We would love to spend our New Year eve in Laos, so on 31 December 2016 we arrived Vientiane. I departed from Tra Vinh to Ho Chi Minh City, then from HCMC to Pakse International airport, after transiting, we moved to Vientiane. I woke up too early, hence I got headache all the way.

Paske International airport is very small compared to other international airports where I was visited. The immigration is not also modern. I could see that the security system is old and not really good. Maybe that is the reason why trafficking happens with high rate in Laos. There were a few passengers. We waited for around 30 minutes and back to the plane. The plane is AR airplane, so it is very small. I usually travel by air bus, so that was my first time I have been in an AR airplane. The plane has two fans and around 100 seats. When the plane took off, I was so scared because it made a very dangerous sound (from the fans) and it was shaking.

We arrived Inter Hotel which is opposite to a night market. We took a rest and then had dinner on the street. Of course we had to wander inside the market. There are thousands things are being sold. I have a special interest in phone case, so I bought a new one for my ip5. Unfortunately, I lost 50.000kip because I could not recognized 50.000 and 20.000. There are many Vietnamese people here. They were doing their business. I even could see a Vietnamese coffee shop, and some Vietnamese men were singing karaoke in our mother tongue.

Today was the last day of 2016, but nobody celebrated. The capital was so peaceful. I like it.

1 January

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! YEAR OF THE ROOSTER.

7:00am: If 7:00am is the time when Siamese open their shops, here, in Laos, 8:00am is a good time to start a new day. We had to walk so far to have breakfast and coffee. Then we visited PATUXAI PARK. Patuxai Park or Gate of Triumph is a war monument in Vientiane Capital which memorized independence from France. We had to get back the hotel, check out and move to Luang Prabang.

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Patuxai Park

12:00pm: Luang Prabang is a heritage Citiy. Architecture here is so beautiful. There are many international tourists, or a lot of them live and so business here. As Vientiane, this city is also quiet and peaceful. It was raining when we arrived. My partner struggled to look for a cheap hotel. With people who love traveling, searching for a cheap hotel is necessary. It is not because you’re poor, but because you have to save money for other activities or unexpected situations. Hotel or guest house is just a place to stay overnight and take a shower. So we do not waste so much money for hotel (except one night at Holiday Inn in BKK). I checked in Nam Sok Guest house with very wonderful price: $20/night/2-bed room.

I suggest people who would love visit Luang Prabang that you should bring a book with you. This place is a heaven for bookworm or people wanting to create. The atmosphere is so fresh and quiet to immerse into a book or writing. I saw a lot of foreigners reading around me. Here, you cannot feel the time is flying. You just can feel the weather and nature. I hardly regretted that I did not bring book or my tablet to read or listen to music. But it’s ok, I could see the river is slowly flowing. Luang Prabang is also a wonderful tourism city. Most of restaurants here are in Western style because their target is Western tourists. However, the cost was not so high. My partner had so much Lao money. We did not need to exchange for more. The money he got was enough for us during the time here. But we could not distinguish Lao and Cambodian money. We got big mistake when paying for noddle in Vientiane. A waitress told us that “It’s not Lao.” We laughed so hard.

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Luang Prabang is a heritage city

In Luang Prabang, at night is time for a big market. Local people even could drive in this area because the main street now became the market. We waked around and back to the guest house.

2 January

Today destination was Kuang Si Waterfall. From Luang Prabang to Kuang Si is 29km by Song Tae.

“Kuang Si (Xi) Waterfall is the biggest in the Luang Prabang area with three tiers leading to a 50-metre drop into spectacular azure pools before flowing downstream. The pools also make great swimming holes and are very popular with both tourists and locals. The pools also have cascades of up to five metres high with deliciously cold water due to the shade given by the surrounding lush tropical jungle, if you don’t fancy a swim then you can relax in the shade and watch others having fun jumping in and out of the water.” – visit-laos.com

But I could feel the fresh air, landscape and the peace while looking at the waterfall. Well, that was also the first time I saw a waterfall. It was so great. I could stay there whole day to listen the sound of water flowing down.

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Kuang Si Waterfall

But again, I got car sick because of the winding street. I discovered that in Luang Prabang, everything is very nice, rich and beautiful. However, deep inside the village (on the way to Kuang Si waterfall), Laotians are living in a very poor condition. We cannot judge a book by its cover.

The most exciting thing was that we bought a silver bracelet with super cheap price (90.000kip similar to 200.000vnd). We came back to the guest house and rested. Then we came to the same restaurant where we visited at the first time we arrived. We enjoyed carrot cream soup and garlic bread. I ordered ginger tea, but they brought me hot water with ginger. It was called fresh ginger tea.

In the evening, we wandered the night market again, but this time we stopped a “food court”. Hum… It is like a mess inside. 1500kip/dish and you could take whatever you want. It was nice experience. I saw many foreigners ate so much. This place is not for people who loves leisure travel, it is for adventure.

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The Food Court

3 January

A very tired day. Well, I spent whole day on a big boat from Luang Prabang to Pak Beng. Wow wow… I could not image that I was on the boat almost 9 hours. In fact, I had a great opportunity to look at Mekong River. I deeply regretted that I did not bring a book.

There are two ways to travel to Pak Beng: speed boat and slow boat. We visited 4 tourism agencies and finally we got the cheapest slow boat trip: 130.000kip/person and 50.000kip/person for picking up from the guest house. My partner wanted to travel by speed boat so that we could directly arrive Huay Xai, but there was no speed boat.

The boat was big which could contain 50 passengers. People from many different countries were on the boat with us. Well, actually local people sit in the front, and the back was for international tourists.

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On the slow boat

Mekong River flows from China, Laos, Burma, Thailand Cambodia and stops in Vietnam. The sight is so amazing with mountains, cloud, wind, water and people. It’s a master piece of Mother Nature. We arrived Pak Beng at 6:00pm

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Mekong River on the boat from Luang Prabang to Pak Beng

4 January

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Morning in Pak Beng

The next stop was Huay Xai. It might take us a whole day on slow boat from Pak Beng if I could not find a speed boat. We were lucky. A speed was available, but it would not depart if there was not enough passengers. The first reason was that if there were only two of us, the driver could not benefit much. The second one was only two people could not make to boat in a stable situation, it would be shaken because of high speed. Fortunately, another passenger came with us. The boat is very small. It can drive 8 people at the same time. Passengers had to wear helmets to avoid strong wind and rain. On the way, the driver also picked up some people. Finally, there were 7 passengers on the boat.

Suddenly it was raining. When you’re in a very high speed, even a light rain can hurt you. Local people had nothing to protect their faces. A few helmets were not enough for all of us. I brought some medical masks, so I delivered to all of them to protect their faces.

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I had to wear helmet on the speed boat

It took us only 2 hours. At around noon, we arrived Huay Xai. We, then, directly went to immigration area to Chiang Rai, Thailand. I really don’t like immigration in Thai. They kept me for a while and asked so many questions. I could understand. They were afraid that I do trafficking.

Back to Thailand, the atmosphere was so different although the weather was as cold as Laos. I found a cheap hotel and had lunch.

In the afternoon, we walked around but there was nothing interesting. Well, border area is always sad and peaceful.

5 January

We struggled to look for a bus or Song Tae to Chiang Mai, but the time was too late. All buses and Song Tae departed already. So my partner hired a car. Hum…(“he is really rich” – I whispered to myself sometime). I slept on car all the way because I was so tired. Two days on the river took me too much energy. And today it was nearly whole day on car.

We arrived Chiang Mai in the afternoon and checked in Macasa Guest house – a place we stayed last time. After resting, we wandered around, stopped by a coffee shop and old book stores, then we came to night market. I immediately recognized there are a lot vendors selling crepe cake. Last time I could not find anyone, but this time so many of them. When we came to the food court, two areas now was combined. Hum, it’s a nice development.

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We met Mr. Moi when we arrived. He drove us to a shopping mall. We bought some stuff there. My partner wanted to visit an Outlet mall, but it is very far and too new that no one knew. But finally, we got there. Outlet mall is usually very far, and very cheap because the goods directly come from factories. We also bought some very quality things.

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Elephant statues in front of the Shopping Mall

6 January

Mr. Moi picked us up at the guest house and drove us to the airport. Time to say good bye again and as the last time, he asked to come back next time.

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