Around the World 2003-2005
Vientiane and Vang Vieng, Laos
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Robinson Crusoe Island, Fiji
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Bridges and Buildings of Sydney, Australia
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Boracay, Philippines
Vientiane and Vang Vieng, Laos
Luang Prabang and Muang Ngoi, Laos
Trekking in Laos
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February 12th and 13th, 2004

Me and Kirsten

My friend Kirsten and a I crossed over the Friendship bridge between Thailand and Laos after a near sleepless overnight train journey from Bangkok.  It very warm in Bangkok when we boarded the 2nd class sleeper with fan.  I did not think I would need anything more than shorts and a t-shirt.  Well sometime during the night, the temperature dropped and the warm breeze coming through the window turned into an icy blast.  Try as I might, I could not get the window closed.  So I shivered most of the night in that half awake/half asleep state of torture.  From then on, I always have long pants and a pull-over available for overnight journeys.  This is especially important for A/C bus rides, since it will inevitably be set so cold that water condenses on the outside of the windows. 

A bit groggy but alive, I followed Kirsten into Laos.  She is a wiz at customs documents.  The first order of business was to exchange money to pay for our ride into town.  With an exchange rate of 10000:1 kip to dollar, I instantly became a kip millionaire.  It seems kind of cool to get a large paperback novel sized stack of 5000 kip notes, but the novelty wears off quickly when trying to find a place to put it.  It is way beyond the original design criteria for the money belt, so that is out of the question.  I ended up taking a small wad for immediate access and putting it in my pocket.  The rest I stuffed into my backpack and hoped for the best.


The capitol city of Laos felt more like a small town than the largest city in the country.  It just had a small town feel.

One of the biggest things I noticed was all the new cars, motorcycles, and buildings.  A large amount of money must be flowing into the country.  The new headquarters for the Ministry of Water was a massive gaudy temple like thing that boasted of self importance.  Signs of the influx were everywhere.  The school yard was filled with hundreds of shiny new motorcycles.  Where is the money coming from with GDP for (2001) at $1600 which is roughly the cost of one of the motorcycles?

Typical street


Boats on the Mekong River

Sunset over the Mekong, Thailand in the distance

Vang Vieng:

A very small town about mid way between Luang Probang and Vientiane.  It is a common stop off for backpackers wanting to chill out in the peaceful river valley.  Other than rice fields, the only thing in the area is the massive cement plant featured on the back of (I believe) the 1000 kip note.

Note the white/grey skies in the pictures are not clouds, but pollution caused by the burning of forests to clear fields for farming.  This is a problem through out Laos.  The haze was very bad the entire time I was there.  I hear the worst month is in April when it is thick enough to make your eyes tear.

Near sunset

River reflection

Foot bridges crossing the river

Dry rice fields

Daily markets like the pictured below are a common scene all through out Laos.  I was shocked at some of the things for sale.  While on the bus earlier in the day, a vendor was selling meat on a stick.  It had a strangely familiar shape I could not identify.  It became clear when I was walking through the market.  It was squirrel.  Also at the market, I saw owl, muskrats, and bats.

Daily market

Cafe over looking river

Kids crossing a foot bridge

On the bus to Vang Vieng

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