Luang Prabang Journey

Feeling abit rough from the night before and still tired from the Gibbons experience we set off early down the Mekong river on yet another slowboat, this time for 2 days with a 1 night stop over in a shady port called Pak-beng. Jan was feeling particually bad because on of her rare but painful cluster head ache had kicked in.
Day 1
The boat was very over crowded but we expected this so got up extra early to make sure that wed get a seat.Six of the backpackers that we met were also on the boat so all sat together which was good,but also meant that by about 1pm the beers had started flowing, while taking in the views,playing cards and chatting, but Jan was still suffering bless her so she tried her best to curl up and sleep on the edge of the boat.
We stopped constantly all day at different villages along the river, while the locals came aboard trying to sell crisps beers and clothes. One woman was swinging around a stuffed otter which she didnt manage to get rid of ,cant think why.
We arrived at the small port of Pak-beng which had nothing more to offer than some run down guest houses.It was about 5pm ish and was quickly starting to get dark,so imagine this a crammed boat full of travellers that had been stuck on the boat all day scambling about in the dark trying to find there bags.Then after fighting our way though to find our bags we had to climb over another 2 boats to get to land,then charge up the hill past all the locals trying to sell rooms to get a room for a better price before all the cheap ones were taken.This was abit of a challenge but not too bad.
Day 2
We were up early again to get a decent place on the boat,this ended up pretty much the same as the first day sitting together with our friends drinking beer and playing cards.When we arrived in Luang prabang the same thing happened all the backpackers were up and off the boat in a flash marching about to get the cheapest rooms.
Luang prabang is a small village that has its own character and alot of French influence.We spent afew days here just wondering about.We visited 2 of the many temples and spent most of our time spending all our bloody money at the fairly large night market.Nearly everything that is sold on the market is hand made, so Jan and myself were having a field day buying afew bits for the house that we haven’t got yet.It is also quite small so we kept bumping into all the other backpackers that we’d met, which meant we were forced to drink more beer with them(yeh right).We forced ourselves to get up at 5.45 one morning to watch what they call in Laos as giving arms.This basiclly is when up to 300 monks awake early every morning to recieve food food locals and tourists(mainly sticky rice) this is because they are not allowed to beg for or buy there food.The morning that we watched them there was about 150 or so it doesn’t last that long (which meant we got another hour in bed)but it was good to see.We left the same day to go to Viang Vieng our next stop.
(written by Hamsouth traveller)

What to see in Xieng Khouang

Xieng Khouhang consists of six districts Muang Khoune, Muang Phonsavanh, Muang Nong Hai, Muang Kham, Muang Mork, and Muang Phou Koud. Situated in the southernmost remote provinces of Laos, the area was part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, where troops, supplies and artillery were smuggled out of northern Vietnam and through the mountains on the eastern edge of the country, and subsequently into southern Vietnam.
While the vast majority of people reading this will be aware of the Vietnam War fought between 1963 to 1974, fewer know that a large part of the war was fought in Laos, giving the country the dubious title of being ‘the most bombed country in the world’.During the space of eleven years, the equivalent of one bomb was dropped every eight minutes.In total, two million tonnes of ordinance was dropped on Laos, more than on Germany and Japan combined during the Second World War. As a result the vast majority of sights within the province are dedicated to paying respects to the great tragedy that was inflicted on the area and its people.
The Plain Of Jars
Plain of JarsThe most distinctive and enigmatic of all of Laos attractions are the Plain Jars. Steeped in mystery, the large area extending around Phonosavan from the southwest to the northeast is littered with stone jars some as tall as 3. 25 m, how and why they got there is the subject of speculation by both locals and archeologists, although nothing has been set in stone – the general consensus is one of bewilderment.
The jars are thought to be over 2,000 years old, but again this is just speculation and with no organic materials around them it is difficult to tell. Some of the locals believe the jars were built to store rice wine, when in the 6th century the Lao-Thai hero – Khun Jeaum defeated Chao Angka.
Regardless of the story, this archeological area is an imperative piece of land in the studying of prehistoric Southeast Asia. With over 50 sites ranging from a single jar to groups of 400. A tour guide will advise on the most attractive sights and the safest routes to access them. The biggest and easiest to access of all the six sites is southwest of Phonsavan and features 250 jars that weigh between 600 kg to one tonne each.
A former visit from the Thai Crown Prince resulted in two Pavilions and restrooms being built, the site also houses a little Laos-style restaurant.
Mooing Kham
This quiet town is very pleasant, but limited in recreation and sightseeing opportunities with just a few guesthouses, a couple of restaurants (mostly specialising in noodle soup) a market and the bus stop.
The two premier attractions of Muang Kham are the hot springs and Tham Piew, a large cave that housed over 400 civilians, who were killed when a single rocket was fired into the cave during the Second Indochina War. The limestone cave floor is littered with debris from the explosion that has been identified with a plaque as happening in 1969. To reach the cave visitors must first embark on a trek through the Hmong and Thai Dam villages, before hiking through the forest to reach the caves mouth.
No memorial or monument has been erected; the blackened walls serve as a testimony to the tragedy, although some believe the cave was in fact being used as a makeshift Vietnamese hospital.
War Memorials
South of Phonosavan are two major war memorials set 1 km apart on separate hill tops. Both are set in the style of traditional Laos stupas (each containing the bones of the dead) although one is representative of the Vietnamese and the other the Laos lives lost.
Inscribed on the Lao monument is the slogan ‘The nation remembers your sacrifice’, erected in 1998 a nearby slab of granite has the names of all the soldiers lost inscribed on its surface. The Vietnamese war memorial has the inscription ‘Lao-Vietnamese solidarity and generosity forever’.
Both memorials enjoy sprawling views of the countryside and are especially attractive at sunset.
Muang Khoun
Muang KhounLocated 30 km southeast of Phonsavan. This town was once the Royal Capital and the centre of the Phuan Kingdom.
Some might describe it as a shadow of its former self and they would be quite accurate in doing so. A few French colonial buildings still remain in the town centre alongside Watt Is Phum- home to a sitting Buddha.
On the outskirts the ancient stupas tower over the city and the vistas surrounding the structures are well worth the hike. A few kilometers beyond the old capital, near the village of Ban Phai, lies a jar site; the jars are located just off an old dirt road and, unlike the jars at the three main sites, strangely enough they’re built from granite.
Muang Khan Cemetery
Unique and worth a visit just for the unusual site of mixing together Thai Dam animist tombs, Catholic headstones and Laos (Buddhist) tombs, situated east of Phonosavan.
That Foun (Old Xieng Khuang- Muang Khoun )
This Buddhist stupa is also known as That Chomsi. It measures about 30 metres and was built in 1576. The Lanna inspired structure stands tall over the town and can be entered by a cavity left by the Chinese Ho marauders, over a century ago after they looted the stupa in order to seize valuable Buddha images enshrined within.
The stupa was erected to cover ashes of Lord Buddha that were brought from India, during a time when Buddhism was proliferating in Laos. There are few if any sleeping options within this area so it is advised to take a day trip from the more populated Phonosavan.
Muang Sui
Muang SuiUsed by the Americans as a landing site for planes during the Second Indochina War, much like neighboring Muang Khoun the town has endured a gradual rebuilding process since its obliteration during the war, and is now part of the Muang Phu Kut district.
Once a quaint town housing antique Buddhist temples and provincial architecture, visitors can still bear witness to some of the temple remains, in particular War Ban Phong where monks still reside.
Tham Pa
These two limestone caves hid hundreds of small Buddha figures from the Haw invasion a few centuries ago.
Dimly lit with the help of the rigged electrical lights (switched on by the locals for a small donation) making the passageways that link one cave to another accessible. The caves persist deep into the hill side and are pretty amazing.

For more  information you can visit http://www.laotravelguides.com/

Thing to see in Vientiane

For many, Laos is the highlight of their Southeast Asia trip as it has been saved from the mass tourist trail that has led to her neighbours –Thailand and Vietnam. This relatively undeveloped nation is located between rugged mountains and the fertile low lands of the Mekong, and is touched by both European and Asian cultures. The city’s man-made structures are as distinctive as the areas of natural splendor.
Modernity has yet to infiltrate this sleepy capital, where temples and religious affiliations blend with the rural foundations of the city. The majority of the city’s sights are situated within relatively close proximity of each another due to the fact that an urban sprawl has yet to materialize within the city.
That Luang
That LuangA symbol of Laos’s nationhood and the country’s most sacred Buddhist monument, That Luang was built in the 16th century under the rule of King Setthathirat. A symbol of the main stupa appears on the country’s national seal.After being destroyed by the Thai invasion in the 19th century, the monument was later restored to its original design, with inclusion of many references to Lao culture and identity, hence its status as a symbol of the nation.Each level features different architectural designs with encoded Buddhist doctrine. The impressively gilded structure is situated about four kilometres northeast of Vientiane.
Wat Sisaket
Wat SisaketThe only temple in Vientiane to survive the sacking of the city by the Siamese in 1828, Wat Sisaket is the oldest and considered by many to be the most interesting of the Laotian temples.The interior walls of Ho Trai and the main hall feature hundreds of little niches and shelves containing a total of 6,840 Buddha images and Buddhist inscriptions from the 18th century.Over 300 hundred Buddha images varying in size and material reside on the shelves, amongst the silver and ceramic Buddhist images, most of which are from 16th -19th century Vientiane.
Wat Ho Phakeo
Wat ho PhakeoThis temple was built in 1565 as a royal chapel and repository for the celebrated statue of the Emerald Buddha, which the Laotians had seized from Northern Thailand in 1551. The statue remained in the temple until 1778, when the Thais invaded and recaptured it, taking it to Bangkok. The temple was destroyed in 1828-1829 during the Thai sacking of Vientiane; rebuilt in 1936; and restored again in 1993. Inspired by a 19th century Bangkok temple style, it is renowned throughout Southeast Asia for its intrinsic value to Buddhist art.
Patuxai
PatuxaiPatuxai (literally Victory Gate or Gate of Triumph), formerly the Anousavary or Anousavari Monument, is situated in the centre of Vientiane. Built between 1962 and 1968, the Laotians built it as a mark of respect for all those who fought in the struggle for independence from the French.Ironically, the monument bears a slight resemblance to the Arc de Triomphe, although the attention to detail and intricate design is typically Laotian, boasting four rather than two archways. The view from the top is spectacular. Built with cement that was purchased from America, with the intention of constructing a new airport, the locals sometimes refer to the monument as the ‘vertical runway’.
That Dam
That DamKnown as the ‘Black Stupa’, many locals believe this mythological structure was once inhabited by a seven-headed dragon (now dormant) that stood to protect the city from the threat of the Siamese. Another tale that does the rounds says that the gold that once graced the surface was taken when the Siamese army ransacked Vientiane back in 1828. Situated in the centre of the city, just past the US embassy, you will find one of Laos’ oldest temples.
Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan)
Buddha park24km south of Vientiane, Buddha Park is in a field near the Mekong River. The park, as its name would suggest, is littered with religious sculptures and was built in 1958 by the philosopher Bunleua Sulilat who famously combined Buddhist and Hindu philosophy, mythology and iconography.The featured gods range from Vishnu to Arjuna and many in between, all allegedly crafted by unskilled artists who followed the explicit directions of Sulilat. The pumpkin-shaped monument has three levels, each representing heaven, hell and earth.Beyond these the roof area has a superb panoramic view of the surrounding park and river.Ban HomJust 16 kilometers outside of Vientiane situated on the banks of the Mekong is the agricultural city of Ban Hom. A day trip might involve taking a wander around the preserved temples before visiting a primary school or watching a weaving demonstration, where the process of fabric making is laid bare. This day is really about getting to grips with authentic Laos culture, with everything from school presentations to observing traditional farming and fishing methods on the itinerary.
Laos National Cultural Hall
laos national culture hallBuilt by the Chinese in the 1990’s, as a gift to the Laos people, the building is not the most attractive Vientiane has known. Occasionally French cinema and Lao classical dance events are held here within the hall, although it is difficult to access information to find out exactly when. Those interested should keep an eye on the Vientiane Times.

Laos National Museum
Laos National MuseumThis French colonial building, formerly a government office block, is now used to document the struggles and the eventual overthrowing of the French and the subsequent implementation of the communist structure. The Museum Revolution is a two-storey colonial mansion, separated into different sections; each relevant to the country’s history. Departments include culture, archaeology, history and politics, with the latter two making up the majority of the display. This is an interesting way to get better acquainted with the history of Laos through the eyes of the country and visitors should keep in mind that the English translations are not that detailed but the photographs and displays are well put together and insightful all the same.

For more information about Laos, you should visit http://www.laotravelguides.com

The Journey To SiemReap

It was a long bus journey from HoChiMinh into SiemReap, Cambodia but somehow with all the intricacies of the road, landscape, happenins and people the 12 hour journey became short.

We first stopped at the Vietnamese border after three hours along with the rest of the bus passengers and it went smooth.A few minutes later the Cambodian border came a long took a little longer although not as much. Right after the bus driver stopped along the border to eat lunch, I was lucky enough that the waitress spoke English and ordered the usual chicken and rice and fortunately they accepted Vietnamese money.

After eating we headed along many roads with beautiful landscapes. The people from Cambodia are as beautiful as their landscapes and are very hard working. The roads to Phnom Penh were pretty good, I expected more dirt roads but actually the great majority were asphalted. As I noticed also what the floods had done in the farms as many farms were flooded. After leaving around 7:30 from Vietname we reach Phnom Penh, Cambodia around 2pm. I changed bus from here to SiemReap and reach around 8pm. I was lucky enough to get a good tuk tuk driver and he drove me to my guesthouse.

I had a great sleep from the bus ride and now walked into the city. A walk along the river was good and today I will explore the city and plans for Angkorwat some more. Traveling through South East Asia is very ECONOMICAL, specially if you stay in guesthouses/hostels/moderate hotels and they are very clean with AC, hot water, and other amenities. I RECOMMENDED THIS TO EVERYONE.

Cambodia Travel Guide

We’ve trusted our eyes our whole life, but once visiting Cambodia, we may start doubting them.

In front of Angkor Wat, one of the world’s greatest achievements, we seem to be so tiny. Drops of the sunlight piece the ancient walls and bring people from the modern life back to the Empire of Kingdom Champa as well.

Emerging from a violent past of human rights atrocities, war and political instability, Cambodia is recovering from its past and slowly becoming a top destination on the South East Asian travel map. Travellers to Cambodia can now enjoy many wonderful aspects of this country. Pleasurable moments can be had in the snatches of friendly conversations, in the tranquillity ushered in by Buddhist prayer or in the sounds of workers in the rice paddies. One can also search for the charms of the French-era capital city Phnom Penh, visit the tragic horrors of the Killing Fields or drift past sleepy riverside locations on a boat.

If looking for a relaxation on beach, we can take a bus to Sihanouk Ville, the only maritime port of Cambodia where we also can explore the south coast and nearby Ream National Park.

How else to explain the exotic tremendous splendor of the 9th- to 13th-century Khmer temples, the lively Apsara dances, the tropical islands with barely a beach hut in sight and the untold adventures lurking in northern forests? All only can be explained by your own experience.

Hanoi In My Mind

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is a city of lakes, shaded streets and verdant public parks. Come to Hanoi, you will have a chance to explore the rich cultural heritage with the Old Quarter, I’m very exciting to go around Old Quater by cyclo, walking in Old Quater to buy clothers( Hang Dao Street), some gifts, prominent delicious Vietnamese cuisine as well as other interesting spots.

When you visit a centre of Hanoi, you can see the Turlte Tower among the Sword Lake and around the Old Quarter. Besides you can go to :
The Flag Tower of Hanoi (Vietnamese: Cột cờ Hà Nội) is a tower in Hanoi, Vietnam, which is one of the symbols of the city. Its height is 33.4 m (41 m with the flag). Built in 1812, the tower, unlike many other structures in Hanoi, was not destroyed during the French administration (1896-1897), being used as a military post.
The Hoa Lo Prison (Vietnamese: Hỏa Lò), later known to American prisoners of war as the “Hanoi Hilton”, was a prison used by the French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners and later by North Vietnam for prisoners of war during the Vietnam War.
Temple of Literature (Vietnamese: Văn Miếu), known as “pagode des Corbeaux” during the period of French colonisation, is a temple of Confucius in Vietnam. Although several Văn Miếu can be found throughout Vietnam, the most prominent and famous is that situated in the city of Hanoi, which also functioned as Vietnam’s first university. It is featured on the back of the one hundred thousand Vietnamese đồng banknote.
Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is both a research centre and a public museum exhibiting the ethnic groups of Vietnam. The mission of the Museum is scientific research, collection, documentation, conservation, exhibition and preserving the cultural and historic patrimony of the nation’s different ethnic groups. The museum also serves to guide research, conservation, and technology that are specific to the work of an ethnographic museum.
The One Pillar Pagoda (Vietnamese: Chùa Một Cột, formally Diên Hựu) is a historic Buddhist temple in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. It is regarded alongside the Perfume Temple, as one of Vietnam’s two most iconic temples.
Van Cao

Vietnam Travel Guides

One Pillar Pagoda

To the rest of the world, Vietnam is known as a poor country, which has been suffered a lot from the wars. Nowadays, with huge efforts from different social classes and “open window” policies of the Government, Vietnam gradually becomes a ‘new destination’ to the worldwide. Vietnam tourism reveals as a place of peace, unique culture and unspoilt nature. A visit to this fascinating country will indulge your senses and open your mind.

In the North , there’s a Hanoi elegant with friendly people, a Halong Bay with amazing caves listed on UNESCO World Heritage as well as the diversity of its ethno linguistic minorities in which Sapa is one of attractive places.

In the Central, we can explore spectacular beaches, dunes, and lagoon, There is an ancient imperial city of Hue, a tranquil Hoi An where you can have clothes made in one day and a Da Nang dynamic by Han river.

Down to the south, Nha Trang with best bays of the world is a “cannot be missed” destination.

In the South , visitors encounter modern life in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and the fertile alluvial delta of the Mekong River. A leisure boat trip can be taken to witness famous floating markets.