Lumpur. Luckily the emergency
landing went well.
Tomorrow the hotel owner will drive me to Ubon Ratchathani in Thailand
for USD 130. The price seems ok, considering the distance. We'll stop
one or two places in between.
Ratchathani -> Bangkok
Rama gardens hotel, Bangkok (near the
airport). 1883 Baht for a nice room with everything (even a TV with an
adult channel - who would have imagined that they would offer this in
Thailand?). My favourite hotel in this price range near Bangkok airport.
Weather: blue sky
with a mix of a thin
layer of clouds and some clouds. Strong sunshine, no rain, very hot.
Again the strong sunshine wakes me up already at 7:20am, but I sleep
until 8:30am. After that I rush to get ready and at 9:30am I have
breakfast. Shortly after 10am we leave the hotel by car. The brother of
the owner will drive me to Ubon Ratchathani instead of the owner
himself, for a fee of USD 130.
We reach the Khmer site of Um Muang (entry is 10000 Kip) at 11:45am.
The temple is in the forest, and the trail to it is therefore
relatively cool. The temple is in a very poor state, which not many
structures left standing. I spend about 20 minutes there, then head
back to the car.
At 12:15pm we start again, reaching Pakse about half an hour later. In
Pakse we briefly stop at a government office (motorisation?), then
drive towards the border at Vangtao, arriving there at 1:30pm. I go
through Lao immigration and check out of Laos, then go through Thai
immigration. The process is very speedy as there are no queues and the
officers lose no time.
Surprise, surprise, I have to take all my things from the car of the
hotel owner. The brother of the hotel owner hands me over to a Thai
taxi driver. The new car is actually a minibus, pretty hot (the A/C is
At 1:45pm we leave Chong Mek, as the Thai border post is named, driving
to Ubon Ratchathani, reaching the town at 3pm. Then we lose some time,
as the restaurant I wanted to go to apparently no longer exists. I
finally ask the driver to drop me off at the KFC restaurant in
Changkayun road at 3:30pm.
After some fast lunch I leave my bags at the KFC restaurant and start
exploring Ubon Ratchathani at about 4pm. The town looks relatively
modern and developed, quite well off, while I thought it would be a
poor and underdeveloped place, because the Northeast of Thailand is
supposed to be very poor.
Until 6pm I walk around, having a look at the city. Then I take a tuk
tuk to the airport, first retrieving the luggage at the KFC restaurant.
I'm at the airport at 6:15pm, two hours early.
The TG031 flight leaves on time at 8:15pm and lands punctually at
9:20pm.The flight is full by the way. It then takes about 10-15 minutes
to retrieve the suitcase. Unfortunately the hotel reservation counter
of the domestic terminal (where I landed) is closed. At the information
counter they tell me to go to the international terminal by shuttle
bus. It's easier said than done, and while the distance may not be big
it takes half an hour to get there.
Shortly after 10pm I'm at the international terminal and try to walk to
the hotel reservation counter. A sweet and pretty young Thai lady in
sexy dress asks me where I'm going and if I want a taxi. I say I need a
hotel and she very insistently directs me to their booking counter.
Well.... Thai people may be sweet and friendly most of the time, and it
takes some effort to tell a sweet young&pretty Thai lady in sexy
dress to get lost, but I'm in a hurry and I have to show some
determination, otherwise I won't be able to get rid of this
sweet-young&pretty-Thai-lady-in-sexy-dress. Whatever. I just walk
away, looking for the counter.
For a moment I wonder why I'm doing all this, losing so much time just
to make it to the hotel reservation counter, why don't I just go
straight to the hotel. The answer is that the hotel reservation counter
at Bangkok airport has great rates. 1883 Baht for a room which costs
over 4000 Baht if you just walk in without reservation (and over 2400
Baht if you book through the Internet, as I learn later).
At 10:15pm I have the booking, at 10:30pm I'm in the lobby of the
hotel. That's fast.