February 22nd, 2005

Tinkerbell Legacy -Travelling in Laos (rant 3 preamble)

Evening of 22 Feb.

I have been in Luang Prabang for 3 days now. When travelling about on a flexible plan and flexible schedule. the date of the month hardly matters and neither the day of the week. Unless one is aiming to be at a special Sunday market to meet different ethnic tribesmen coming specially to town.

However, I find I always noticed the moon and her phases. The moon is getting to be almost full moon and easier to see your path back.

Or when you finally get to a place with good Internet connection to log in and see the dates.

While Vang Vieng was a beautiful idyllic place to spend some days in, the internet connection and the PCs in cybercafes there were extrememly terrible. It took about 5 minutes to open an email. PCs were so slow that only 3 windows could be opened. The monitors were bad to the extent I thought I would be badly handicapped by my failure to bring my reading glasses. Now that I am in Luang Prabang and using better monitors, I realised my eyesight isnt that bad after all. And I can continue on my rantings. In VV, other than updates with my wife Joy, I gave up trying any writeups using blog. With the better internet in LP, I decided to try blogging. So now I am filling in below from extracts of emails to my wife.

14 Feb

Yesterday was declared to be a rest day.

I had a bit too much of the sun with a day cycling and
the 2nd day riding around on a small motorbike.

In the garden of the guesthouse I stayed in, there was this
hammock by the stream that I relaxed in
most of the day with a book. The air was nice and
cool even in the day. Not withstanding that this was not the
butterfly season as yet, there were so many butterflies around
bushes and the trees. There were tree yellows, crows, tigers,
painted jezebels, mormons, eggflies and sailors dancing about.

Today rented a motorbike again. Very soothing to ride
around this valley where Vang Vieng is in. Other than
for a tiny strip of houses and fields along side of
the road, forests and bamboo clumps covered much of
the mountains on both side of this valley. The river
is low now. Lots of people kayaking down the river or
renting big inner types to float down the river.

I will be trying that tomorrow

Then on 15 Feb finally got to try tubing down the river.

For 3.50 usd, you rent a big bus inner tube and got
transported to 4 km outside town to float down the
river. The days before, I rented a motorbike to ride
up the valley, still largely forested on both sides.

I mentioned the water was crystal clear, when it was
flowing thigh and ankle deep. It was not that clear
when a bit deeper. With the day slightly warm, the
coolness of the water was just lovely. The river
flowed very slowly taking you pass some of the most
beautiful spots here. Against the foot of the
towering steep slopes of the mountains with bonsai
like trees hanging to the mountain sides like chinese
brush paintings.

Along the river every 200 meters or so, the locals set
up shop selling beer for 1 usd a bottle, sandwiches
etc etc.

You get to jump off platform and dive into the river
to applause from all. Then you get back into the tube
and drift off until the next stop again. When the
water is not flowing that fast, little kids will hop
on your tube to give you a push. Two did that to me.
I happily bribe them a dollar each to push me the last
km back to town.

More people came to stay at Maylyn where I was
staying. At least when things go bump at night
between the calling of frogs and insects, I can safely
think of others staying and moving around.

The place is so relaxed that I went on another tubing

Today is a lazy day with me planning to go down to a
restuarant on the river bank to read and idle the day
away until sunset.

The next few days passed by with explorations of VV surrounding

Sometimes I would go back to that little parrot I befriended earlier
in VangVieng. Roberta Kendall who especially loves Psittacula gave
enough leads from my rather bad description that the little parrot is
a Finsch Slaty headed parakeet. Should she be there, I would share my
banan pancake with her.

Evenings would be spend by the river bank looking West to see
the sun slowly dropping behind the hills across the river. At this
stage, it no longer hurt the eye to look at the red disk as it outlined
the trees on the hill side. Then shortly after the sun set, at about
605pm, the next show started. Thousands of bats started to swarm
from the caves in the limestone hills. They gathered in clouds of dark
swirling specks and streamed to the east and the mountains and forests
on the other side of the valley. Waves after waves flowed for about 10 minutes. Then it was over.

20 Feb

It was time to go.

I took a minibus with 10 other travellers at 9am. Of
course, it eventually left Vang Vieng at 930 am. The
bus climbed and climbed on a twisty road running on
the ridges. It was sad to see a general state of
deforestration after leaving the valley of Vangvieng.

I recalled reading earlier traveller books describing
Laos as heavily forested. I yet have to see that.

It took 7 hours to reach Luang Prabang with periodic
stops and a stop for lunch. In the late afternoon, I
finally checked into a guest house near where the bus
let me off. Kind of predictable of me. I may decide
to look for another place tomorrow.

A nice surprise is the Internet service in LP is much
faster than in VangVieng. The PCs are better and my
eyes did not have to strain as bad as when in VV.