Welcome to 'World Journeys' (the blog)! Formerly known as 'The Greater World', World Journeys is written by Andrew Boland, a traveller approaching 40 who has visited 69 countries, and counting!
This blog features any travel I am doing, and thoughts, memories and the like from my past trips, not to mention photos. Please come back regularly to read about some of the interesting, and different places I have visited!
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Short Journeys: Laos
Hi everyone. My latest kindle addition is up and ready, so if you'd like to read about my time in Laos, my opinions, and a little information too. Here is the front cover:
And a link to the amazon page where you can buy the book:
Laos is found in the depths of South-East Asia. It borders
China to the north, Thailand to the south, Vietnam to the east and Cambodia to
the south-east. It’s right in the thick of it, you might say. It’s not
everyone’s first, second or even third thought when they think of South-East
Asia, but, perhaps that’s what makes it special - because it is special, very
The peaceful Luang Prabang, perched on the Mekong and the
gateway to less-explored north of the country, is one of the most relaxed and
calm places to visit in all of South-East Asia. The unassuming capital,
Vientiane, is a delightful spot right on the border with Thailand, and out in the
east is Phonsovan. Phonsovan is famous for the Plain of Jars, a collection of
huge stone jars dotted about the plains near Phonsovan. It’s also in an area
that was heavily bombed in the 60s and 70s, and some 30 percent of them didn’t
explode on impact. Laos is one of the most bombed/mined countries in the world.
The way the community has dealt with the problem of unexploded ordinances is
eye-opening and perhaps inspiring.
The Mekong River
Well, it’s a mighty river flowing through different
countries winding its way across land to eventually meet the sea in the Mekong
Delta, Vietnam. In Luang Prabang you are more than a thousand kilometres up
stream, but it’s still beautiful. Walking along the banks is a nice experience
in the late-afternoon when it’s cooled down ever so slightly. You’ll find the
occasional long bamboo bridge which the locals use to get from smaller villages
to the town.
Luang Prabang is actually situated on two rivers, the Mekong
and the Nam Khan. A confluence of rivers is often a popular place for a town.
Walking along either and both in the late afternoon or early morning is a very
pleasurable experience. Stop at one of the open restaurants overlooking the
river and have a cold drink and take in the serenity. There’s a lot of serenity
Kuang Si Waterfall (entrance
20,000 kip, 2011)
For me this was the real highlight of Luang Prabang, a
waterfall not that far from town which admittedly a lot of tourists head to.
It’s a superb place for a swim and to cool off, and its setting is somewhat
idyllic and beautiful.
On said path is a sanctuary for bears which is worth a
little look. The company running the bear sanctuary is called ‘Save the Bears’
and the bears there are ‘Asian Black Bears’. They are kept in enclosures of a
decent size I guess. I don’t really know what an appropriate size is for a bear
to live in, but at least they are safe there and it’s nice to check out.
After you’ve said hello to the bears, keep on going to the
waterfall. It’s not that far and it’s a truly beautiful spot. Green and lush,
the vegetation parts for the river, and over the top of some rocks the Kuang Si
Waterfall heads down to a deep pool of still water, the perfect place to go
when the heat is getting to you. It was
regularly in the mid to high thirties when I was there, so it was truly a
welcome sight. A small tropical paradise hidden away in the jungle.
Phonsovan - Plain of Jars
Phonsovan was the place I most wanted to visit in Laos,
because of the ‘Plain of Jars’ – hundreds of ancient large stone jars spread
over three separate areas which has been a mystery for many years. Although
really it’s not that much of a mystery, I think, personally, it’s pretty
obvious what the jars are, or at least were, they were, for want of a better
word, coffins. In fact, this is one of the theories and to me the most logical
They are well over a thousand years old, and therefore today
they are a tourist attraction, for foreigners and locals alike. Although often
they are not high on the tourist’s list of things to see in Laos, I think they
should be! The issue that a lot of travellers have is the distance, it’s not in
the middle of the Vientiane to Luang Prabang road, and many don’t want to go.
Phonsovan itself is a dusty old town; it has almost a
frontier feel, dusty, a little forgotten. At the peak of the day there is
plenty of traffic on the wide, main street, but that’s about all there is.
There are a few hotels, a couple of places to eat and the MAG centre.
Craters restaurant, main street, Phonsovan.
We had a great guide, informative, helpful, fun. That’s all
you really need right? Good English too. We headed out to the third site (Plain
of Jars Site III on the ticket) first. We had to walk across fields to get
there, and as we did we passed little markers on the ground with white and red
paint. They were markers that signified that bombs had been located and removed
in the area. Usually they marked out a space and between the markers it was
safe to walk. You do have to follow your guide and watch for the markers.
Anything that looks like a solid trail will be safe, but don’t go wandering off
on your own for hundreds of metres, because there’s plenty of land that hasn’t
yet been searched and declared safe as yet. Not that I’m trying to scare
people, it’s 100% safe if you just use common sense!
View of the capital, Vientiane
Inside the Gold Stupa, Vientiane.
Laos is a wonderful place... take a look at the book - or why not visit yourself?