I have mixed feelings about Laos. We saw a fair amount of the country, but never got too far off the tourist trail. The scenery is absolutely beautiful but the food is nowhere near as good as Thai food. The country is definitely poor, but seems to have a slightly higher standard of living than Cambodia, probably because they receive TONS of foreign aid.
I didn’t take enough pictures, and that kind of bums me out now, but I’ll give you a little tour right here.
We started by taking a bus from Phnom Penh into Southern Laos – specifically Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands). We took a boat out to the island of Don Det for a couple days in a VERY primitive bungalow.
One day we rode our bikes out to a beautiful waterfall, but of course I forgot my camera. Instead, here’s a picture of the most adorable and sweet dog ever, who hung out on our porch!
When we were ready to leave Don Det, we booked an overnight bus to Vientiane. It was not a particularly pleasant ride because the bed was about 4′ by 5’6″ and I had to share it with Mike, who is 6’2.” Vientiane is not the most thrilling city on earth, but it’s pleasant and even has it’s own version of the Arc de Triomphe!
After a brief stop in Vang Vieng to go tubing, we continued on a stunningly beautiful but incredibly curvy road to Luang Prabang.
It’s surrounded by mountains and has some beautiful wats and cool French colonial architecture.
We’d discovered a Canadian-owned, Lao-staffed cafe and bakery called Joma in Vientiane, and were happy to find they had a branch in Luang Prabang, too.
I can’t believe I had to go all the way to Laos to find out about them, but Joma introduced me to the Canadian sensation known as the Nanaimo Bar. It’s a layer of chocolate-coconut cookie crust, with a layer of vanilla frosting, and then a topping of chocolate. Pure bliss on a plate, and I’m definitely going to make several batches as soon as we get home!
In addition to baguettes and great architecture, the French brought petanque to Laos. It’s a really fun game, similar to bocce.
When we were ready to move on into Thailand, there were two options. A two-day slow boat with a stop-over in a wholly unappealing town, or a one hour flight on Lao Airlines, which has a little bit of a shady reputation. We chose option two.
I know I haven’t posted much about food lately, but pretty much all we did in Northern Thailand was EAT! That post is up next.