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Tuesday, 12 April 2016 19:30

Laos subjective

Author: Balázs
Translated by: Andras Zsakai

Laos is the only southeast country without a sea. Possibly nothing comes into mind about the country when you hear its name. Thailand recalls tourism, thai boxing, Vietnam recalls (if nothing else) the Vietnamese wars, Cambodia maybe recalls the red khmers or the old city of Angkor known from its temples. But with Laos nothing comes to mind. Please, dear reader, don’t feel bad, we felt the same way. For me, I have seen the movie Air America with Mel Gibson and I remembered there were lots of jungles and they had a connection to the Vietnamese wars too. Before entering the country we collected a guidebook to smarten up a bit. Let’s see what this mysterious and mostly unknown (for us) country can offer for the visitors.

First impression

We’ve grown to love China and we have found cheap readymade food in Jünnan province’s south part, however we were waiting for the arrival to Laos and to Southeast Asia, because everybody says it is a super cheap „block”. Border crossing went smoothly, it was easy to get our visas on arrival for 32 dollar/person. Tourism is rolling with full speed in the country so they don’t push boulders in front of the tourists, ’let whoever wants to come in, open the gates!’ could be the slogan of the country. We have entered the country at the northern border which is a very poor and fallen behind region (the whole country is poor, but the northern part is the worst). The visitor will have a massive culture shock entering the country, especially in case he is entering on foot. Skinny, underfed people sitting sadly in the dirt in front of their bamboo hutgives a chilling vibe to the heart. Then we started to look for food and it looked like the country won’t be so cheap after all. Or we didn’t have any luck for the first time and also the Chinese border is near.

Food, shopping

After a few days we have realized that the border is not the culprit. Laos isn’t cheap. Maybe it isn’t cheap for the person who only visits for a couple of weeks and can carouse, but for the cycling traveler, he really needs to gather all his creativity to obtain normal food for a plausible price. We also can’t find something for a sandwich to make in the shops here also. Only biscuits, banana and other fruits, this is good, but gets boring until a time. The solution is „kao”, sticky rice, which can be found everywhere and it is approximately 5000 kip (180 HUF) a piece, usually we can get 1 kilogram for 10.000-12.000 kip. We can order this for take away and then the lady puts it in a bag (thanks for the tip Zita and Árpi). It is very good fresh, but on the other day morning, it is not so a culinary experience. We have eaten this for every day (at the end we started to get bored of it, but no other solution), sometimes with grilled meat, sometimes poured with balsamic vinegar (we’ve bought this in Kirgizstan to lighten up the raw vegetables, still preserved), coconut cream, sugar and cinnamon or with honey, banana for a side dish. Laos was a French colony, the only advantage for the posterity at least out of this that they sell baguette. It is sometimes fresh, sometimes you can hammer a nail into an ash tree with it, but still you can get it. Cheaper in big cities, more expensive in the countryside, evident. But what can we put into it? Despite the long time without any bread, in itself it’s still not that good. For example, they pour condensed milk on the half sliced crescent, we skipped this, or they put some interesting brown, cotton wool like, otherwise sweet thing with a couple of sliced vegetables, but it is for sure (we are not fast food fans although) that a Subway advanced studies would do good for the country’s gastronomy. Banana is cheap and you can get it everywhere. Now we reached an interesting, important and annoying chapter: bargaining. I don’t measure myself as a professional bargainer, but at home I try whether I can get two underwear for a lower price at Chinese markets.

In Asian countries, starting from Turkey, those who cannot bargain a little are up for a challenge. But at the least the trip will cost much. It’s just like cycling, you have to start, and then balance comes. Prices are never written out except for the shop sin cities, better said the in western shop. It is an asian „illness”, not a laosian specialty. We have to ask everything, because we have to stick to our daily budget, therefore prices are important. It is good like this, but the price only depends on one person, the vendor. Regularly (except for China, here they always told us normal prices, didn’t want to deceive us) they told us higher prices than for the locals. You can argue whether it is fair or not, I couldn’t decide myself yet. They see a silhouette of a stuffed wallet in every white, western people. You are a foreigner, then you are rich, therefore you have to pay more! You can do this with style, let’s say with discretion and elegantly and also you can do it shamelessly, so that a knife appears in one’s hand. In Laos, we always had the knife in our hands. You can do two things. Okay, you could do a million things, but two are the favorites. Version A; leave the vendor and feel lucky that you are a Hungarian and nobody understands your swearing. Version B (and we used this most of the time); we take on the gloves and start bargaining. No misunderstandings, it is not about that I don’t respect the certain valuable’s price, it is about that the prices aren’t set, thus the vendor can say anything and I can believe rightly that the price was made up randomly. Let’s admit it, this is what’s happening. They constantly tried to deceive us in Laos. One time, we asked a girl eating in the local restaurant the price of the noodle soup she was eating. – Thirteen thousand was the answer. We ordered the same and when it came to payment, they demanded fifteen thousand from us. Or in the market in Luang Prabang, where a western guy in front of us asked the price of a pineapple. It was seven thousand, the woman put it in a bag and the boy a ten thousand kip. In the meantime, I grabbed another pineapple asking the lady: so it is seven thousand? – No, it is ten – was the answer from the vendor. – But you just said to the guy it was seven. – Then the woman started to play she can’t understand english, although a minute ago she was pretty fluent. The guy didn’t get his money back and we moved along, sharing the guy’s indignation. Me, I wouldn’t have taken the pineapple, but asked for my money back and if she is not willing I would have flipped the table over her. Not because of the three thousand, but because of the decisive way. And there were numerous other times when they tried to deceive us. It goes like this in Laos, we heard it from other people too. But back to food.

You can find many grilled fish, meat (of many kind of animal), it is advisable to buy it somewhere freshly cooked, but it is not always manageable. Luck is needed for one to survive an Asian travel without a food poisoning. If a propeller is turning over the meat, at least it is chasing away most of the flies. You also can find Chinese noodle soup here (don’t confuse it with Vifon fast noodles), a little bit with other spices and other taste. They give us raw vegetables on a plate, green beans, salad, mint, anise, lime. Fried noodles in banana leaves can be found in many places, which is tasteful, but most of the time it is a small portion. Even a tourist won’t get a full stomach, not to mention a eating machine cyclist! Coffee is good, with ice or hot, served with condensed milk. We’ve grown to like the latter, it has a merry chocolate aftertaste. Beer Lao trademarked beer is tasteful, the best in the neighboring countries, but I think Thai Chang is better for me. In South Laos, we’ve drunk iced-condensed milk-lemon syrup drink. Fresh coconut milk can be obtained in many places, this is stylishly served in its own coconut shell, with a straw. French and other foreign goods can be found in the capital city and in tourist flooded places. We can buy expensive stuff like cheese, mayonnaise, jam, etc. here. Tap water is undrinkable everywhere. Which was very interesting and can be found in every place was the moving shops. They do this with the use of scooters in Laos (and Cambodia), not with cars. Scary, how they pack up the stuff like the driver is almost invisible, because of the numerous stuff on the bike.

People

Maybe it is because of the disappointment from shopping experiences, but we weren’t able to build up a good opinion on the Laosians. We had a few friendly encounters, but most of them aren’t too friendly. They see foreigners in tourist and approach tem like that. They can’t handle the situation well. The only exceptions were children and monks. They waved and talked with us with honesty and interest. Kids are so sweet, they run out to the road and start yelling from afar. North-laosians that we’ve met, are very poor, we’ve encountered lots of disillusioned, hopeless faces. Tourists on buses don’t see this, it only reaches the cycling tourist’s heart, which we can’t handle. We couldn’t close our eyes like “there are many poor people, but it is not a problem, let’s look at the beautiful landscape instead!”, it was hard. I mean, spiritually. It was better in South-Laos, people smiled more frequently and they were nicer. Don’t get me wrong, it is not about that everybody has to be nice because here comes the two Hungarian bicyclist! But nobody likes to be in a place where he is not wanted and we felt like that in North-Laos. I don’t judge, I can understand them. It can’t be a spirit rising thing to see the rich, (more) comfortable living foreigner spending his money casually. The other thing that catch our eyes was that they weren’t a too hard-working people. Respect to the exception, but most of the people didn’t seem put to the work. It can be written to the weather’s bill or somewhere else, but it is a fact that most vendors are lying in a hammock in front of their shops, or inside, but they could be tidying up the shelves or sweep up. No need to bounce around us, but at least he could get out of the hammock and talk like that about what we can eat, if he wanted to serve us. The owner of the guesthouse is yelling under our window at 6 in the morning, not caring about that we could sleep a little bit more or grandma starts to crush iron ore (surely it was food, but for the sound, it could have been that also) in a mortar. They still need to learn. Managing a guesthouse is not just about renting a room and sleeping there. I don’t intrude without knocking or yell under the window, I fix the shower if I promised it, etc.

Landscape, nature, construction

Laos is a beautiful country! WE haven’t been to Vietnam, this is our second day in Thailand, but I am willing to risk that Laos is the one of the most beautiful country in the region, considering nature. Much more beautiful and varying than Cambodia. In the north, dens jungles, high mountains (highest mountains are above 2000 m) and lots and lots of valleys making the landscape rich. Numerous rivers, waterfalls and rich wildlife. Eni kept saying it was like we were in the film King Kong. As we were heading south the relief starts to become plane with an occasional limestone hills (Thakek region). The Bolaven-plateau is known of the waterfalls.  Mekong is flowing through almost all of the width of the country. There are savanna like plains in the south. The climate can be separated into two (just like for the neighboring countries). A hot, dry season from October till February, after this an even hotter, wet, rainy season comes. WE are glad that it is the dry season in the region, still it is moisty and hot enough, I can’t imagine what can be like the rainy season, but books of Rejtő give some example. Animal life is rich also, we’ve met interesting bugs and insects, scorpions and so. In one of the north-laosian markets we’ve seen an unknown long tailed animal, already dead. There are some hunting colonies in the northern jungles, we’ve never met them, but numerous walking tours give an insight in the villages of the tribes. In the north, most of the people live in bamboo huts, which they weave easily, richer people live in wood or stone houses, the latter are dressed in flashy colors. Electricity can be found almost everywhere, tapwater is not so frequent. Drinking fountains can be found in the villages, they are probably undrinkable, but drinking water bottles can’t be found anywhere. In the south, the poor also live in bamboo huts, while the rich in wood or stone houses, but the region is recognizably richer. Here, you can see everywhere that people drink bottled water bought from trucks. Luang Prabang looks cozy, considering its inner city, with French colonial construction sights. It is regular to put these kind style to today built blocks (mostly to houses). We didn’t like Vientian too much, but it is true that we haven’t seen much. It didn’t have a capital city vibe, more like a big village. You can found French legacies also in small villages in the south.

Traffic

Roads vary from mid to low quality. Roads are rebuilt in most places in the northern regions, traffic jams are frequent, in most cases we can only to use bad quality pebbly roads. Driving moral is surprisingly good, much better than the Chinese. Car traffic is infrequent, few car owners in the country. Avery kind of trucks can be seen (but mostly very used), Hyundai, Isuzu, Daewoo, Mitsubishi, etc. The loading boys are riding on the hood of the trucks and camions and they seem to like it. No rules on how many people can ride a bike or sit in a car. Who can fit, can ride. Many, especially the children use motorbikes. Looked like every family had a scooter. Most of the coaches were in a disastrous condition.

All-in-all

Laos can be a very exotic destination for the traveler in Asia. It has many interesting things, worth to take the time to look around. I wouldn’t say it is unique, but in a way it is. Who can imagine a Southeast-Asian trip without a coast wouldn’t be disappointed. However, you should be prepared for the mentioned culture shock and considering how poor people are here, preices are really up. It is a bit like Lake Balaton in the eighties, when everybody wanted to get rich in one summer, no matter what. We would suggest the country as a start, so in case of a bad experience (which isn’t certain), it can be amended, let’s say in Cambodia.

Published in News

Author: Balazs
Translated by: Pal Capewell

Like Eni has mentioned in the previous post, the second of December is an important day in Laos, especially if it’s the 40th anniversary. The Civil War of the sixties and seventies was ended by the victory of the North Vietnamese Army over the Royal Laos Army, on December 2nd. After the change in power came the change in the country’s name, from Kingdom of Laos to the People’s Republic of Democratic Laos. Thus is the big celebration, marking the 40th anniversary of the creation of this South-East Asian country.

National, socialist flags were everywhere, the roads were busy with trucks and pick-up trucks carrying soldiers and generally everyone was in a festive mood. We were too, to finally have the day over. Why? Getting accommodation isn’t an easy task to begin with, and with the increased security measures, it was harder than ever. Is it selfish of me to put our own happiness above a whole nation’s? Probably. But you might understand how we feel once I describe the past couple of days...

It began with our departure from Vientian. Unfortunately we departed rather late, and didn’t manage to get far from the capital. We don’t necessarily like camping in the outskirts of big cities because experience suggests it’s more likely we will be approached by people with indecent agendas. Our friend Zoli once told us how he often slept in Buddhist temples during his biking trips. It was about time we began to explore the secret nature of these temples as well! Over on the other side of the road we spotted the gates of a rather large temple, and we slowly rolled in. We had no idea what was considered decent behavior and what was expected of visitors. Soon enough we realized locals weren’t very particular about it, as they entered with e-bikes, cars, motorbikes and all sorts without a worry in the world.

We were greeted by a smiling fourteen year old, who quickly searched for an English speaking monk, as we didn’t have a language in common. Lar, the twenty-two year old monk, broke out of his English class and greeted us with a big smile. He assured us that he is going to ask the master of the monastery, once his class is finished, whether we can sleep there. Till then, we made ourselves comfortable on the patio, observing and smiling back at the monks passing by. It turned dark by the time Lar returned with a positive response, allowing us to stay for the night. We pushed our bikes further in, and he offered us a meal, during which we got to talking. Turns out he attended a Buddhist college in Burma, where he learned English; it was ten years ago, at the age of twelve, when he decided to become a monk. He recollected how it took a year of convincing for his parents to accept it all. One can only be a monk apparently once he turns twenty; many people return to normal lives over the years though.

In Cambodia, we met a twenty-five year old, who fell in love with the girl in front of the monastery, decided to leave and marry the girl instead. One of my favorite portray that I made was with him, and his two month old baby.

Lar aspires to be a doctor, either in Sri Lanka or in the United States. He was only days away from a Fulbright scholarship interview during our stay. He is a very dedicated monk and has told us very fascinating stories about life in the monastery, and about a pilgrimage that he’d like to undertake barefoot, wearing just his robe. It’s probably not easy to abandon earthly possessions and everyday life... Well, not ALL things must be abandoned, but it is most certainly more strict and formal than that of Tibetan monasteries, where monks were speeding along on motorcycles and took selfies with their iPhone 6 cellphones. A Buddhist monk must follow more than 200 rules and regulations. Just to mention a few: he can’t cut a tree, can’t cook a meal, can’t handle money, can’t have his own possession. Getting lumber is one thing, but abandoning money and income altogether.... now that’s not going to be easy, contemplates Lar. He needs a computer or at least a tablet for his studies. His parents live far off in the north, he can only contact them by cellphone. These are not necessarily forbidden, it’s just him who is struggling for balance inside. During the chat the cafeteria, where they let us stay, was swamped by civilians, discussing something for at least three hours.

One of these “civilians” stepped over to Lar, in his large size and unpleasant demeanor, and instructed Lar that we shouldn’t be sleeping here - due to “security reasons”. We weren’t too thrilled to be told to leave, as we were rather exhausted, grew fond of the monastery and Lar, but it didn’t seem like these people were going to leave anytime soon. Lar, the polite and caring person he is, invited us over for breakfast the next day. Fortunately for us, it didn’t take long to find another place to sleep, just across the road. It was an old village house that had a servants room - the owner cleared out the room for us and offered it for the night. He, however, said that we must wait for the cops to arrive and confirm we can sleep here. Cops?? What did we do, we wondered... The girl translating reassured us not to worry though, it’s just a formality. Then the “cop” showed up, and we almost burst out laughing. Imagine a guy in formal attire, but barefoot, with flip-flops. He took a picture of our passports and visa, then politely wished goodnight. Here the restrictions are not very strictly enforced... We finally got comfortable and were about to fall asleep - our exhaustion was so severe even the noise outside didn’t bother us - when we heard knocking on the door. “Hello, sir? Hello, sir?” came the loud knocks and calling. Alert, I jumped out of my sleeping-bag and opened the door. A lady and a young man were standing in the door, holding fruit cocktails. They gifted us kindly, and we were to drink up. How sweet. I was about to hit the sack again, when another local showed up to bring dinner: hot noodle soup, and two bottles of water. So adorable and kind! Our next attempt at falling asleep was a successful one, with a full stomach this time. At six, a rather loud “good morning!” awoke us. After packing we opted for leaving; in the midst of his stretching, the impersonal civil guard (with a machine gun on his back) standing by, finally let go of a smile.

We had breakfast with Lar, continued our chat from yesterday, then set off to continue our journey. Having left the town behind in the dry heat, the traffic lessened and lessened, and we rode till late afternoon. Looking for a place didn’t pose a challenge that night, we slept in a monastery again where we could walk around to our gusto, use their kitchen and showers. 

The following days we were on route S13, heading eastward. Then, with a sharp right turn we began following the Mekong River, southward. We asked for a place to stay next to a doctor’s office, but we were to go to the local “leader” to ask for permission. Rather rudely, without even looking at us, he just burped “no!”. At the end somehow we were allowed to stay, but a number of civil guards were to stand by while we slept. They spent the entire night laughing and being loud, to a bare three meters from us. We made steady progress each day, despite the 35 degree heat. Lack of sleep and sleep quality further deprived us of energy, but we pressed on. This part is much flatter than the north, which aided us somewhat. The main road kept changing between following the Mekong and crossing large grasslands.

We met much nicer people here than in the north. They smile, wave and warmly welcome us. Children, of course, ran towards us screaming “sabaydi” (hello), here too. Some kids threw a proper fit, like Beatles fans at the sight of Ringo Start. Here the standard of living is higher, but still far behind Thailand, and especially Malaysia.

Thakek is a little town filled with French colonial buildings, by the Mekong riverside. With its little European style main square, and cozy passages, it quickly lurked its way into our hearts. After a delicious typical Laos coffee (which they serve with a tad of condensed milk), we headed for the limestone caves. Eastward from the city, one must take a turn from route 12 towards the caves. We began with the Elephant Cave, where Buddha statues, altars stood next to numerous dripstone monuments.  This is where we met Frans and Carolina, Dutch travelers on a kite-surf trip spiced up with some biking. The plan for them is to ride from Phnom Penh to Luang Prabang, from where they don’t yet know how, but plan to go to Vietnam as the winds are really good there this time of the year. We had a rather long chat (after we climbed bamboo ladders for thirty minutes behind the village, which was super exhausting but the view at the top was worth it), then they left to go back to the city and we made ourselves comfortable under half-roof next to the ticket office. We washed ourselves in the river, then when darkness fell upon us we drew back into our tents away from the mosquitos, and wrote in our journals. Not long after a man appeared, who inspected whether we belong to the guerrilla army. Upon seeing us, he left with a smile but started calling someone on his phone. I didn’t have much time to get back to writing though, as the man returned, accompanied by two other men with flashlights.  The older man asked for a chat in his limited English, and requested to see our passports. He explained that it’s December 2nd, and it is their job to protect the village. We didn’t really understand protect from who, but soon enough they said that protection includes us too. We didn’t resist, no point to argue or to suggest they are overreacting. They “invited” us to the town house for the night; this wasn’t much of an invitation but an implied our way or, literally, the highway.  This is how we ended up sleeping in a proper building with heating and running water. Having discovered animal “markings” on the bedsheets though, we decided to sleep on our own mats on the ground. I woke up to Eni’s screaming “Oh dear Lord there is a mouse on my belly!!!” to which I almost got a heart attack. We moved one room outward and spent the rest of the night, to our knowledge, without any mice. 

In the morning we departed early to be at the Buddha Cave on time. Leaving the main road, one must ride for about 9km on the red dirtroad. On our way we bumped into a scorpio who was rather upset and resistant to our attempts at trying to lead it back off the road, to avoid someone riding over it.

This cave was discovered in 2004, when a local bat selling merchant (bat meat is a local delicacy) was trying to capture bats. He climbed up 15 meter high to a cave, where a few hundred carved Buddhist statues were discovered. First the merchant couldn’t believe his eyes and didn’t want to tell anyone. Then, grouped up with multiple men, they returned and established that there is nothing wrong with the gentleman’s sanity. They built a set of stairs, made the 10-15sqm cave visitable for spectators. At the rear, a passage starts, leading the visitor further back to admire dripstone formations. Unfortunately photo and video recording were both prohibited. If you pass by this town, you must check it out!

Having returned to the city, we couldn’t resist and had another round of coffee at the same spot with the old lady, at the riverside. We kept going southward, on a less busy road (though roads in Laos generally have light traffic), crossing quaint villages. We often crossed paths with groups of children either going to or coming back from school, who kindly waved at us. Boys in dark, long pants and white shirts, and girls in long, simple but pretty skirts and white blouses travel often as much as an hour to school. Lucky ones go on bikes, wealthier ones are taken on motorbikes. For the evening, we asked for accommodation in a cute little monastery again, by the Mekong riverside. We still had half an hour till dusk, so we sat by and watched the kids playing soccer, especially a novice in orange clothes. From then on, we had no problem asking for a place to stay - not that monks were not hospitable, they were except one time. The sunset was simply breathtaking above the Mekong, while fishermen returned home after a long day. We began preparations to go to sleep. Shower is the same in every monastery: a huge bucket, where from you continually pour the cold water on yourself with a small bowl. A lot of animals have a very active nightlife there. Locusts, mosquitos (unfortunately), night butterflies all attempt to get to light in a craze. The ticking sound of geckos, and the music of crickets, cicadas turn tropical nights into a loud party. At six in the evening it’s already coal dark, though the Sun only disappears at half past five or a quarter to six. It’s almost as if the Sun just falls under the horizon. The Moon also waxes and wanes differently than back home. Here the difference happens from top to bottom, making it look like a gondola, watching us sleep with a wide grin across his face.

The next morning we met Filip and Maron in front of a small store. Filip flew to Bangkok from Portugal, and plans to bike back home. Maron is young French teacher from France, whose plan is to tour the South-East Asian countries on a motorbike. We had a ninety minute long chat sipping cold sodas, which felt absolutely the best at that point. The boys gave us a fantastic idea for a program... but you can only read about that in our next post.

Picture: Filip on the left, Maron in the middle

Published in News

Author: Eni

Translated by: Agota Duro

We didn’t expect but we were sad to leave China. We really loved it. That was the first country where we spent nearly 3 months during our journey.

At the border crossing of MoHan-Boten they issued our 30-day tourist visas without any problem. We also received a map at the information desk. Compared to conditions we were greeted warmly.

What did we know about the country? We knew that they suffered a lot during history. After French colonization Laos became the country of different intentions. At last they became independent in the beginning of the 20th century. Unfortunately their history didn’t became better because they got involved into the Second Indochina War (the Vietnam War). They executed a lot of air raids above the country thus it became the most intensively bombed country in history. Plenty of unexploded bomb lays around the country causing a lot of damage and death.

Arriving to Laos was bittersweet. We were excited because of arriving to Southeast Asia, but we also had bad feelings.

We cycled through little villages where just a few tourist appears. Children were running to us shouting “Sabaiiiidiii!” (Welcome!) Adults were sitting in the dust in front of their huts. They were looking at us apathetically.  Obviously we are the mirror for them: western faces, colourful clothes, packed bicycles… We wanted to be invisible in many times.

It was hard to find food in North Laos. In the little shops we only found cigarettes, beer and dish soap somewhere supplemented with expired, dusty biscuits and armpit sponges.

We found some “restaurant” huts where we bought gluey rice that we took with ourselves. We developed our daily menu to excellence: rice with cinnamon and sugar for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Unfortunately we noticed a lot of times that the salesmen counted or returned badly… For poor men the foreigners are “white, rich westerns”. After these happened in the shops regularly we had double feelings that accompanies us until the border crossing of Cambodia. We commiserated these people but also had bad feelings because of their behaviour.

Our journey in North Laos went through Oudomxay to Luang Prabang which is well-known by the tourists. During our ride we had difficulties in finding accommodation again. In Laos they are very strict if a tourist sleeps in a local house. It’s also the same for sleeping in a tent in their yard. The head of the village decides if you can accommodate a tourist or not. Later it became worst…but I’ll tell you later.

We were wild camping a plenty of times and because of the bombs it lifted up our also not so calm adrenalin state. Once we asked to sleep in a “Health Centre” which were only a regional office. We thought the “Centre” name was a bit of an exaggeration. Nevertheless we could wash ourselves. In most places there are no mains water. Having a bath is also just a “pour water into you” action, because you have to pour the water at yourself with a plate from a tub. If you have fortune, they poured fresh water into the barrel just a few days ago so there’s no mosquito larva or other bugs in it. The toilet works with the same principle – you have to pour the water from the same barrel.

Luang Prabang lays in the encounter of Nam Kham and Mekong and it is a very kind little city. There are green forests all around us like we are in the King Kong film. In the city there are a lot of Buddhist monasteries. Colourful lanterns are hanging around the streets that makes mysterious mood while walking at night. There are a lot of shops, bars, travel agencies both right and left of the streets. You can only find locals in the market. Everywhere else there are western tourists.

As in every tourist paradises you also feel like you’re on a conveyor belt. Eat, drink, rent motorcycle, and sleep in expensive hotels! We acquired bad experiences again. Sellers always wanted to cheat us in the shops and the market. (We didn’t let it!)

We were on our way to the Kuang Si Falls when suddenly I started to tremble and I got a serious headache. Firstly I thought that it is just because of the Sun, but it didn’t elapse. We had to turn around and pay two more days in our modest motel where I laid down. Probably I got dehydrated and exhausted. Because of it I traipsed for some days. I didn’t feel better after 2 days so we decided to catch a bus to Vientiane.

Our old-style bus took the 340 km-s in 11 hours. The first six hours were like hell. We took almost the half of the bus’s luggage rack with our cycles and packs. There weren’t too much space so some passenger’s luggage were taken to the cabin. Thus the bus’s corridor were full of luggages so the passengers had to step over rice bags to take their seats. It was weirder because of the scooter at the back of the bus. In the bus’s corridor after the rice bags there really were a scooter!

The first six hour was an unforgettable experience. The driver made no bones. There were so much windings through the serpentine path that some passenger’s stomach didn’t stand. There were some guys in the bus who were walking (better pitching) around distributing green bags. Some couldn’t aim in the bag. But the bus driver were strict in pressing the throttle. There were some windings were the bus’s back didn’t came out from the previous winding, but the front was in the next one. I’m not a person who vomits a lot, but after an hour I was staring at the floor with white face holding a green bag. And it was the same for five more hours. It was the longest bus ride for both of us.

We arrived to the “picturesque” Vientiane at 1 am. Lengyeltóti has a bigger nightlife this time. We got off the bus at the north station where dust, stray dogs and a few people welcomed us. We booked accommodation in the bus with our notebook so after assembling our bikes we went to our accommodation at half past two. After 45 minutes of cycling we arrived to our hostel. We packed down and laid down in our moderately comfortable 8-bed-room. In these situations I’m always the only girl in the room. Which means that I have to listen to the snores. But this time I didn’t care because I was so tired.

We didn’t care of being tourists. We didn’t look around Vientiane. But we enriched a next conveyor belt experience. Thus we realized that if you go Easter and Easter than Hungary getting a visa becomes easier.

What happens in the Vientiane Thai Embassy? You only can arrange your things with “Fast track” administration. But it written, underlined, coloured everywhere that this kind of arrangement is not allowed from the embassy. Furthermore they gently ask you to only have resort to it at your peril. Thus I didn’t want to use this option because I don’t like to cheat in official cases. So we asked where to sign in “normally” for Thai visa. – In the yard! – came the answer. Super. This is the only way. We stood in the queue until an old lady took the papers and the passports. In exchange she gave something like a certificate while throwing our official papers into a basket. Balázs tried to calm me down but truly I wasn’t calm. The old lady and the basket wasn’t reassuring. But there were nothing to do so we walked out of the yard and waited. Much of the delight of both of us next day we both get our colourful, smelly visas for 1000 BAT.

2nd of December were approaching. No one were better waiting for the 40th anniversary of establishing the Lao People's Democratic Republic than us. Why? You can read it in our next blogpost.

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