Beautiful Ban Nahin

The next day we caught a local bus heading south towards the Tham Kong Lor Cave. We were a little unsure what to expect around this area as the guide book was a little vague. We had booked accommodation in a village called Ban Nahin and when the bus pulled up and we got out at the bus stop/taxi rank/cattle grazing grounds we felt we had definitely gotten off the beaten track. 

The town itself was about 2 streets wide surrounded by beautiful limestone mountains and I think there were more cows than people in the village. We walked through the streets to our guesthouse and soon found ourselves at a little gem of a place. The family who run it were lovely, there was an attached restaurant and we had a beautiful room. We went for a little walk around town to stretch the legs and were greeted by all the locals with a wave and a Sabaidee (hello). The kids were especially friendly. 

We headed back to the guesthouse and ordered a meal which was some of the best food we have had in Laos. As there wasn’t much else much to do we went in for an early night and had one of the best nights sleep we have had in a long time. It was so beautifully quiet. 

After breakfast we organised a scooter from our guesthouse and started towards Kong Lor cave which was about 50kms away. Except we didn’t get very far because as soon as you drove out of town you were surrounded by rice paddies and mountains and the photo opportunities were endless. The positive of this is that it gave my legs and bum a rest from sitting behind Tim on the scooter. We also passed several other villages smaller than ours and got to see what rural life in Laos is like. The majority of houses are built of wood on stilts and are very simple. One room maybe two and everyone has their plot of land to grow rice. We came at a great time as the rice was being harvested and we either had farmers cutting and stacking on one side or beautiful green and yellow fields to stare at on the other. It was one of the most beautiful rides we have done.

We have mentioned previously that the people from Laos are poor and that is visible when you drive through their towns, yet they are some of the most friendly smiling people you will meet. They are so content with their life and what they have and it seems that as long as you can feed your family and have a roof over your head then you are okay. They certainly don’t seem to over work and don’t seem to be very ambitious. In other countries that are poor you sometimes feel uncomfortable entering their villages and dare I say it a little apprehensive as you feel as if they see what you have and wouldn’t hesitate to take it. But that is certainly not the feel or the case in Laos. They couldn’t give two hoots what someone else has. Their way of life is certainly a relaxed one.

We arrived at the entrance of the cave and after purchasing our tickets walked through the forest to the river. Kong Lor cave is a pretty special one as it is actually an underground river that extends 7kms under the mountains. We were introduced to our boat man and were given a life jacket and a head torch. Now we knew we were catching a boat through the cave and back but really didn’t know what to expect. After taking a rickety boat to the other side of the river we walked into the cave entrance where our man grabbed a motor and attached it to another rickety boat, bailed out some water and told us to take a seat. 

Soon we were heading up stream into blackness where we soon realised how long this cave system was. It was massive! Certain parts were about 3 metres above our heads but most of the time the roof was 20 to 50 metres high and the same across. Lit by only our head torches it was all quite scary considering the river was not straight and there were occasional rocks jutting out of the water. Luckily our captain’s was a lot stronger than ours so he could pick out the twists and turns of the river.

We came to a bend in the river and he beached our boat and told us to get out and follow the steps. So we did and found ourselves on a little beach with a path leading up. We were then walking through a section with very impressive stalagmites and stalactites. Back on the boat we continued on our way. It was so eerie and for me felt as if we were with the ferryman taking us across the river to the underworld but I probably read too many fantasy books.

After about an hour we saw light ahead and emerged into eye watering sunshine where we disembarked at a local village for a drink and then headed back the way we had come. The trip back was just as enthralling as the way there and I must admit it was definitely an experience I will never forget. I was a little apprehensive about the trip as I am not a big fan of enclosed spaces or caves etc but this place was so big you even had air flowing through the cave. I never even once thought about the giant amount of earth bearing down on us from above.

Back out on the other side we jumped back on our scooter driving home the way we had come. But again the scenery didn’t disappoint. We had a little bit of time up our sleeves so we decided to hit one of the viewpoints to see the surrounding country side from above. The climb up wasn’t too bad and the views of the surrounding mountains was spectacular. It still astonishes us just how uninhabited Laos is and how dense their forest it. 

On the ride down I mentioned to Tim that I could smell our brakes and we wondered if we should stop for a little while but didn’t. On the last downhill Tim suddenly exclaimed that our brakes had gone! Luckily up ahead we could see the road flatten out and eventually go up another hill so Tim put his feet down (we are smart and wear our hiking boots while riding) and we slowly came to a stop on the flat. Phew!! Letting the brakes cool for a little while, they came back online and we drove home. Deciding that one viewpoint was enough.

We are so glad we made the stop in Ban Na Hin and getting to see a little more of the real Laos. Even without the cave our time here would have been worth it. It’s amazing the places you get to see when you least expect it. S

Downtown Ban Nahin

One of the smaller villages lining the road on the way to the cave.

Our (not so) trust scooter.

Wonderful colours and beautiful landscape all around us.

The locals working the fields.

Simple houses but stunning location.

We came upon three water buffalo cooling down in the water, the other two were almost completely submerged.

The light at the end of the tunnel, unfortunately the inside was too dark and too vast to get any photos.

Our captain for the day.

Nothing needs to be written just amazing to see.  Some shots of the journey back.

The view from the top and the amazingly flat valley we had driven up.

Sweltering Vientiane 

Day two in the capital of Laos and another day of walking around soaking up the atmosphere. It was already pretty hot when we set out on our walk so we stopped off for a deliciously cold and strong iced coffee to keep our energies up. We started by walking out of old town and down towards the Patuxai which is the Laos equivalent of the Arc de Triumph in Paris.

It was pretty impressive to see and there were a few people milling around but it certainly couldn’t be described as being overly busy. Although nice to see there wasn’t really a lot to see so we took our photos and continued on towards Pha That Lang another top Vientiane sight to see.

It was about 2km further on down the road and by the time we got there it was seriously hot and humid and we were both needing some water. Having said that the strong sun really lit up the golden exterior of the temple quite fantastically and even though we were sweltering we were both quite impressed.

Next door was a temple complex which contained an elegant lying Buddha and an assortment of ornately designed buildings. It was lovely walking around them and interesting to see all the different designs but unfortunately while all these sites claimed to be museums and charged entry there was absolutely no information at all about what we were looking at which was a bit of a shame. Still it was lovely to see.

The walk home seemed to go on for an eternity and by the time we had walked the 4 km back we were suffering seriously from the heat. We had a quick lunch and downed plenty of water before escaping back to the air conditioning. It is the one problem with visiting SE Asia at this time of year, the humidity is so high that it absolutely drains you.

Determined to discover the areas of Old Town which people wax lyrical about we set off in a different direction for our evening stroll and found a lovely restaurant which served us up some absolutely delicious Laos food. Bonus!

It’s true that Vientiane is the most relaxed capital city in the world but we didn’t necessarily fall in love with the place. Maybe if the heat hadn’t been quite so oppressive we might have been able to wander around more and appreciate the place, but while we enjoyed the place it didn’t seem to have the “wow factor.” T

The Patuxai in all its glory.

A little bit optimistic!

The startling golden Pha That Luang.

The reclining Buddha.

A fabulously decorated hall near the reclining Buddha.

Finishing off Vientiane by watching the ladies doing their workout by the Mekong.

Arrival in Vientiane 

After a fairly painless bus journey it was hello to Vientiane and we were quickly checked in at our hostel right in the centre of town. As capital cities go it is renown for being one of the sleepiest and certainly when we arrived at lunchtime it seemed as though the entire population of 800,000 were all having an early siesta! There was hardly anyone about at all!

We set out to find some lunch and were expecting to find loads of French and Italian inspired restaurants intermingled with some Laotian restaurants featuring menus filled with local dishes served with a modern twist. What we found was so far from what the guidebooks portrayed that we thought we were in the wrong place! Pizza restaurants galore, burger shops, coffee shops and the odd bakery but unfortunately non of them particularly inspiring. We soon found a decent local place serving delicious fer (noodle soup) and were happy once again.

Having arrived early we had some time to begin our explorations of Vientiane and so set off for a wander. We soon came upon the Presidential palace and opposite that was the Vat Sisaket. We paid our money and went in and were thoroughly impressed by the artwork both outside and within the temple. It boasted a museum but we couldn’t find one but it was nice to walk around it anyway. As our walk progressed we found that the old town of Vientiane is quite a nice mix of guesthouses, shops restaurants and temples. 

While it was great walking around the heat and humidity forced us back to the refuge of the hostel where we regrouped before heading out again.

The coming of dark and the coolness seemed to bring everyone out onto the streets and the place seemed transformed. There were street food stalls galore and a night market had been set up. We found a spot to enjoy a drink and watch the sun set over the Mekong. It was great sitting up on our 3rd floor vantage point and looking down onto all the action. There were plenty of people wandering through the market and beside them were groups of ladies doing their workouts to loud pumping music.

The atmosphere, as it usually is in Laos, was very soporific and relaxing. I am not sure anything is done very quickly here and the attitude is catching. We relaxed our way through the evening, had a brief stroll through the markets before going to bed somehow completely exhausted! T

All around the old quarter were temples and we weren’t sure which were tourist sights and which were just normal temples.  Either way most seemed open and we could watch the monks going about their daily chores.

The Presidential palace.

Vat Sisaket and the surrounding courtyard.  It was actually more impressive on the inside but unfortunately no photos allowed.

The surrounding courtyard was filled with loads of Buddha figures.

Around the outside of the courtyard were these fantastically ornate gravestones.

Another example of one of the small temples dotted around the city.

We didn’t know where we were going and stumbled on this place, Ho Phra Keo.  Again ornate on the outside but this time the interior looked like it was either about to become a museum other had been one at some stage.

The view out over the Mekong with the night markets setting up.

Vang Vieng

Another day another bus journey. This time we were picked up from our guesthouse and soon found ourselves with two other Aussies being driven to the bus station. We were deposited beside a similar bus we arrived in but this one was empty. Thanking our lucky stars we picked the best seats and waited for the locals or other tourists to arrive. But instead at the designated time of departure we were told that bus was cancelled and we had to catch the ‪11am‬ yellow bus which was a crap heap. 

Tim calmly told the conductor that the only reason this bus was cancelled was because it wasn’t full and that was not acceptable nor fair and we wanted our money back. So a minute later we were put on the bus and the driver drove out of the station. Thinking that was far far too easy we were not counting our chickens yet, which was all well and good as our driver was going about 20kms an hour constantly on his phone. 5 mins later we pull over and he disappears. Soon a mini bus pulls up full of tourists and we are told to get in. Luckily there were 4 spare seats and the mini bus was a luxury one with plush seats and aircon. We took that as a win over the ‪11am‬ yellow bus they wanted us to catch and within 4 hours were at Vang Vieng.

Vang Vieng was once known as a seedy backpacker haven where gap year students came to float down the river on tubes stopping at riverside pubs along to get drunk and high. Unfortunately this lead to a multitude of drownings and the government shut down all the unlicensed venues and since then the place has been trying to reinvent itself as a quiet riverside adventure tourism hub. Upon arrival the town still looked as if it was a backpacker haven with its ramshackle buildings and cheap sandwich sellers lining the streets. We had decided on a bit of luxury for this stay and had booked a place a little out of town with a pool. It was beautiful with views of rice paddies and mountains from our balcony.

Although we had the rest of the day to explore I was not feeling so great so we sat back and enjoyed the pool and went out for a pizza at night.

The next day I was feeling a little better so we decided on hiring a scooter and driving to a few of the sights. The first one being a waterfall about 6 kms out of town. The whole 6kms was down a dirt potholed road so I think it took us about half an hour to get there. But the drive was worth it as the waterfall was beautiful as was the walk through the thick jungle. This waterfall is not on the tour circuit so there were only a handful of people and we managed to get a little swimming hole all to ourselves. We kind of felt a little bit like we were in the Blue Lagoon, minus the nudity.

We drove home and went for a drive around the town and were trying to get a photo of the river and the mountains and found ourselves outside a cave entrance. So we paid our fee and went inside. The cave was far bigger than we thought it was going to be and the stagalites very impressive.

By this stage we were starving so stopped off at one of the many sandwich sellers on the street and took it home as the clouds were thundering in. We literally walked under cover and it started to rain. For once it was great timing.

We headed back into town for dinner and were actually really surprised as to how quiet it was. We walked around trying to find a busy restaurant and found a Korean BBQ place full. So we decided it give it a go and it was delicious! 

After Luang Prabang we were a little disappointed with Vang Vieng. It could have been that because it was off season the place wasn’t at its best but we just felt it was a bit blah. It is caught between the hedonistic scene of the past and its relaxed paradise future. The scenery is very beautiful but the town needs a lot of work.S

The waterfall at the end of our pothole ridden ride.

Cooling down in the refreshing waterfall.

The countryside and views around Laos are constantly amazing.

Across the bridge and then up the stairs to the caves.

Quite unique stalactite formations.

Very magical walking through the cave.

The view from the hotel was fabulous.

While the scenery around Vang Vieng was wonderful the town leaves a lot to be desired.

 To really Laotian food (which was hard to find here) but we had a good time in this Korean restaurant.

Monks and Scooters in Luang Prabang

Every morning at dawn about 200 monks take a walk around town and partake in an alms giving ceremony. This involves residents of Luang Prabang lining the streets and offering sticky rice and the monks walking around in groups of about 10 to 15 each carrying a large bowl into which is placed the rice offering. 

We weren’t sure how to go about watching this but we literally just had to walk into the centre of the town and hang about and the monks would suddenly appear walking at quite a brisk pace and we would hug the walls trying to respect the reverence of the occasion while also trying to take some sneaky photos. We were told that while it was fine to watch tourists were not supposed to participate in the ceremony and it was quite cool to see the naturalness of the occasion.  

It was all over almost as quickly as it began and we headed back to our guesthouse to have breakfast and rent a scooter. It really is the best way of seeing everything in these parts. We had noticed lots and lots of tours being offered as we walked around and we noticed that they all went to visit a cave in the morning and then spent the afternoon visiting some waterfalls. It seemed pretty obvious to us that the way to avoid the crowds was simply to do it the opposite way around. 

30 km of scootering through beautiful countryside found us arriving at a more or less deserted Tat Kuang Si waterfalls. These falls cascade over many small limestone terraces and the first thing you couldn’t help but notice was the brilliant chalky turquoise colour of the water. We hiked up the side of the many falls soaking in the views as we went until we arrived at the huge falls at the top which were spectacular. As we descended back we picked one of the natural pools to relax in and have a cooling swim. We pretty much had the place to ourselves, it was just fantastic.

While the journey back was through some beautiful scenery the comfort level of two people on a small scooter meant that our bums were pretty sore so we took a break to go for a quick hike to see the grave of Henri Mohout who was the man who first discovered Angkor Wat and died of malaria while continuing his explorations through this area. I wouldn’t say it was the most spectacular of sights but was set in a jungle and it felt fitting to see it in the context of our trip. Plus we both needed a break from sitting on the scooter as we had another 60 km of driving to do in the afternoon.

The quest for the afternoon was to head north towards the Pam Ou Caves which involves riding about 30 km north before catching a boat across the Mekong. It all started in a pretty straightforward manner but then about 7km short of our destination the road deteriorated dramatically. It was very bumpy and we were avoiding potholes galore. Just as we got close the end the road turned into a complete quagmire and Sarah had to set off to try and find a route for me to be able to get the scooter through. Four sets of muddy feet and a very muddy scooter later and we had arrived. We were a little concerned that we had signed something to say we wouldn’t take the scooters off road so had a quick check, but no we were well within our rights taking them off roading. Although it has to be said that visions as to what constitutes a road might differ largely from a Laotian view!

After a quick walk through a village we approached the banks of the Mekong where a man got up from his siesta to lead us into a boat and take us across the river. The scenery was just spectacular and the man fought the strong current with amazing skill and we pulled up against a makeshift pontoon and climbed up into the caves. 

The Pam Ou Caves are famous because they are filled with lots of small statues of Buddha which have been donated by devout followers. We have to admit we were a little underwhelmed by the caves themselves but we smiled as it was certainly the journey not the destination which we will remember on this day.

We jumped back on the bike and this time Sarah decided to attempt a “better” route through the mud field. Unfortunately this left me bogged completely and had to call out to get Sarah back to help push me out. By this stage we had mud everywhere and the bike looked as though it had been on a serious adventure!!! Still we got home without any upsets and while our love of scooters is still strong I don’t think we will be doing any long trips, even just 120km with breaks was enough.

We felt we deserved a drink at this point so found a bar where we could enjoy a cold drink and watch the world go by. For dinner we headed back to the night market where we had some delicious Mekong fish barbecued on a stick and some succulent pork all cooked over coals.

Could the day get any better? Yes we passed a place offering massages for $10 so finished our day off perfectly! 

We will certainly miss Luang Prabang the vibe of the place was just so laid back. There is so much to see and the locals are so welcoming and friendly that the place will always have fond spot in our heart. T

The monks of Luand Prabang being given their daily food.

The Tat Kuang Si waterfalls.  The cascades continued down for about 500m.

The main waterfall at the top.

Spectacular to be able to enjoy all this with almost no one else around.

The water was pretty cold but so refreshing!

Such a strange colour to the water and quite disconcerting not being able to see where your feet are.

The countryside in Laos is just breathtaking.

Making excuses to stop to stretch the legs and we come across this temple with great views over Luang Prabang.

We presume his grave is here as it is literally the point where he died of malaria.  Plenty of mosquitoes about!

Waiting on the banks of the Mekong for our crossing.

The Pam Ou Caves set dead ahead.

Some of the multitude of statues in the caves.  We were probably more interested in the beauty of the surrounding countryside.

The view back to the village where we caught the boat.  From this direction the water looks blue!

Sarah finding routes along the road.

Dinner time at the markets in Luang Prabang.  Delicious!

Luang Prabang

We had a choice between a minivan and a bus to get to Luang Prabang and were told we should get the bus due to our size. We were thinking it would be a big bus so when we were picked up and dropped off at the local bus station beside a small bus we were a little surprised. But we went with it and threw our backpacks up on the roof with all kinds of interesting luggage from the locals. 

We jumped on and soon the bus was full. Upright seats, windy pothole ridden roads, a bus driver who thought repeatedly accelerating to the speed and then taking his foot off the accelerator was the smoothest ride and people vomiting all made for an enjoyable 8 hours. There were two redeeming aspects being the magnificent view of beautiful untouched forested mountains and the noodle soup we ate at the roadside restaurant. 

We were pretty excited about Luang Prabang as everyone who had been absolutely loved it and driving into the town we already could see why. The town itself is nestled in between green mountains and situated on the joining of the Mekong and Khan rivers. Our guesthouse was down a narrow side street where we passed a mix of other guest houses, locals houses, little restaurants and even a temple.

We were pretty worn out after our bus trip so just wandered to one of the bars just down the road and sat for a drink. Just as we got our drinks we realised that we were at the Aussie sports bar and the man beside us got delivered a burger which made both our mouths salivate. Needless to say we felt a little cliche sitting at the Aussie bar devouring our burgers but we soon forgot about it.

The next day we got up and walked along the banks of the Khan river into the old town. Our first stop was the meeting of the two rivers and watching the clear slow flowing waters of the Khan be swallowed by the murky fast flowing Mekong. Due to its sacred positioning at the confluence of the two rivers Luang Prabang is filled with Buddhist temples and orange robed monks. The first temple we entered was Xieng Thong which is probably the most well known of the temples just up from where the two rivers meet. We entered and were greeted by a style of building similar to others we have seen but still different in its own Laos way. It had the tiled Oriental roof we have come to expect from these parts but the eves went very low to the ground. Pillars and statues were covered in mirrored mosaic which was pretty unusual for a Buddhist Temple.

We then continued our walk around the town stopping at many more smaller temples along the way. Along with temples the town is filled with French villas that have been converted into guest houses, hotels and restaurants. Although quite touristy the place had a very calming vibe that we were enjoying. The town was made even more enjoyable as there weren’t any hawkers trying to aggressively sell you things. The Loatians are a very laid back and friendly people.

We stopped off at a local handcraft centre and had the pleasure of meeting a master weaver creating her latest piece. I have decided that loom weaving is magic as even though we were given a detailed description of how it was done and I sat and watched her for a good 10 minutes I still could not figure out how she was making the pattern.

It started to rain so we decided we would take shelter in the forested 100 metre high hill Phu Si which is situated right in the centre of town. By the time we reached the top the sun was peaking out a little so the view of the surrounding hills, rivers and town were pretty beautiful. By this stage we were hot and bothered and wet so went back home to wait out the weather.

We emerged later on in the day and went back into town to sit along the Mekong and enjoy a sunset beer. It certainly is a mighty river, especially now during the wet season and watching the little wooden boats struggle across and up the river was enjoyable. My mango daiquiri not so enjoyable and I think the few sips I had caused me a little grief over the next few days.

We walked home via the night markets which again were really very enjoyable as the vendors weren’t constantly trying to sell you something but rather would wait until you showed interest in an item before saying hello and waiting to see if we wanted sizes or prices. In saying that we found it much harder to negotiate with them because they were so nice! We also regretted eating some noodle soup before we came as there were some amazing BBQ stalls. Luckily we are here for another night. We did manage to fit in some coconut pancakes which were delicious. 

So far Luang Prabang has lived up to the hype and we were really looking forward to exploring more tomorrow. S 

A delicious lunch in a roadside restaurant in the middle of nowhere in Laos!

No matter how bad the conditions of the road or the bus you definitely enjoy yourself when the views are like this.  It would make for some spectacular hiking but I am guessing you would need to carry a metal detector due to all the unexploded bombs.

Our bus, not quite a bus not quite a minibus, not quite VIP but in Laos it’s a model which is often sold as all three!

The narrow alleyway leading to our guesthouse and many others too.

One of the locals.

The beautiful Khan just outside our guesthouse.

The clear blue Khan meeting the sludge of the Mekong.

The French style buildings in amongst the temples and monasteries really give Luanda Prabang a unique feel.

Our first view of the main temple was a real wow moment.

The detail in the architecture was something else.

The paintings and the statues on the outside of the temples were wonderful.

The walls of the smaller temples were covered in these mosaic patterns.

Everywhere you looked rice balls had been offered and placed all over the place.

The master weaver working her magic.

The main Palace, unfortunately not open when we needed to take shelter from the rain.

A temple at the bottom of the mountain with painted murals.

The steps leading up to Phu Si with just enough cover to keep us more or less sheltered from the rain.

All the way around the hill were many golden buddhas.  We had the whole place to ourselves and it was fantastic wandering around discovering them all.

Dragons lining the stairs around the mountain.

Beautiful views from the top of the hill in the centre of town.

The view of one of the areas in Luang Prabang.

Noodle soup for lunch. So simple yet so delicious.

We passed this man skinning up a tree to get his coconuts.

Spending sunset watching the boats zip around on the Mekong was spectacular.

The markets setting up for the evening.

All smiles negotiating with the locals at the market.

The Plain of Jars at Phonsavan

The dangers of traveling through this area at this time of year is that a full bodied thunderstorm always seems imminent and sure enough we awoke this morning to thundering rain. We were a little disappointed as we only had one day to explore the surrounds of Phonsavan and we had travelled a hell of a long way to get here.

Luckily after breakfast the skies dried up enough for us to make the decision to rent a scooter and head out exploring. Our scooter riding had been pretty successful so far so this time we decided to share one rather than going independently but on top of this we were also given a semi automatic which meant that not only did I have to adjust to carrying extra weight on the back but had to change gears too. Luckily no problem.

The town of Phonsavan was pretty new as it had been completely destroyed during the American war and while riding around the town we couldn’t help but notice a lot of pretty flash cars. There were almost as many dual cab utes as back in Australia! We chatted to a local restaurant owner who confirmed that there was certainly a large gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” here in Laos and the more we looked the more we noticed it. There is really quite a gap in the economic well being of people here. Some live in huts with mud floors growing rice by hand while others drive their dual cab Hiluxes around and live in modern houses.

We left the town of Phonsavan behind us and headed out towards the Plain of Jars which is the most famous sight in this area. There are around 2500 large jars scattered around the area and they were estimated to have been made in about 200 AD to 500 BC. Beyond this not much else is known. There are guesses as to whether they were used as burial tools or for food offerings to the gods.  

The first site we arrived at was out in the middle of nowhere and while it was impressive seeing the huge jars just sat there in the middle of the field the really noticeable features were the bomb craters scattering the area. Couple this with the fact that the paths we were walking on were marked with signs indicating that they had been cleared of unexploded bombs really brought home the horrific suffering these people still endure all these years after the war. We wondered as we were walking around whether we would be taking a trip through Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria or North Korea in the future and witnessing suffering of innocent people, plaques making sure we don’t perform any more atrocities and agencies set up which we in the West give money to in order to help. One things for sure we won’t ever learn.

Anyway the skies were about as gloomy as the thoughts as we jumped back on the scooter to head to another site of jars and once again it was quite cool to see the jars and this time we were all alone which added to the sense of discovery.  

The skies had opened by this point so we took shelter until the worst had passed then continued down the road to a village which was marked on our map as a village of spoons. As we got closer the standard of road deteriorated quite rapidly and we were soon slipping around on a muddy dirt track which certainly tested the riding skills but luckily we got to the village in one piece.

The village was just a series of wooden huts on stilts surrounded by rice paddies. The locals make extra money by collecting fragments of the bombs around the area and melting them down and making spoons to sell to tourists. Needless to say we are now the proud owners of some Laos spoons and Sarah has some bangles too. We were pretty happy to give some money to these people and we will certainly always remember where the spoons came from.

The ride back was pretty bleak as we were huddled in raincoats on the scooter both pretty uncomfortable and both realising that scooters were great for short trips but lost their appeal after an hour of riding around!

Phonsavan wasn’t on any original list of places we intended to visit but we are both glad that we have been able to visit here. The people have been lovely and friendly in a seriously laid back fashion. The surrounding area is stunningly beautiful and incredibly untouched. It certainly has got us excited about our visit to Laos. T

The first site of the Plain of Jars with the bomb craters.

It would be interesting to find out what these were actually for.

A cave within the area had a couple of shrines within it where offerings had been made including cigarettes!

The sobering, and hard to see, MAG markings which denoted a safe path.

Travelling between the sights we were certainly still a bit of a novelty for the children.

Slightly more mysterious second site.

Further down the road and we were into the local villages.

Our trusty scooter and the muddy roads.

Where our spoons were made.

The family we bought the spoons off of.

The surrounding scenery was spectacularly beautiful, if only the weather had matched it.