Today we were driving from Vangvieng to Luang Prabang, a city further northwest. Our guides had forwarned us that the road, the whole trip, would be very hilly and curvy and to be aware that motion sickness might rear its ugly head if not careful. Well, they weren’t kidding. I’ve been to Puerto Rico before, to a friend’s house up in the hills and I thought those roads were curvy and hilly. Well, (in the words of my lovely sister-in-law), this was curvy and hilly “level 9,000.” Holy cow!!! I’ve never driven around so many curves in one sitting in my life. The driver also I thought was using a lot of brakes going down the hills and that made me slightly anxious because gosh they were long downhills!
I did see one very hardy long-distance cyclist working his way up the windy road and he was on the easiest possible gear I could tell. Hardly moving but definitely moving forward. I felt for that poor guy; he had a long way to go before reaching the top of that, and many other hills on that road.
At one point during our trip, we stopped at a rest area at the very top of the hill. Our guide had told us that this place has “toilets with a view” and I thought hmmm… that will be interesting. Well, this morning happened to be a sunny and clear morning (we haven’t had too many sunny and clear mornings lately) and so the view was really spectacular. And the toilets, open to the air, with a very steep downhill outside so peeking into another’s stall was discouraged by the fact that if you fell out, you wouldn’t stop for a while. Anyway, it was beautiful. The restrooms were nice and clean but they were squat toilets and so not very comfortable to sit on. So I didn’t spend much time enjoying the view from the toilet, but you could walk around a bit and out to a point away from the vans that was a really nice and quiet area. If I were to be successful at meditating, that’s where it would have been.
We spent about 25 minutes there before we had to get back into the vans and continue our trek. We did stop for lunch at a roadside (very simple) restaurant. I got steamed, not fried, rice and some sautéed greens; very yummy. I did question if I should eat because I wasn’t very hungry and I didn’t expect the road the straighten or flatten out. Thankfully, I never had to review the menu.
We got to our hotel, Treasure Hotel Laos in Luang Prabang about 5 or 5:30pm. This hotel is really, really beautiful. Highly recommend it. Luang Prabang is quite a clean town. It has some really beautiful temples to see, and a lovely night market that lines the main street also home to several businesses and restaurants.
That evening, we were going to have dinner of street food. There is a little alley adjacent to a really nice restaurant that is lined with street food venders and is very popular with tourists. The food was quite good, no-one got sick so that’s was good as well. After dinner, I walked through the market and picked up a couple of things for myself and my little sister. Not sure her gift will make it home for Christmas but we’ll see. Some of the others were having drinks at the nice restaurant rooftop area so went with them for a little while. I wanted to go back before it got too late so I could shower.
I don’t know if the beds weren’t comfortable or what… oh that’s right, I wasn’t very warm all night. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me while I was almost warm to get up and put some socks and a long-sleeved shirt on. I totally should have and probably would have slept a lot better.
The restaurant has quite a nice breakfast at their kitchen which is only maybe 100-200 feet down from the hotel across the street. We had signed up for a half-day tour of a nearby waterfall that our guide told us we should absolutely go see. It was about a 45-minute van ride from the hotel because it’s on narrow, skinny roads that you can’t fly down. Most of us got out of the vans a little bit early because there is a trail that you can walk up to see the top of the waterfalls. It was so beautiful and peaceful there. I loved it. We walked around that area for a little while before continuing to the foot of the waterfalls where you could swim in the turquoise water. It was pretty busy with tourists and this isn’t even the high season. We were there for about an hour I think.
I went swimming of course. It was pretty rocky when getting into the water and I happened to jam my pinky-toe on my left foot pretty hard. I thought maybe it was bleeding but it wasn’t. The pain subsided a little bit initially but then as I kept swimming and moving it, it started to hurt more and more. I think I either bruised the bone or fractured it or something. Yea, now my Uncle Joe can laugh. 😀 Now I do have a crooked, possibly (probably not) broken toe. They like to joke about my naturally crooked toes.
Anyway, swimming near the waterfall was amazing; not sure how else to describe it. The water was pretty cold; you had to keep moving to stay semi-warm. Walking back to the van was pretty painful. My toe just hurt more and more making me wince at times. But I knew what to do; once I got back to the hotel, I took a nice warm shower (because I had gotten pretty chilled from the water and the damp, drafty ride back), then wrapped my pinky toe to my other toes with rock-climbing tape and then took a couple of Advil liqui-gels. Then, got dressed, got my sturdy hiking boots on for warmth and to protect my toe (oh yea… actually walking back to the van from the waterfall, I stubbed it again! OOUUCHHHHHH).
I half expected to be left behind by the group because I don’t think most of them took showers. But I went downstairs just in time. They were heading out to find some lunch and so I managed to leave with them, toe still killing me. Our group split into two when some wanted a sit-down lunch and some (including myself, Giuseppe, and Niels) wanted something quick that we could eat and then walk around before it got too late and have all the museums and/or temples close before we were able to see them. Giuseppe and I ended up walking about two laps around the peninsular-part of the town, stopping in to see temples and just talking about many different things along the way, really hitting it off.
We walked from about 2:30 maybe until 4:45 when he had to go back and pick up the laundry we had dropped off at a nearby launder to be cleaned. They found mine pretty quickly but took long enough to find Giuseppe’s that we both started to worry a little bit. Eventually they found his bag clothes. We spent about 45 minutes back at the hotel, packing our clean clothes and doing whatever we needed to. I talked to my former coworker/roomie for a bit. Giuseppe and I planned to meet at 6 for an earlier dinner so that we could get back and get to bed early because the next morning would be an early one. Well, after dinner and a few minutes walking the night market, we almost went back to the hotel but we stopped at the restaurant rooftop and had a couple of drinks. We talked there from about 7:15pm to at least 10:15pm. It flew by. We talked about work, life, things we want to do, places we want to/will travel to, etc. Everything. The conversation just got better and more personal, honest, and just refreshing; I didn’t want it to end. So much for going to bed early!!
We had to be up and ready to catch our transportation to “the pier.” I was running a little behind this morning and so went to breakfast a little late, my scrambled eggs took forever to make so I chowed down then went back to the hotel quickly to grab my bags and hop on the small pickup-trucks with seating in the back.
We came to a boat-launch type area with a temporary-material-but-permanant-fixture floating dock where our long-boat was waiting. We hopped on board, found a spot, dropped our bags and put them underneath the beds, and just made ourselves comfortable for the long boat ride to our home-stay about 10 hours up the river. I was a bit anxious on the boat as the water was quite turbulent; not with waves, but the turbulence where you know there is a ripping undercurrent and it comes just rolling to the surface. The currents moved in strange directions because of the locations of underwater rocks…. and it was all just a little bit anxiety-inducing. But the guy that was driving the boat was extremely skilled and guided the big boat with no issues at all. I’m sure he has been doing his job for a very long time.
The home-stay was extremely rural and a bit out of my comfort zone. There was no electricity, running water, and the facilities were just all slightly dirtier than what I’m used to. It wasn’t terrible by far, just a little perspective-broadening is all. We walked around the village as our tour guide told us about the different tribes that lived here, how they were brought to live together so that the kids could all go to school in a central location very close by. There were chickens, pigs, dogs, a few cows, etc., running around as we walked.
After the walk, we went back to the G Adventures house and played with the kids of the village for a few minutes then sat down for a dinner of rice and vegetables; very yummy.
After dinner, we just chilled out, chatted, saw a huge dung beetle…etc.