I assumed that because it was primarily a travel day, there wouldn’t be much to blog about. I was wrong! It’s easy to forget sometimes that it’s in the everyday activities that you find interest and fascination.
Fortunately Stella was much better on Friday morning, although not yet completely well. We enjoyed our last breakfast at Jungle House with Mike before suddenly remembering that we had a flight to catch! I had the opportunity to take some more photos around Jungle House before we left, admiring the detail of the decorations and furnishings. Every piece tells a story. Actually, Mike is a walking repository of stories – his life really does need to be a book! I particularly like the polished eggs, all in different stone types. He has quite a collection. For me they are extremely tactile, and I love the colours and patterns in them, but they also remind me of my paternal grandfather who was a great rockhound and used to collect and then polish rocks in his workshops.
It is difficult to adequately express our thanks to Mike and Xoukiet for providing such wonderful hospitality and I think even more importantly for giving us true insight into life in Laos – not just the tourist version! I know that we have learned a great deal more than we would have if we’d just been staying in standard hotels. They introduced topics and issues that I had barely thought about before, and caused me to think more deeply about the world we live in and how it operates. I have a whole lot more thinking to do! Nothing was ever too much trouble. Lifts into town and back as needed, washing done, gin and tonics poured, the dinners cooked by Xoukiet were local foods cooked and presented beautifully, and overall I think it was an experience that the whole family will continue to treasure. Jungle House really does deserve it’s number one Vientiane B’n’B spot! Thank you for welcoming us into your home.
Off to the airport! This is the domestic terminal of Vientiane’s airport. Things are certainly rather simple as compared to the domestic terminal in Melbourne – which is what you’d expect with the difference in the country’s wealth and population size. Everything worked very smoothly. I’d booked our flights online and paid for them from home, we presented the printed confirmation, and our bags were smoothly checked in and so were we. While waiting to board we enjoyed looking at what was available for sale in the snack shop. Note that the cigarettes were less than the price of a box of Pocky.
And on to the plane! I’d told the girls it would be a propeller plane, and it was. We walked across the tarmac and climbed up the ladder to get inside. It’s a very short flight between the two cities; around 50 minutes. The plane seated 6o people, and they even managed to deliver us water and a snack mid-flight. We were above clouds for much of the flight, but it was quite exciting once we began to descend and could see the hills and the river below.
We had originally hoped to take a day-long bus trip from Vientiane to Luang Prabang, but that idea was scuppered by a combination of Clare’s motion sickness and a travel advisory warning for the road from Van Vieng up to Luang Prabang that would have invalidated our travel insurance. We were disappointed not to have had the chance to see the countryside through the bus windows for a day. Only visiting major cities gives a skewed perspective of daily life, I suspect. But that’s just the way it had to be! As it was, we had a great flight experience instead.
Once we’d arrived we were collected at the airport and delivered to our boutique hotel, Lotus Villa. It is beautiful! The girls have an adjoining room to Dan and I. The rooms are fitted out beautifully and open onto a courtyard.
Stella was feeling pretty delicate and tired by this stage, so we took it in turns to go out and explore the local area. Luang Prabang is a UNESCO listed world heritage town, and unsurprisingly it is absolutely beautiful. There is an interesting article on the unintended effects of UNESCO listing on towns like this one here. The area does appear to now be predominately full of accommodation, cafes and restaurants, shops, travel desks and other tourist related businesses. I wonder how much is left here of “normal” Lao living?
It only took me about two minute to run across Ock Pop Tok. You’ll be hearing more about it later on, and those of you who are into textiles are possibly already familiar with it. In the meantime, look at these beautiful textiles!
I can tell that we’re still going to have to pace things for Stella’s benefit. She is quite perky for a few hours, but then needs to rest again. Not certain yet what today will bring, but I do have plenty of ideas! At the moment Clare and Dan have headed off to help with English language conversation at Big Brother Mouse, while Stella rests some more. There will be lots of tag-team activities.
I’m really glad that we went to Vientiane before coming to Luang Prabang. I feel that if we had only visited here we really wouldn’t have gained much insight into what the rest of Laos is like – I suspect that Luang Prabang could be a slight aberration. To me it has parallels with Ubud in Bali, or with Noosa or Daylesford in Australia. In different ways, of course, but I see similarities as well in terms of there being loads of tourists in a beautiful environment. We’re looking forward to our time here, but feel even privileged to have had our experience in Vientiane with Mike and Xoukiet. Sure, Vientiane is chaotic and dusty, but it has sparked so much learning and interest in the country of Laos. At the same time, we’re really going to enjoy the beauty and calm of Luang Prabang.