View Full Version : South East Asia: Part II of IV

July 25th, 2011, 07:00 AM
South East Asia: Part II of IV


Once we had driven southwards for a bit, we bordered a boat. The Chinese are pumping lots of money into the country to upgrade the infrastructure, but the slow boat is probably the safest bet when traversing the country; roads are pretty much non-existent in most places while fast boats are a death sentence and the domestic aviation carriers no better.

If a fast narrow boat hits a log at high speed, the boat (and occupants) will splinter into fragments. I believe some tourists had met that fate just a few days before we began our Mekong cruise.

http://img709.imageshack.us/img709/1750/img7204j.jpg (http://img709.imageshack.us/i/img7204j.jpg/)

http://img718.imageshack.us/img718/6706/img7222do.jpg (http://img718.imageshack.us/i/img7222do.jpg/)

While the cruise was clearly aimed at backpackers, the boat also acted as a transport lifeline (food, people, goods, etc...) for various communities adjacent to the Mekong.
http://img821.imageshack.us/img821/8804/img7235r.jpg (http://img821.imageshack.us/i/img7235r.jpg/)

Hilltop village
http://img97.imageshack.us/img97/102/img7257u.jpg (http://img97.imageshack.us/i/img7257u.jpg/)

Because our boat trip to Luang Prabang would take two days, the boat would retire for the night at a village literally in the middle of nowhere. So remote that the only way in and out was by boat and the generators (no outside electricity) went off at 10pm. Pitch black - no light from the moon or stars - very eerie.
http://img143.imageshack.us/img143/3029/img7324wo.jpg (http://img143.imageshack.us/i/img7324wo.jpg/)

http://img18.imageshack.us/img18/9458/img7330e.jpg (http://img18.imageshack.us/i/img7330e.jpg/)

Despite being pretty much dependent on the river, the village in the middle of no-where (stretched along a steep incline) did have a paved road, although the vehicles only appeared to be used to ferry goods/people up and down to the river rather than go anywhere else.
http://img717.imageshack.us/img717/7568/img7334j.jpg (http://img717.imageshack.us/i/img7334j.jpg/)

http://img651.imageshack.us/img651/4268/img7335u.jpg (http://img651.imageshack.us/i/img7335u.jpg/)

http://img27.imageshack.us/img27/1361/img7341q.jpg (http://img27.imageshack.us/i/img7341q.jpg/)

Alien fruit
http://img819.imageshack.us/img819/5918/img7362pc.jpg (http://img819.imageshack.us/i/img7362pc.jpg/)

http://img710.imageshack.us/img710/3576/img7377ys.jpg (http://img710.imageshack.us/i/img7377ys.jpg/)

The interior of a Mekong river boat - this isn't exactly a cruise boat where luxury is the order of the day, but it did its job of getting us safely to our destination, even if the toilets were located above the engines' exhaust.
http://img801.imageshack.us/img801/3663/img7391a.jpg (http://img801.imageshack.us/i/img7391a.jpg/)

http://img26.imageshack.us/img26/9704/img7412r.jpg (http://img26.imageshack.us/i/img7412r.jpg/)

Water bikes & Luang Prabang.
http://img714.imageshack.us/img714/7248/img7439p.jpg (http://img714.imageshack.us/i/img7439p.jpg/)


Located in the north of Laos, approximately 425km north of the capital (Vientiane); Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage site with some excellent architecture (both colonial and buddhist) and a massive night market.

The following incredible panoramic image was taken atop Phy Si hill in Luang Prabang (unfortunately for which I can not take credit for); it's a small city built amongst the jungle:

The main road (Sisavangvong Road) in Luang Prabang is basically a massive market that while open during the day comes alive at night (more stalls open up).
http://img64.imageshack.us/img64/3722/img7452w.jpg (http://img64.imageshack.us/i/img7452w.jpg/)

Mopeds, bikes and tuk tuks - the vehicle of choice for Laos.
http://img832.imageshack.us/img832/1396/img7466qd.jpg (http://img832.imageshack.us/i/img7466qd.jpg/)

http://img248.imageshack.us/img248/6236/img7467i.jpg (http://img248.imageshack.us/i/img7467i.jpg/)

One of the numerous wats that punctuate the urban fabric.
http://img638.imageshack.us/img638/4024/img7499m.jpg (http://img638.imageshack.us/i/img7499m.jpg/)

http://img11.imageshack.us/img11/1160/img7510m.jpg (http://img11.imageshack.us/i/img7510m.jpg/)

The jungle
http://img638.imageshack.us/img638/1010/img7655q.jpg (http://img638.imageshack.us/i/img7655q.jpg/)

http://img821.imageshack.us/img821/4010/img7675r.jpg (http://img821.imageshack.us/i/img7675r.jpg/)

Not sure who's bright idea it was to build a slippery staircase in-between two streams...
http://img10.imageshack.us/img10/2038/img7708p.jpg (http://img10.imageshack.us/i/img7708p.jpg/)

No civilisation - crasy
http://img806.imageshack.us/img806/3452/img7710.jpg (http://img806.imageshack.us/i/img7710.jpg/)

Crazy bloke climbing up a waterfall!
http://img607.imageshack.us/img607/7804/img7729a.jpg (http://img607.imageshack.us/i/img7729a.jpg/)

Tropical wildlife
http://img835.imageshack.us/img835/1095/img7733z.jpg (http://img835.imageshack.us/i/img7733z.jpg/)

Local fish.
http://img3.imageshack.us/img3/635/img7767r.jpg (http://img3.imageshack.us/i/img7767r.jpg/)

Several klicks kayaking down a Mekong tributary.
http://img821.imageshack.us/img821/8382/img7772u.jpg (http://img821.imageshack.us/i/img7772u.jpg/)


After an interesting mountain-pass coach trip (which generated mild flashbacks of a suicidal minibus trip a year earlier in Guilin), we arrived at Vang Vieng. Located amongst the karst hill landscapes and on the Nam Song river, Van Vieng is a town dedicated solely to backpackers. The town concentrates around tubing and bed-restaurants catering predominantly British backpackers.

Unfortunately my camera wasn't water-proof so I opted out taking it down the river. Fancy going tubing in VV? Make sure to pick up your tube in town before heading out to the start-point (just as we did) and enjoy the bars (the first few are pretty mental, while the later ones are more quiet).

http://img291.imageshack.us/img291/7774/img7791b.jpg (http://img291.imageshack.us/i/img7791b.jpg/)

Bed-restaurants litter the town, they pretty much all copy the same formula; beds instead of tables that are all aimed in the same direction towards TV's showing repeats of Friends, Family Guy and Premiership football.
http://img813.imageshack.us/img813/8961/img7799.jpg (http://img813.imageshack.us/i/img7799.jpg/)

http://img191.imageshack.us/img191/6356/img7800h.jpg (http://img191.imageshack.us/i/img7800h.jpg/)

Super tractor
http://img155.imageshack.us/img155/8485/img7836z.jpg (http://img155.imageshack.us/i/img7836z.jpg/)

Beer Lao
http://img195.imageshack.us/img195/9461/img7870b.jpg (http://img195.imageshack.us/i/img7870b.jpg/)


As we closed in on Vientiane the capital of Laos, the road network improves drastically. Located on the Mekong, Vientiane is the largest and most significant population centre in Laos, it is also the most developed.

Unfortunately our stay in Vientiane was brief. We were already behind schedule to get to the Laotian/Cambodian border and needed to catch a 'VIP' bed bus from the main coach station.

http://img249.imageshack.us/img249/2277/img7884v.jpg (http://img249.imageshack.us/i/img7884v.jpg/)

Pimp my VIP bed bus (no chairs, just beds)
http://img810.imageshack.us/img810/2307/img7895.jpg (http://img810.imageshack.us/i/img7895.jpg/)

The next morning, our bus ditches us in the middle of nowhere for the final leg to the Cambodia border in a minibus.
http://img203.imageshack.us/img203/6450/img7922m.jpg (http://img203.imageshack.us/i/img7922m.jpg/)

First though, we had to navigate towards the local village via a pothole mirred track and the only way of doing that was by bike; the biker decided to bring his family long as well!
http://img827.imageshack.us/img827/5654/img7927w.jpg (http://img827.imageshack.us/i/img7927w.jpg/)

Eating in someone’s living room while the minibus arrives - but good stuff
http://img210.imageshack.us/img210/2535/img7943e.jpg (http://img210.imageshack.us/i/img7943e.jpg/)

Quite possibly one of the funniest things occurred while on the minibus racing towards the border; we were travelling with some detestable German girls and an Italian family with perhaps the most obnoxious son on the planet. Casually looking out the window I noticed a bag fly off the roof, then another and another... the minibus driver didn't know what we were talking about and carried on driving. By the time he eventually stopped, we were a mile down the road. Fortunately all our bags were still secured on, but the same couldn't be said of our fellow continental European travellers...

Cambodia from Laos
http://img411.imageshack.us/img411/3426/img7945c.jpg (http://img411.imageshack.us/i/img7945c.jpg/)

In the middle of nowhere, and we get ripped off by Cambodian border guards fluent in East London Cockney.
http://img339.imageshack.us/img339/29/img7948y.jpg (http://img339.imageshack.us/i/img7948y.jpg/)

South East Asia Series
South East Asia: Part I of IV http://wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=24975
South East Asia: Part III of IV http://wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=24977
South East Asia: Part IV of IV http://wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=24978