14/1 We slept well on the soft beds and under the thick white duvets. Around 7.30 we have breakfast and we’re picked up by our guide and driver and leave for Muang Sing. About half way (on bumpy, pothole roads, where the driver keeps on swerving left and right to avoid the potholes and other traffic) we stop at a small Akha village. I still have some candy in my bag so I handed some out to the first kids we saw on the bridge to the village. Soon they wanted more, but I kept the rest for other kids. We walked up to the village and soon I was swarmed by all the village kids wanting candy. I couldn’t hand it out one by one anymore, they started to pull on my hands and pockets and I swear one mother even pinched me in my right arm to get some candy for her baby. Okay: I just threw all the candy up in the air and got out of the way. The kids grabbed all the candy they could get and I was safe. Finished, no more candy! I could finally walk out of the crowd and see a bit more of the village. We bought some handmade bracelets, and the maker of the bracelets came to thank us personally. Some of the older kids were playing with marbles. Talitha taught them high fives and hand clapping games, which they enjoyed. One of the older kids even did the fake-high five: just before touching he quickly pulled back his hand and glided it through his hair, the cheeky little thing. Haha! We took some photos with the kids. And as we left all the kids walked us out, and our guide started singing a song, and the kids chimed in. Very nice. We are being waved goodbye by about 30 kids. A very cute and lovely experience. We drive on to Muang Sing, a town about 12 kilometer from the Chinese border. Our guide tells us our room is not cleaned yet as we arrive, but no problem, we leave our bag in the room and go for a cup of coffee at Tailu restaurant. It’s very nice Laotian coffee with a centimeter thick layer of sweet condensed milk at the bottom. Some tribes women walk past en try to sell us bracelets and scarves. Since we already have bought bracelets, we get a scarf. The woman keep on trying to sell us. We have barely said no to another scarf, and a bag comes out. No, no bag either. Well, then a hat comes out. And another set of bracelets. We keep on smiling and say no. In the mean time we chat with our guide about Laos. Then we walk back to our Phou Lu resort with our beautiful rooms and after washing some clothes, we read a bit on our front porch. We hope the clothes will dry soon, but the sun isn’t really showing. Then I get the idea of hanging the clothes inside, with the standing fan pointed at it, and it works really well! We have lunch at Tailu again, this time very nice chicken in a delicious sweet/spicy sauce and vegetable fritters, which was suggested by the sweet old Lao woman owning the restaurant. She speaks about 5 English words properly, but with hands and feet we have great fun with her. She asks us to come back for dinner again, then the bamboo that she has been cooking all day will be finished. But we planned to go to the night market, so guess not. Back to the hotel again for some more chillaxing. I find out we only have one extra duvet, so I ask another one at the reception for my bed, it already feels quite cold. Around 6 we walk to the night market, but there are only about 8 or 10 market stalls taken, and definitely not one of them is selling hot food in the cold crisp air, so okay, we walked on to Tailu again. Our Lao friend was happy to see us again, and suggested some meals for us, the bamboo and the Lucsin tempura. We add springrolls and ginger tea and are totally happy with the meal. As we leave, we tell her we’re off to Luang Prabang tomorrow so we said goodbye. She was sad to hear that we were leaving, but asked us to tell everybody going to Muang Sing, to visit Tailu restaurant. Well, here you go.
15/1 An early start of the day, our alarm rings at 5.30am, because we’re supposed to leave at 7. After a quick shower and packing, we’re in the hotel’s restaurant by 6.30. But no breakfast, that only starts at 7. Whoops. Ah well, we get the Lao mentality going and we’re not ready to leave by 7, because we’re having brekkie first. Who cares, taking it easy. By 7.25 we’re ready to leave, no problem for our guide and our driver. We have a long driving day to go, so we’re in the van the whole day, mainly relaxing, falling asleep and staring out the window. Past us glide high mountains, valleys with rivers, little villages, many houses with satellites (the one bigger than the other, the next more rusty than the other) and lots of people: working, playing, laughing, eating, biking. In Oudom Xai we stop for lunch and we have Khao Soy again, with chicken, and we buys some snacks from the market. The road after Oudom Xai is very bumpy, it has more potholes and gravel parts than actual asphalt. Every time I thought the road looked better, just around the corner there were more potholes and gravel. The road was also very windy and I was glad I took a travel-sickness tablet. About 20 kilometer before Luang Prabang, we stopped at a bridge over the Nam Khan river and walked over it to take some photos of the sunset and the mountains, beautiful. In Luang Prabang we walk over the night market and buy a few souvenirs and clothes. We have fresh spring rolls, fried veggies, beef larp and fish at a very nice restaurant, topped off with a glass of wine. Yummie – enjoying life!
16/1 Finally a day where we can sleep in a bit: until 7.30! Yay! We have a nice breakfast, where we put the cake in the bread toaster (one of those turning things) and it comes out all crumbly, but very tasty, haha. Around 9 our guide comes to pick us up for a bike ride. We bike for about 1 hour and 15 minutes around the city and for to a nice temple/stupa just outside of the city up on a hill. We see a bit of the mass the hold in the temple, a celebration festival that Buddha gave away his clothes 3000 years ago, or something like that. As we get back to our hotel, we quickly put on some swim gear, and take a towel, just in case, and go find a tuktuk to take us to the Tat Kouang Si waterfalls. Just before we get to the waterfall park, we see signs for a butterfly park, and wonder if this is from Talitha’s friend’s friends. We decided to check it out later. It is great to see the waterfalls again after 7 years, and it’s just as I remembered. We first see the Bear Rescue Center where we see some sun bears and black bears that have been rescued from poachers or were kept as a pet in small cages. We buy some souvenirs to support the cause. The waterfalls are still beautiful and breathtaking, like a tropical paradise. We take a lot of photos and walk around a bit. We don’t go for a swim, the water feels cold, and the screams of a group of Japanese tourists let us know it is indeed too cold. We have a sandwich for lunch and find out from our guide that the butterfly park is indeed foreign owned. Well, maybe by Dutch people? Our tuktuk stops for us at the butterfly park and we see a blonde woman standing at the entrance, looking quite Dutch. As we stop, Talitha asks: are you Dutch? And do you know Daisy? The woman is happily surprised, yes! It is indeed Ineke, Daisy’s friend. After a park-introduction from a Laotian employee, Ineke takes us on a tour through the park and we also meet her partner Olaf. (Later on I find out that my cousin Kim also knows Ineke and Olaf, what a small world!) They started the park over a year ago, it is still being worked on, but it already looks great: the lay out, the natural waterfalls that they have on the land, it’s gorgeous. In a big netted tent they have lots of different butterflies flying around lots of flowers and extra food (as there aren’t as many flowers as in summer). It is very nice to see the park, and we’re so glad that we found it by coincidence! After getting back to our hotel again we say goodbye to our guide. We go to the Opera House café and enjoy a piña colada or two. Then we go do some more shopping on the night market and have a nice free dinner from Dokkham Travel because of the boat trip mishap from the 6th of January. We get some Laotian and Luang Prabang specialties, and they taste very nice.
17/1 I woke up before the alarm, had a shower, then some breakfast and time to pack everything. We went to a very nice shop, Anakha, where we tried on a lot of different, beautiful handmade creations. We actually had to stop ourselves from trying more on, everything was so gorgeous! We drank some ice coffees in the sunshine while reading a book at Authentic Luang Prabang Bakery. At a small place on a side road next to the National Museum we had a good Khao Soy soup, with the Bolognese-paste in it. It took a while before we could get our 3pm ride to the airport, but in the end we left at 3.25 in a van from the hotel and arrived at the airport in time for our flight. We checked in, and hoped our bags would be tagged on to Amsterdam again via Bangkok, so we wouldn’t have to deal with luggage there. Then we waited for the flight to Bangkok, a 2 hour flight. In Bangkok we had to wait 7 hours for our next flight to Amsterdam, and we couldn’t check in until 3.5 hours before the flight. So we shopped a bit more, had another ice coffee, ice tea, piña colada, until we could check in. And indeed, our luggage would continue on to Amsterdam. We read some, tried not to fall asleep and around 1am we went to the gate to board. The flight was a bit bumpy over the Himalaya’s and the Kaukasus mountains, but other than that a smooth flight. The wines and travel-sickness tablets did work this time, I slept a bit. At Schiphol I was picked up by my parents and my little niece. She was so excited she was going to pick me up, that she had barely slept the night before. Also when she saw us through the thick glass picking up our luggage, she went with my Mom back to my Dad, and to André and Edo who were there to pick up Talitha and told my Mom: ‘Let’s not say to the men we just saw the girls, it’s a surprise.’ Little cheeky thing! I said goodbye to Talitha and André and Edo and went home again, where after a long day trying to stay awake I had a good night’s sleep again, with lots of dreams about gibbons, hiking, jungle soup, zip lining (nightmare?!) and the noodle soups of Laos.
Until next time, beautiful Laos!!!