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Note on Southern Lao and Vat Phou cruise.

Note on Southern Lao and Vat Phou cruise.

Jul 25th, 2008, 08:00 PM
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Note on Southern Lao and Vat Phou cruise.

I'd like to offer a report on our trip to southern Lao as there don't seem to be many on this site.- we had a couple of days in Bangkok to start as we go every year. Time to get the teeth seen to and glasses ordered etc. We have been staying at Centrepoint Langsuan the last few trips and like it. Staff are very lovely and having the apartment is just great. I love the Peninsula but Centrepoint is certainly cheaper!

We have been to Lao a couple of times – back in 2004 and 05. Both times we spent in Luang Prabang and Vientiane. A total of about 5 weeks between the two. This time we wanted to see a bit of the south, take the Vat Phou cruise and have time back in Vientiane.

We were going to fly to Ubon Ratchathani in the north east of Thailand and cross the border at Chong Mek and then go on to Pakse. We'd decided to try Nok Air as its times were convenient, fares good and they are (or were) connected to Thai Airways and had a good reputation. We were booked on the 7.00am flight. Unfortunately for us when we arrived at Don Muang for the flight the plane had been cancelled! The day before the association between Nok Air and Thai had ceased and they had lost their right to the route. The idea was that Thai would pick up the passengers for those few days but their flight left at 6.00 and although we were early there was an amount of chaos which meant that the flight had gone by the time we were seen to by Nok air. They sort of ran around trying to organise things but were really hopeless. Thai on the other hand were helpful and calm and managed eventually to get us a promise of a seat on the 2.00pm flight. We had shown our Thai FF card (even though we only have Silver membership) and this definitely helped us get a seat when others were turned away. All Thai flights were very overbooked. Not a good start to the day really!

So when we finally got to Ubon we were too late to catch the international bus that does the run to Pakse. Instead we got a car from the airport to the border – about 60 -70 kms It was good and a nice drive – cost Bt1000 after a bit of bargaining. We arrived at the border just after 4.00 which meant that we were into overtime on the Lao side. That's not a problem but you have to pay extra fees of a few dollars. We already had our visas. The border is less organised than at the Nong Khai crossing near Vientiane but is growing rapidly. The banks/exchanges had also closed but you can use baht or dollars so it doesn't matter than much. Having got through we needed to get transport onwards.
MaryW is offline  
Jul 25th, 2008, 08:03 PM
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We intended to go straight up to Tad Fane which is 38 kms from Pakse on the Bolaven Plateau so a total of about 60 kms from the border. There were still a couple of vans around and a lot of motorbikes. The vans were quite expensive and we ended up talking to one of the motorbike riders who went off and got a car for us – well it had 4 wheels and used petrol. It got us there just before dark. Rained a bit and fortunately not more cause the windows don't shut. From previous experience in Lao that the sort of car we expected. Now there are quite a lot of good minivans about so you don't have to do it rough.

Tad Fane is the site of a twin waterfall – around 180mts high. It drops into a kind of sink hole in the plateau. On the other side of the hole is a small “resort” so you look across to the top of the waterfalls. Its very beautiful and a place a lot of day trippers come. We'd decided it might be nice to have a couple of nights there. Its the beginning of wet season so plenty of water and a fair helping of rain. When the rain comes so does the mist and many people find they only get to see a view of mist! The resort itself consists of 7 bungalows each housing 2 rooms – they are spread out along the edge of the cliff so have good views. We stayed in no 7 which has the best of views. They don't get very busy (and staying 2 days is considered a long time) there were only 2 other people there during our stay. Rooms are basic and rustic – they could do with a bit of paint. Otherwise clean and pleasant place to be. There is just the bedroom with a double and one single bed, hooks for clothes, a small table and a basic bathroom. Also a couple of chairs out on the balcony/verandah overlooking the lovely view. Like all Lao beds these were hard and in fact scored equal worst with the Vientiane beds that we have ever had. Not only hard but somehow lumpy. How you can get lumps in a solid board I have still to work out. As I'd hurt my back and foot just before we left on holiday, these beds were particularly unappreciated. Even Dan, my husband who would be happy sleeping on the floor found the bed a bit of a problem. Cost is only $27 but that is pretty high for this part of Lao

Other than that the resort has a small restaurant upstairs in the main reception block. Food was okay but nothing to write home about. No other place to eat so you have no choice. We walked out the next day to the main road – about 1 km. It goes through a small market behind the resort selling mainly plants, coffee, tea and a few tourist things. The buses and vehicles visiting the waterfall have to stop here. The area is mostly coffee and tea plantations. Mainly we veged out and just wandered about and sat on the balcony looking at the falls. There are many other waterfalls in the area and you can visit the plantations. However you could also do this trip easily as a day trip by car from Pakse which would probably be better or get a car to stay over with you. Although the resort said they could organise transport it was almost impossible except for getting a tuk tuk to go down to Pakse. So we didn't get around as much as we had intended but it was nice time out.

On the final morning we had a tuk tuk to take us back down to Pakse. It was the 3 wheel kind and pretty rough. Along with the driver a young woman and little boy were waiting for us. I don't know if she was his wife and had come up with him or just catching the lift down but we all got in and set off. Took a while cause they don't go fast – if fact most of the way it free-wheeled as its all down hill. We stopped for fuel once – 1 litre popped into the old 4 litre plastic oil container that serves as the fuel tank with a plastic hose in it. It was also Durian season with lots of plantations along the road well protected behind high fences. Fruit was being sold at roadside stalls. The driver stopped and conveyed to us that they wanted to buy durian and would be about 5 minutes. So off they went and chose a few durian. One they had cut open and brought it back to share with us. Shame really as neither Dan nor I are fond of it – we don't mind the smell and the taste is find but neither of us likes the texture. Had to eat it anyway as they were kind to get it for us. My brother in law tells me the trick is to freeze it so its like icecream. The roads in southern lao are very much more rural roads that we had seen to the north. Cows, water buffalo, dogs, pigs, chooks and every other thing thats around spends much of its time in the middle of the road – must be a nice place to sleep. So you have to constantly stop or manoeuvre around whatever is in the way.

We made it to Pakse in time for lunch.
MaryW is offline  
Jul 25th, 2008, 08:20 PM
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Mary, thanks for writing a report on this, as it doesn't get much coverage here. I did some research on a southern Lao cruise, but not for this year, so I'm really looking forward to your account of your trip.
Kathie is offline  
Jul 25th, 2008, 08:21 PM
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sounds wonderful but i'm glad you had these experiences, not me....i'll stick with LP
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Jul 26th, 2008, 01:26 AM
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Pakse is a town that is mostly just a transit place. Its not very large but growing rapidly. Mostly its used as a jumping off point to the Plateau or down to 4000 Island and then on into Cambodia. Lots of backpackers but now its going a bit upmarket. Hotels are not wonderful but they are building 3 new big ones to cater for the increase in Thai's coming for holidays. Lots of the older ones are getting done up a bit too. We chose the Pakse Hotel for its convenience. Its an okay hotel – certainly not lavish but then its only about $35 a night. The beds are better!!! We were to stay just 2 nights and then go on a cruise and then come back for 3 more nights. This time we just stayed in a superior room – but later stayed in the deluxe which was worth the little bit more it cost. So we had time to roam around the town a bit. A large market selling mostly domestic stuff and some silks, coffee etc. The town is at the confluence of two rivers (mekong and sedone) so some nice views. There is not a lot to do in town itself but a couple of good places to hang out and drink coffee. The Sinouk Cafe run by the coffee producers (they also have one in Vientiane and I think LP) which is a pleasant little place and the Delta also run by a coffee producer. Its not as pleasant as the Sinouk but the coffee is much better. Restaurants – there are plenty around but nothing high class – that didn't bother us and we ate at Nazims – which is Indian but gets good review. The food was good, especially the vegetarian – very cheap. Steer clear of what they call mutton – its likely to be goat anyway but is more likely a bit of old tyre or shoe leather.

We had few massages (Lao for Dan and Foot for me) at the Don Champa which is just opposite the Pakse Hotel. They are very good. The massage helped my dodgy foot so I could walk a bit better. Cost of massage is about 35000kip or currently $4US – but they also do aromatherapy ones for about 80,000. So we just wandered about and enjoyed the calm for a while until we joined up with the cruise. Our main reason for heading to this part of Lao was to go on the Vat Phou cruise along the Mekong. Its run by Asian Oasis who also run the Luang Say that travels the river in the north to Luang Prabang, The Vat Phou is a live aboard boat. The trip is 3 days and 2 nights. It runs twice a week – one upriver and the other down. There are 12 cabins and 24 passengers when full.
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Jul 26th, 2008, 01:28 AM
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Our trip was the first one after the boat has had its one month off for annual maintenance. We met at the Sinouk Cafe in the morning. Its low season so not many passengers – in fact only 8 of us.
One couple from eastern Australia, a couple from Vermont, USA, and their two girls (early 20's) and us from western Australia. We were very lucky in our companions. The other aussies were very nice and the Vermont people just lovely – It helped that Pat was a keen amateur potter (I pot for my living). She and her husband are both doctors. Their daughters were lovely. One they were catching up withone to take home after her 2 years working in China and the other was doing an Asian trip at the end of her masters degree. With just 8 of us on the boat it was great.

Our trip was the up river version. We all got into a small coaster bus – about 20 seater. The 8 of us, our guide and about 4or 5 other staff who sat at the back and would take luggage etc onto the big boat. The boat “Vat Phou” is a 34 mt – you don't spend all the time on this as it can't navigate the shallows in a couple of places – although we had seen it heading down river the day before from Pakse. So for the first day we were on the bus down to the furthest point of the Mekong. Its about 3 hours on the bus – allowing for the usual cows etc. The roads are fine. First stop is what's called the Niagara of the East. Knong Phapeng waterfalls – they separate the upper and lower Mekong just a short way from the Cambodian border. They are quite nice and impressive but a good way short of Niagara – being only a few metres high. From there we drove back upriver a bit and had lunch at a riverside restaurant – good food.

We then got into one of the riverboats – like the biggish longtails you get on the river in Bangkok. I think the cruise company really lets themselves down with the use of these boats. They appear just to hire what's available at the time. Ours was fairly typical of them. Rough, noisy and slow. From the restaurant we went to Khone Island – part of what's called 4000 islands. Depending on the time of year and the height of the river is only 1000 islands. Some are inhabited but of course many more flood each year and so aren't usable. Khone island spans the upper and lower Mekong and so has previously been used to move freight up and down past the waterfalls. The French had a railway there and its remains are the “tourist attraction” We went for a walk on the island to look at this – one rusty piece of metal that could be seen to have been a locomotive (maybe) at some stage. Then a walk to the cemetery (French) – to see the 3 graves still there! Okay the island and the walk were nice but its clutching at straws for attractions. Back on the little boat and off around the island. This is a really laid back place with lots of small bungalows. Backpackers hang out here for weeks at a time before usually heading on into Cambodia. I can see it being a nice place to kick back but certainly nothing upmarket yet. Doubtless there will be soon.

We then set off to motor up to Khong Island further upstream where the Vat Phou itself was waiting. Its a nice trip but in the uncomfortable boat that was losing way against the current it took far longer than intended. I think we were all truly fed up by the time we reached the boat at about 6pm. Apparently the guide expected us to be there about 4.

The boat itself is nice – teak decks etc. The top deck has a fore and aft deck open with lounge chairs, day beds, bar, toilet, wheel house and two cabins. The lower deck has 10 cabins, dining room, kitchen and so on. The lower cabin area just has a small access way. Our american family were in the two upper cabins and the aussies were in the two front cabins downstairs. The crew were using the other cabins as they were of course empty of passengers. Our cabin is just like the pictures the have on the website. Small but fine, 2 juxtaposed beds, a cupboard for hanging, table with drawer and cupboard, small bathroom with shower, sink and toilet. Nicely done. Beds still like rocks though and if you were tall you could have problems as they were fairly short. Probably would have been better off on the lounges on deck as they had great cushions. There is a fan in the cabin (a bench one) and aircond that works overnight. They turn it off about 6 in the morning before they get going for the day. It would have been good if the just left it on a little bit longer.

One thing we felt about this trip was that they really should have been paying a bit more attention to their boat. It had just come on its first trip since a month of maintenance. I expect the motors were the main thing seen to but they didn't seem to bother with the little things that they should. Mesh screens on the windows still had holes, the boards where you step out of the shower (at least our one) were so soft and spongy they would probably go through soon – presumably from shower water rotting them. Bits and pieces like this were evident all the time. It was however very clean.

So we were on board for the night and a chance to revive from the little boat. Dinner was at 7.00 and served in the aircond dining room on the lower deck. Our guide ate with us all the time. Food was lao but toned down on the chilli. It was very good food throughout and masses of it. So much so that we all worried about it until we check whether the crew got to eat too. They also give any extra food to family of the crew in the villages where we tied up at night. We were told it was for the grandparents and some of the kids of the crew family. After that we all ate a lot less. There were usually about 6 dishes plus rice. Some of the supplies like fish and vegetables the guide purchased in the villages when we stopped. Everyone was early to bed that night.
MaryW is offline  
Jul 27th, 2008, 07:57 PM
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Day 2 – breakfast on deck – perhaps the least of the meals – bread, basic eggs, and fruit. Don (USA) asked if he could have noodles and they produced huge bowls of good noodles – definitely the pick. Sadly for me I can't eat wheat so its just an egg and fruit. On this point I had asked about food from the company so I could make sure I'd be able to manage. They had “ordered” a special menu for me but this certainly didn't get through to the boat. Not a problem as such – I can usually work out what looks dangerous and the guide did ask the chef about a couple of things - mainly because my fellow passengers were insistent when they realised it was a problem for me. Because most of the food was Lao, I was able to eat happily just avoiding the things in batter.

We were motoring up the river while having breakfast. Breakfast and lunch were both served on the open upper deck which was lovely. About mid morning we stopped at a small village where we walked around to see village life. Its the beginning of the rainy season so schools are out and most people are off planting rice. Lots of kids in the village, many doing a bit of begging for things. We had decided not to take things to give to the kids as the Lao government actively ask you not too – they fear you will encourage begging. Obviously previous visitors have given out things as these kids were very keen. This was not the case up on the Bolaven where they see fewer visitors I think. We were told that the cruise company supports and gives to this village and the school. It was interesting seeing the life in an ordinary village – although this one is visited frequently by tourists of course but its got nothing to sell apart from a fish and a few veges that went into dinner. Mostly they live on fishing and rice growing.

Back on board for lunch and the rest of the day on the river as we motored passed the many island and submerged islands. A really lovely relaxing day. With just the 8 of us we could all spread out as we wished on the upper deck in the nice breeze. Late afternoon we tied up at another village where we were to spend the night and walked through the village and out to a ruined temple area - Oum Muong. It dates back to the 9th century and is made from laterite block – similar to the older temples in Angkor. Its only small and very ruined in the middle of tall trees. Lots of mosquitos of course but we were all prepared. Walk back at dusk to the boat and another nice dinner on board. Leftovers to the grandparents of the crew in the village. There is a nice bar on the upper deck of the boat. A few had some beer and you could have spirits. They advertise that they have wine by the glass but in practice don't – only a few bottles of wine available and that looks like its been hanging around in the open display for a bit. Shame really – they'd doubtless sell a bit more but don't seem bothered.

Next day after breakfast on the deck and motoring up river a bit, we were to visit Champasak and the Vat Phou complex. Don, Pat and the girls unfortunately had to leave that morning to get a connecting flight from Pakse. So they were put onto a long tail and taken across the Mekong to join a van to take them off to the airport. Pity as they were great companions. The remaining 4 of us headed off with the guide. We were moored at Champasak town – very quite little town near the Vat Phou complex. There is a fairly good museum and information centre there. We climbed into one of the biggish sawntaews (trucks) and drove off to the Vat Phou site which is world heritage listed. Its a small site similar in nature to the lay outs of the Angkor temples. Very quiet – I think there were only about 6 other people on the site while we were there. No where near as dramatic as the Cambodian temples but interesting and more intimate. Joy the other aussie had broken her ankle last Christmas and was still hobbling and my back was giving me jip so we only walked part way to the top. A pair of cripples really. The 2 men went off with the guide to the top – 77 high steps! So we just sat down at one of the altars with the locals who were making offerings and relaxed. While our guide was knowledgeable he didn't have that knack of good guides that tells him when to go on and when to stop. When in Cambodia a few years ago we had the privilege of having Ponheary as a guide. She could tell exactly when to add more information and when to stop – the perfect guide. By the time they got back the men had pretty well had it.

Back to the boat to have a quick shower, pack up and then lunch on deck. Again very good. After lunch we had reached the spot where the big boat stops – it then waits there for the next group and heads downriver next day. We had to transfer to another longtail. This one the guide had been at pains to say was a good boat – rattan chairs etc. Okay it had rattan chairs – it was also a bit quieter. Most of the crew came too as they swap over in Pakse. We motored up to Pakse taking about 3 hours. A pleasant enough trip as we did have an adequate roof this time (not full of holes) and slightly more comfortable chairs instead of wooden planks. The river has lots of shoals and shallows so they don't take the large boat back and forth over this area. When we reached Pakse we landed at the steps and offloaded ourselves and bags. From there you needed to get to your hotel on your own – not difficult however Joy and Andy had arranged a car to pick them up and they kindly dropped us off at the Pakse on their way.

All in all it was a worthwhile cruise. I think they could do with looking at the longtails they use and I don't think I'd like it if there was a full compliment of passengers. The guide found it hard dealing with just 8 and we were really trying to stay with him. 24 passengers it would be very crowded. They do get fully booked quite often. Its a fairly expensive cruise for that part of the world, between just over $400 and $600US depending on season, so I think they need to look at a few things. The nicest thing was day 2 just relaxing on the boat and watching life on the river. The food as I've said was excellent.
MaryW is offline  
Jul 27th, 2008, 08:06 PM
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We had another couple of days to spend in Pakse. Back at the Pakse hotel again but with a better room – bit more room and better bathroom with a tub and room to swing a cat. We wanted to go out to a village to the north - Ban Saphai – where they make silk. Usually we'd go out in a tuk tuk – about 20kms. But because it was really hot and my back was still bad we hired a van and driver.- cost 250,000kip (about$28). Its a small village and island where they weave lots of the skirt lengths in silk. The driver didn't know much about the village but found a local girl who walked us around the weavers. Nearly all the women weave in their homes. My mother was a weaver and I still have looms so we like to see how they work. Interestingly they are mostly using chinese silks as its a bit stronger than the Lao apparently. A lot of ikat (died warps) was being made and nearly all to order. They are supplied with the silks and just weave it up. Many of the women were away in the fields at this time so we didn't see it is full production. I think the northern silks from around Luang Prabang are more appealing but there was some nice work – its much stiffer and harder than the northern work but would soften up with washing.

The rest of our time in Pakse was spent just relaxing, having massages, drinking more good coffee etc. We bought a bit of Delta coffee and Paksong tea to bring home. There were some spectacular rain/thunder storms and we weren't sure if we'd have a flight on the Sunday – they often cancel flights and had done so a couple of times that week because of the storms. Fortunately Sunday was fine enough and we caught the Lao airlines flight to Vientiane. It was much delayed as it had come in from Siem Reap and most of the passengers were going through to Vientiane but had to be processed by immigration. So an hour and a half late on the one hour flight we were off to Vientiane. Better than the alternative of a 10 hour overnight bus trip. Lots of people do that and its a good deal cheaper but sometimes you need spoiling. Not sure that the thought of Lao airlines equates with spoiling for most people but they are okay and so far have got us where we are meant to be.
MaryW is offline  
Jul 27th, 2008, 08:10 PM
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Thanks so much for your report, Mary!
Kathie is offline  
Jul 27th, 2008, 08:26 PM
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So Vientiane. - we arrived in the early afternoon and took a taxi from the airport to our little hotel – Sala Inpeng – which is just behind Wat Inpeng close to the centre of town. Its a small property with just 9 rooms but set in lovely gardens. Its actually 4 separate buildings – the best rooms which are usually booked out with long term guests have lots of room, a sitting room and lovely lao furnishings, aircon, fridge and tv. I mention all this because there aren't that many rooms in Lao that do have – except for the very up market ones like Settha Palace. Next in line are the standard rooms – 2 to a building with a verandah, bedroom with nice wooden floors, mesh coated shutters, aircond, fridge and a bathroom. Fittings are good quality although the bathroom is typically lao – no shower screen to the whole place gets wet. Breakfast is served at a small table on the verandah. Eggs, juice, fruit and breads, good lao tea and coffee. Basic rooms are without aircon. We had the standard room as the good ones were booked out by NGO's Its very nice but again the hardest beds in the world – at least minus lumps this time.

We did learn a bit about beds this time. Our past trips to Lao have always had hard beds but these win hands down. Because my back was giving me trouble it was worse but I ended up finding a small gel filled pad (designed for a baby's bed) and sleeping on that. I have a brother in law and his wife and small kids in Vientiane but we'd decided to stay in the hotel. Talking to my sister in law she said that often mattresses there come with one side thats a board and quite often they just get put down upside down. Well we tried that but up or down ours didn't make any difference. Hard beds seem to fill many conversations you overhear. The gel filled pad ended up with the kids when we left.

The Sala is owned by a very nice man who lives on site. All his staff are very nice. He is part of the Sala Lao group – there is one in Luang Prabang too which he says is owned by his uncle who is an architect. My inlaws came to visit – although they've lived in Vientiane for about 7 years or more they didn't know about the place – its really a lovely little haven in a busy city. We've stayed at Villa Manoly and Mali Namphu before. Rod usually puts people up in the Manoly but I think will start using the Sala - beds aren't that different! I did talk to the owner and he was concerned about the beds but said that at that time they could only get them from China and thats the best there was. I'm sure he will deal with it! Lots available over in Thailand so not too hard to do. All other fittings are good quality so he hasn't been skimping there. You do of course need to consider the price – mid rooms are only $25 and the best $35. I suggested he could put them up but he felt that was still a lot for Lao which I guess it is. They advertise on their website in US so thats what they charge but he was suffering a bit because of the exchange rate. Hopefully he will be able to do what everyone else there is doing now and say the rate is approximately so many US dollars but the actual cost is in kip.

Anyway its a lovely handy place and I'd stay again. We had 5 nights in Vientiane. We wanted to spend some time with the family. The kids are 3 and 8 months. The baby was born in Bangkok when we were there last November. So we had dinner, coffee etc together when we could and just generally hung out. Its nice having coffee at Joma's – still good and expanding with now 3 outlets in Vientiane. Not that you'll get to see much of the babies as the staff soon make off with them and you'll find them out behind the counter being cuddled and amused.

The city has changed a lot. Last visit it was still a very quite place – you could walk down the middle of most streets without bother, many side streets were still dirt and so on. Now its much busier. Lots more cars (before just tuk tuks and motorbikes.) lots more falang particularly backpackers and just generally more hectic. Roads are pretty good, good paving too. The morning market now has a mall build beside it and a lot of the shops have moved there. Part of the old market is under renovation or demolition. The silk area is still as it was. Lots more hotels have gone up. Mini-markets abound and spas are the latest to take off. We had some good meals - a fantastic Thai one with the family at a restaurant I can't remember the name of. Some of the best Thai I've ever had. Also not to be missed is the training restaurant Makphet. Its part of the same group that runs Friends in Cambodia. Just opposite Wat Inpeng and open for lunch and dinner – the food is modern Lao and very good indeed. (Shut sunday) Its only small so can be hard to get a table. Also near Wat Inpeng is the french restaurant Le Vendome. We ate there a couple of times. Food is decent and reasonably priced as most of Vientiane. My brother in law says the menu hasn't changed since he has been in the city so a lot of residents don't go there any more.

We also went out to Lao Mountain Coffee – this was the plan before we left home as we like their coffee. Its grown down on the Bolaven but roasted in Vientiane. We contacted Steve before we left to see if it was okay to go there for what we wanted. He was away that week but we meet the guy who would normally be down on the plantations. They have a new premises in a nice oldish building near That Luang about 200 metres from the Japanese embassy. They plan on setting up cupping sessions for coffee tasting which I think would be a worthwhile excursion. Also will have a small cafe. So we came away with lots of our favourite coffees to bring home. Australia has very strict rules on bringing food stuffs in but coffee and tea (without any additions like fruit) are okay.

If you are heading to lao its worthwhile looking up a site www.stay-another-day.org or picking up one of their bookets (which at this stage have a bit more info) when you arrive. Its got info on sustainable tourism and things like craft co-ops,etc. It gives you details on what you can experience at each organisation. Places like Lao Mountain are listed as they are fair trade.

So thats about it for Vientiane. We took a car across the border this time as far as Udon Thani – bit of luxury. The train has now come to Vientiane across the border – at least its still in trial mode and only comes just across the border but could be a nice (if slow) way to come up from Bangkok.

We were flying back to Bangkok from Udon – its much cheaper than flying out of Vientiane but the main reason was to visit friends in Udon. We met on our first trip through contact on a forum. This time we stayed the night at the Irish Clock – a small Irish type pub in the middle of town. They do good food and have 5 rooms upstairs. - we'd looked them over last time when they had just opened. Its 850bt a night and they really would give the 4 – 4/5 star places in Bangkok a run for there money where the rooms are concerned. Large, well fitted out and GREAT beds. So we had a nice night with friends and then flew out (with Thai ) the next day.

One other thing that's noticeable in Udon now is the number of middle aged farang men walking around the streets – sadly it seems to have become a second Pattaya – our friends says its been going that way for a couple of years.

We had another week back in Bangkok staying at Centrepoint Langsuan but I won't bother with that now. Usual shopping, catching up with friends and just enjoying the city.

Hope this is of some help to anyone who is interested in Southern Lao. Its certainly a worthwhile journey, perhaps a bit harder that Luang Prabang but changing rapidly.
MaryW is offline  
Jul 27th, 2008, 08:44 PM
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Will hang onto this as southern Lao is on the radar. Thanks for taking the time to post!
offwego is offline  
Jul 27th, 2008, 11:50 PM
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Lori its worth going - nice place especially up on the Plateau and only a stones throw from Siem Reap.
MaryW is offline  
Jul 28th, 2008, 06:08 AM
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Mary

Do you have any sense of when might be the best time of year to go?
offwego is offline  
Jul 28th, 2008, 07:23 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2003
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Hi Lori - I guess its like most of that part of the world weatherwise so November to January is probably best - it is really "wet" in wet season now. Really really high humidity but it is a bit cooler up in the heights - just very misty at times. Water level is high in the Mekong and the waterfalls are best in the coming months but it would be better traveling particularly up on the Plateau during the dryer times.

Coffee season - the harvest is from October to Feb and hulling grading time is Jan to March so if you are at all interested in that you can go to the plantations and take part if you contact them. Just now the beans are just growing green on the bushes. Also now a lot of the people are out in the fields busy with the rice planting so a lot of other things aren't being done. JCFC is the planting co-op part of Lao Mountain Coffee and you can go to their plantations They are a Fair Trade Co-op you can contact them throught the Lao Mountain website - www.laomountain.com and they could tell you the best times.

The cruise gets much fuller in the latter part of the year. Lots of small boats that you can travel the river in - longtail type and plenty of buses up and down the river too. Its getting a lot busier with backpackers so more is going on in the way of transport. Most people hire small motorbikes for the plateau but despite my husband being a serial motorbike rider we still don't chose to hire the bikes - no protective gear and too many cows and water buffalo! There are now quite a lot of decent vans about to hire (with driver) just needs organising from Pakse or you'll end up in the 3 wheel tuk tuk like us.
MaryW is offline  
Jul 28th, 2008, 08:17 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 29,005
great report...thanks for giving us all the details....we all need a good bed!!
rhkkmk is offline  
Aug 9th, 2008, 06:28 PM
  #16  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 834
Topping for vhs100 and Michael
MaryW is offline  
Aug 13th, 2008, 03:02 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 206
Great report Mary - I will no doubt have some questions for you at a later point if you don't mind? vhs
vhs100 is offline  
Aug 13th, 2008, 08:28 PM
  #18  
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Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 834
Happy to answer any questions I can at any time. Looks like flooding in Vientiane right now and I expect down river as it flows through.
MaryW is offline  
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