29th June – 23rd July 2012
We’d booked in to ‘Lao Wooden House’ which was a dark paneled room that resembled a spacious coffin. We went about orientating ourselves in this rather disorientating city, this was due partly to being sandwiched in between two rivers, so a ‘down to the river’ direction might mean the opposite to what you think. Also we spent some time in what we thought was the main drag of the place, before we discovered another high street down the road.
There is a lovely lazy, languid feel to this place, partly because the humidity forbids fast movement, partly because of the beautiful saffron clad Buddhists drifting from their golden pagodas under orange umbrellas and partly because of the big old river moving slowly about its business.
It is a backpacker destination but not only the twenty-something hippies that frequented Pai, we met some interesting folk here including a grumpy old sod we called Uncle Vernon, father and daughter English teachers, a bio-chemist taking time out to write a book, a buddhist couple building a retreat and some Lao musicians.
We moved down town on our second week to a cheap friendly place run by a gay Lao couple. This place featured as many free miniature bananas, as you could eat, strong Lao coffee, and a litter of kittens living in the laundry cupboard.
We were careful to abide by the house rules, here is an excerpt: ” Do not any drugs,crambling. Do not allow domestic and international tourist bring prostrate and others into your room.”
Some of the adventures we had here were labouring up the hill in the centre of the town called Phousy (as in cat, or galore!) and setting free some poor little caged birds, watched over by some round eyed French kids as we shouted “Libre!” Crossing the river in a very skinny wobbly long tail boat to the restaurant on the other side. Having a Lao barbecue, a round affair which fits in a hole in the table, there is a ‘moat’ of boiling water where you cook your veg and noodles while the top fries your meat. Getting up at 5.30 am to watch the buddhists collecting alms, a beautiful ceremony almost ruined by idiot tourists, I have a more prolonged rant about it on my website here. A lot of working, playing and being horizontal in the ridiculously cool local bar, appropriately called ‘Utopia’. The laid back heaven was visually punctuated with some stark reminders of their recent history. Lao has the unfortunate claim of being the most bombed country in the world, mostly because of it’s proximity to Vietnam.
We had a visit to some glorious waterfalls and were entertained by some playful rescued bears. We finally got to understand why this time of year is called the rainy season, but it’s nothing compared to Cumbria! I did quite a bit of photography and some experimentation which you can see on my blog. We appreciated the legacy of the French colony by falling a love with a bakery with divine baguettes and gorgeous coffee. Watched Murray get beaten by Federer in an Aussie sports bar, I was cheering him loudly until the uneasy quiet alerted me to the fact we were surrounded by Rog supporters! We visited the oldest Wat (temple) enjoyed the bright mosaics and meditated in a mini Wat. Shopped in the wonderful night market with beautiful and bizarre handcrafted lovelies.
We are really grateful for the chance of being in this lovely place, it comes recommended highly.