Monday, May 17, 2010

Mekong, Youkong, We-All-Kong - Laos

With my new English friend Sebastian in tow, I crossed the Thai-Laos boarder to Huay Xai in Laos on the Mekong River. Since it is touted as a "once-in-a-life time journey," I put aside my hesitations of the well worn travelers path and took the two day slow boat ride down the Mekong River. With 50 tourists (up to a hundred in high season) playing cards, listening to music and drinking I was beginning to wonder when the "once-in-a-life-time" was going to begin. Soon the commotion from the innards of the boat gave way to the beauty and peacefulness of the country.

Landscapes of lush green hills, old fisherman in conical hats throwing their nets, naked children swimming in the river and small villages dotting the hillsides took over my senses. Life on the Mekong River seemed unchanged from the way it must have been one, two or even three hundred years ago. The only thing to break my transportation to the past was the occasional roar of a speed boat racing down river as it ferried people too busy to enjoy the beauty. Two days later I was in Luang Prabang and the boat was the perfect way initiate me to the Laos laid back way of life.

Luang Prabang is sandwiched between the Mekong and Khan Rivers. The city is an amalgamation of French colonial buildings and traditional Laos architecture. With immaculate streets, brick sidewalks, bistros, cafes, Laos restaurants, numerous quaint side streets to explore and a great no-pressure night market it is easy to stay here much longer than planned. It's charm is inescapable and people gracious.

If you are fortunate enough to wake up very early in the morning you will witness a tradition even the communist government could not stop, the daily walk of monks collecting alms for the day or Bindapata as it's known. Hundreds of monks from the multitude of monasteries in the city take to the streets in what seems like an orange clad army armed with silver bowls to collect food from the faithful while blessing them at the same time. Once the circuit is complete the monks disappear back into the monasteries leaving only a few gains of rice as evidence of their trek.

Luang Prabang is also know for the Kouang Si Waterfalls. At first I wasn't going to go to the falls since the last two waterfalls I'd been to were a huge disappointment. Luckily Seb convinced me otherwise and our group of eight piled in to a sawngtaew (truck). Once there we swam in the refreshing pools, swung off the rope, dove off the 5m falls and gorged on the sheer beauty of the place. The waterfalls climb back and up in a series of small falls that lead up to a 80m ultimate waterfall. Here you you are surrounded by lush greenery, tourists and locals all enjoying the day. One of the best days and most beautiful waterfalls.

I had a blast with Seb and my new Kiwi friends, you know who you are, but unfortunately as they head south to go tubing, I'm off to the north to do some trekking.


  1. So fun! I hope you are doing great Buddy! I been followin you up from day 1 on your amazing escapades! I hope to catch up with you someday in Toronto! cheers mate!


  2. I loving the blog, really nicely done, man it would have been good to go north in Laos, but just not on my time scale. Hopefully still catch you at some point,


  3. amazing! and yes....we know who we are!!! had such a fun day at the falls. i hope we can recover that awesome video you took as we leaped off the waterfall! classic footage right there. and im so happy you got to see the monks walk. if only it wasnt storming that morning we would have loved to have joined you! peace out baby. haley xxx