35 Days in Laos

Information & Travel
rufus
udonmap.com
Posts: 607
Joined: November 5, 2005, 12:37 pm

35 Days in Laos

Post by rufus » August 24, 2014, 1:21 pm

macca46, I have a business visa and a work permit. The business visa gives me unlimited entry into Lao.
The Govt and organisations such as Milsearch do land clearing. When I worked at one of the mines we had a detnation afternoon every Thursday afternoon for uxos that were found.



User avatar
Laan Yaa Mo
udonmap.com
Posts: 5518
Joined: February 7, 2007, 9:12 am
Location: ຫຼວງພຣະບາງ, ວຽງຈັນ, ສະຫວັນນະເຂດ, ສ.ປ.ປ; ໂຕຮວນໂຕ (โทรอนโต), ແຄນາດາ (แคนาดา)

35 Days in Laos

Post by Laan Yaa Mo » August 24, 2014, 4:10 pm

I forgot to mention that the former Royal Palace Museum also contains a massive statue of former individual Sisavang Vattana.

Touts do exist in Luang Prabang and many of them hang around the Mekong riverside attempting to get punters to go for a boat ride for what I think was an excessive price. For instance, one guy wanted to take me to the Pak Ou Caves for 500,000 kip. He said the cost was high owing to the fact I would be his only guest. But, I was acquainted by tour prices enough by this time to know I could go with a group for 25,000 kip. And that is exactly what I did and paid.

This tour consisted of two middle-aged couples, myself and a 30-year old Japanese lady who I befriended. The rain was constant but not too bad. To board the narrow boat, one had to avoid getting stuck in the mud by walking on a thin plank to the craft. This was done successfully; however, I banged my noggin on the low roof while entering. This was the first in a long list of hitting my head on roofs, fans, low-riding signs, etc.

It was a two-hour ride to the caves running against the river current. The caves (Tham Ting and Tham Phoum) are located where the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers meet. They contain many statues of the Buddha, and are places of worship. On the way back, we stopped at the Whisky village (Ban Xang Hai). Only the Japanese girl sampled the 50% drink as she was cold and wet from the rain. I gave her my jacket for the ride back.

The ride back took just over 40 minutes as we were moving with the current. Much to my chagrin, the narrow plank had been swallowed up by the water so we had to leap off the boat and hope that we landed on a clump of grass rather than in the muddy ground. After that we scrambled up the slope for about 25 yards before we could get onto the steps leading to the top.

It should be noted that when I closed the door of my hotel room for the first time there was a message that was repeated in many hotels (not the Chinese-run hotels) in Laos. The message is something like this, 'Do not bring firearms, narcotics and members of the opposite sex into your room. If you violate this warning, you will have a fight with me'. It was signed by a member of the police force.

Nonetheless, on the edges of the Night Market, tuk-tuk drivers will ask you if you want to meet a Lao girl. They are not persistent. My answer was that I did not want to have a fight with the police. They told me not to worry. I responded that I was too old for such delightful pleasure. I can't remember, but the guy might have said the cost for an hour or less of fun was 150,000 kip (600 baht ?).

After a few days, people began to recognise me so we would engage in conversation. I guess you could say I can speak functional Lao now. But I had to ask many times, how do you say this or that in Lao. Luang Prabang was a good start for my trip to Laos. The next stop is Nong Khiaw.
ເຮົາຈະລ່ວງພັ້ນຄວາມຕາຍໄປ່ບໍ່ໄດ

User avatar
Earnest
udonmap.com
Posts: 1548
Joined: January 14, 2014, 3:56 am
Location: In bed with 747

35 Days in Laos

Post by Earnest » August 24, 2014, 4:31 pm

rufus wrote:I have lived in Lao for 9 years and still do so.
Interesting post.

How do you deal with things such as visas? Are the arrangements similar to Thailand?

What about things like satellite TV and internet speeds?

Is it fairly easy to buy farang food in supermarkets?

I've visited Vientiane but wasn't concerned with the above being an occasional visitor.
กรรม

DuiDui49
udonmap.com
Posts: 979
Joined: March 15, 2006, 3:10 pm
Location: Koh Samui

35 Days in Laos

Post by DuiDui49 » August 24, 2014, 5:08 pm

Earnest wrote:
rufus wrote:I have lived in Lao for 9 years and still do so.
Interesting post.

How do you deal with things such as visas? Are the arrangements similar to Thailand?

What about things like satellite TV and internet speeds?

Is it fairly easy to buy farang food in supermarkets?

I've visited Vientiane but wasn't concerned with the above being an occasional visitor.

As of Jan -2013 this is Visa Requirements To Retire in Laos:

http://www.retireinasia.com/visa-requir ... e-in-laos/
Best regards
//DuiDui
"Exercise is individual and nutrition is queen: together, you have a kingdom."

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.” 

"To grow and mature demands time and willingness to learn from your own misstakes"

User avatar
Earnest
udonmap.com
Posts: 1548
Joined: January 14, 2014, 3:56 am
Location: In bed with 747

35 Days in Laos

Post by Earnest » August 24, 2014, 5:25 pm

Thanks, Dui Dui, good read. Interesting how farangs can't drive in Laos if they're on a tourist visa. :D
กรรม

User avatar
Laan Yaa Mo
udonmap.com
Posts: 5518
Joined: February 7, 2007, 9:12 am
Location: ຫຼວງພຣະບາງ, ວຽງຈັນ, ສະຫວັນນະເຂດ, ສ.ປ.ປ; ໂຕຮວນໂຕ (โทรอนโต), ແຄນາດາ (แคนาดา)

35 Days in Laos

Post by Laan Yaa Mo » August 24, 2014, 5:27 pm

Foreigners can drive motorcycles and scooters, and pedal bicycles.

The nice point is they drive on the same side of the road as in Canada, but not the same as in Thailand or the United Kingdom.
ເຮົາຈະລ່ວງພັ້ນຄວາມຕາຍໄປ່ບໍ່ໄດ

Udonhoward
udonmap.com
Posts: 118
Joined: March 8, 2014, 1:32 pm

35 Days in Laos

Post by Udonhoward » August 25, 2014, 9:15 am

I'll try and answer a few questions:

I found internet connectivity was terrible. Even with supposedly 3G, I often couldn't even use SKYPE, which was a major problem for me. Fax machines are few and far between. I found the best way to send a fax was to go to the telephone company office, very reliable and cheap (about $1.00\page).

Farang food is available, there are several mini markets in Vientiane that cater to foreign tastes. Between them you can get almost anything, but foods for foreigners is expensive, you have to shop around and compare prices.

On a positive note, good French wine is widely available, and very affordable! Also, excellent French bread is found everywhere, a legacy of the French occupation I guess.

Laos has some strange laws:

Technically, there is a permanent 10:00 PM curfew, but I never saw any evidence that it was enforced.

It's illegal to drive with your auto or motorcycle lights on during the daytime (?). For safety sake, I always did anyway, but I would switch them off when I saw a police checkpoint coming up. I got stopped for it once.

Oh, there are more or less permanent police checkpoints. If they're on duty, they'll pull over anyone, and find a reason to "fine" you. No helmet? Registration papers not in order? Whatever... You pay a small fine (20,000 kip), and you're on you're on your way. I actually argued my way out of it a couple times, they'd give up when they realized I lived there and wasn't interested in paying them.

It is illegal for foreigners to have sex with a Lao woman (to whom they are not married). This IS enforced, and the police will raid apartments frequented by foreigners, unannounced in the middle of the night. There is a warning poster about this posted in the US Embassy. If caught, foreigners are fined and deported. (This happened to a student of mine). This makes Nong Khai a popular weekend destination for couples ;)

In spite of it's quirks, I'd highly recommend Vientiane for a visit, it's got great nightlife and excellent restaurants. :D

reddevil
udonmap.com
Posts: 296
Joined: July 28, 2013, 3:45 pm

35 Days in Laos

Post by reddevil » August 25, 2014, 10:50 am

Earnest wrote:Thanks, Dui Dui, good read. Interesting how farangs can't drive in Laos if they're on a tourist visa. :D
I think you will find that Farangs can drive in Laos on a tourist visa I have done this several times and had my name put on the insurance Lao side. Never been stopped by Lao police but have stopped to ask directions and never been asked even to show my license. By the way this was in my Thai car and also if you can not drive as a tourist over there how do all the Thais get over with there trucks/cars.

rufus
udonmap.com
Posts: 607
Joined: November 5, 2005, 12:37 pm

35 Days in Laos

Post by rufus » August 25, 2014, 2:56 pm

Yes, westerners can drive on a tourist visa.

How do you deal with things such as visas? Are the arrangements similar to Thailand?
See above. I work here.

I don't know when UdonHoward lived here, but it must have been a while ago.

What about things like satellite TV and internet speeds?
Satellite TV is fine. Internet is expensive, but we have 4G, though very dear. I believe Thailand does not yet. You cn get decent connection speeds and Skype is rarely a problem. Most internet cafes have fax machines and I have never had a problem in sending a fax.

Is it fairly easy to buy farang food in supermarkets?
Very easy. There are a number of supermarkets that cater to western palates and an excellent cheese shop - Scoobydoo.
Foreign food is about the same price as in Thailand, though your average street food is a bit dearer than in Thailand.
Wine is very well priced and of course we do not have silly regulations which prohibit alcohol being sold at certain times.

"Technically, there is a permanent 10:00 PM curfew"
Actually it is 23.00 not 22.00. There are many places that stay open much later.

"It is illegal for foreigners to have *** with a Lao woman (to whom they are not married)." This used to be the case but is not really enforced now at all. It might still be in rural areas.

User avatar
Laan Yaa Mo
udonmap.com
Posts: 5518
Joined: February 7, 2007, 9:12 am
Location: ຫຼວງພຣະບາງ, ວຽງຈັນ, ສະຫວັນນະເຂດ, ສ.ປ.ປ; ໂຕຮວນໂຕ (โทรอนโต), ແຄນາດາ (แคนาดา)

35 Days in Laos

Post by Laan Yaa Mo » August 25, 2014, 3:08 pm

My plan was to take a slow boat up the Nam Ou to Nong Khiaw. It was expected to take 8+ hours; however, owing to the heavy rains the river was not navigable in three places so I ended up in a mini-van with 10 other foreigners. The journey, through some magnificent scenery, took just over 3 hours.

I do not possess words to describe the beauty of Nong Khiaw. I stayed at the Vongmany Guesthouse with a room that opened up to two high mountains.The view was stunning. At times it was enough to sit on the veranda and just look at the view.

The Guesthouse also has a restaurant, which serves western, Lao and Thai food. One specialty was local river seaweed that was delicious. By the way, western food is available almost everywhere in restaurants in Laos. Hamburgers are around 50,000 kip. But, I never had any of that.

It was my hope to go on a trek to the nearby waterfalls but this idea went awry when the tour company said it was designed for younger more agile trekkers as the climbing and descent would wreak havoc with my knees. So, he brought out a brochure that had a tour for 'old people', yes, those were the words, and it consisted of a ride to the Pathok Caves about 2.5-3 kms. away. I declined the offer and walked through the old town, which seemed to go on and on forever until I got to the bus station and turned back. Many of the people I passed shouted out 'sabai dee (hello, welcome)', and I chatted with some of them.

The next day I decided to walk to the Pathok Caves. It was really hot and by the time I was three-quarters of the way there, I was wilting in the sun. It must have something to do with my age and the state of my knees. At this point, a Lao man around 40 invited me to hop on his motorcycle and he drove me the rest of the way. The sign at the entrance asked that a ticket be paid for and then one can wander about at one's own speed. But, there was no-one in sight to collect the kip so I marched on until I got to a fast-flowing stream. Now, I had not known this obstacle would hinder my journey. Hmmmm. Leeches abound in Lao waters, and I was wearing long pants, socks and running shoes.

Meanwhile, I noted there were hundreds of butterflies fluttering around the bushes and flowers. Maybe I was dizzy from the heat but it seemed that the butterflies were attacking me. This cannot be possible, can it? After 30 minutes or so of this, I decided to return and not venture over the stream onto the caves where locals hid when the U.S. planes flew overhead during the Vietnam War.

As the guidebook states, '...the scenery becomes gradually more dramatic, with limestone karsts rising around you.' One passes 4 or 5 villages on the way, and you can get a good look at local life during the walk.

Later in the evening I walked over by the bridge that separates the new from the old town. The bridge is a gathering point for friends to meet, for young men to eye the girls and vice-versa.

Under the bridge I noticed 4 women gathering something. I could not tell if they were hand-fishing or gathering some plant-like vegetables. I yelled down to them, and they invited me to join them, but I was not dressed properly to be gathering food in waist-deep water. It turns out they were collecting plants of some kind.

Night comes early to Nong Khiaw, and this small town has little to offer the tourist looking for nighttime entertainment. That was okay as my old body went to sleep by 9 anyway. Even the opportunity to watch Lao luk thung and lum on tv was not enough to keep me awake.

My neighbours consisted of a lesbian couple - French and Korean - who found their own way to entertain themselves with a minimum of cries of joy and pain. 555+

The owner of Vongmany, his wife, their sister-in-law and their young children were great hosts. The wife eventually wheedled the e-mail address of my son from me while introducing her 20-year old niece. I kept asking her if she wanted my e-mail address for any desperate Nong Khiaw female friends, but she kept saying no, just the address of your son. 555+
ເຮົາຈະລ່ວງພັ້ນຄວາມຕາຍໄປ່ບໍ່ໄດ

User avatar
Earnest
udonmap.com
Posts: 1548
Joined: January 14, 2014, 3:56 am
Location: In bed with 747

35 Days in Laos

Post by Earnest » August 25, 2014, 3:12 pm

reddevil wrote:I think you will find that Farangs can drive in Laos on a tourist visa I have done this several times and had my name put on the insurance Lao side. Never been stopped by Lao police but have stopped to ask directions and never been asked even to show my license. By the way this was in my Thai car and also if you can not drive as a tourist over there how do all the Thais get over with there trucks/cars.
There you go, I stand corrected.
กรรม

User avatar
Laan Yaa Mo
udonmap.com
Posts: 5518
Joined: February 7, 2007, 9:12 am
Location: ຫຼວງພຣະບາງ, ວຽງຈັນ, ສະຫວັນນະເຂດ, ສ.ປ.ປ; ໂຕຮວນໂຕ (โทรอนโต), ແຄນາດາ (แคนาดา)

35 Days in Laos

Post by Laan Yaa Mo » August 25, 2014, 3:18 pm

I agree with Rufus about the satellite tv. It was everywhere through the places I visited including very poor villages.

I do not know much about the telephone system as I bought a cheap Lao Telecom just for placing and receiving calls. Almost all of the Lao I saw on buses had a telephone of some kind. Samsung seemed to be reserved for young people and I only saw a few with it. Unitel or something like that was the most widespread in use among the people. This, remember, is just an observation when riding the bus.

Peanut butter is more expensive in Laos than in Thailand but the French bread, which is really good, is not expensive at all. I only really went to one grocery store like Tops. It was in Pakse and there were a fair number of western items.
ເຮົາຈະລ່ວງພັ້ນຄວາມຕາຍໄປ່ບໍ່ໄດ

User avatar
Earnest
udonmap.com
Posts: 1548
Joined: January 14, 2014, 3:56 am
Location: In bed with 747

35 Days in Laos

Post by Earnest » August 25, 2014, 3:25 pm

Ah yes, this is what I read.
Retirees staying in Laos on a tourism visa are also officially forbidden from using a motor vehicle in the country or applying for a driver’s license. As with many of the other regulations in Laos, this rule is also somewhat flexible and dependent on the mood of police – many foreign tourists in Laos buy cars and drive without issues.
http://www.retireinasia.com/visa-requir ... e-in-laos/

Many thanks for the info, chaps. Interesting how they have 4G up and running.
กรรม

rufus
udonmap.com
Posts: 607
Joined: November 5, 2005, 12:37 pm

35 Days in Laos

Post by rufus » August 25, 2014, 4:07 pm

Laan Yaa Mo, great report. I enjoy reading this.

User avatar
Laan Yaa Mo
udonmap.com
Posts: 5518
Joined: February 7, 2007, 9:12 am
Location: ຫຼວງພຣະບາງ, ວຽງຈັນ, ສະຫວັນນະເຂດ, ສ.ປ.ປ; ໂຕຮວນໂຕ (โทรอนโต), ແຄນາດາ (แคนาดา)

35 Days in Laos

Post by Laan Yaa Mo » August 25, 2014, 5:04 pm

Thanks. Laos was great. I haven't had this much fun and adventure since I was in my 20s many, many moons ago.
ເຮົາຈະລ່ວງພັ້ນຄວາມຕາຍໄປ່ບໍ່ໄດ

rufus
udonmap.com
Posts: 607
Joined: November 5, 2005, 12:37 pm

35 Days in Laos

Post by rufus » August 25, 2014, 7:02 pm

When you are in Vientiane next, pm me and we will have a beer, (or wine, or Lao Lao).

User avatar
Laan Yaa Mo
udonmap.com
Posts: 5518
Joined: February 7, 2007, 9:12 am
Location: ຫຼວງພຣະບາງ, ວຽງຈັນ, ສະຫວັນນະເຂດ, ສ.ປ.ປ; ໂຕຮວນໂຕ (โทรอนโต), ແຄນາດາ (แคนาดา)

35 Days in Laos

Post by Laan Yaa Mo » August 26, 2014, 11:36 am

Shall do, but it will be next year as I am returning to Canada on Friday. The flight path coming to Bangkok went over the Ukraine and Iceland. I am hoping an adjustment will be made. 55+

I will probably fly to Phongsali next year, and will be in Vietiane for sure. Thanks.
ເຮົາຈະລ່ວງພັ້ນຄວາມຕາຍໄປ່ບໍ່ໄດ

User avatar
Laan Yaa Mo
udonmap.com
Posts: 5518
Joined: February 7, 2007, 9:12 am
Location: ຫຼວງພຣະບາງ, ວຽງຈັນ, ສະຫວັນນະເຂດ, ສ.ປ.ປ; ໂຕຮວນໂຕ (โทรอนโต), ແຄນາດາ (แคนาดา)

35 Days in Laos

Post by Laan Yaa Mo » August 26, 2014, 10:30 pm

There was a change of plans again. My original plan was to take the bus from Nong Khiaw to Xieng Khouang (Phonsavan) via a stopover in Vieng Thong as this is supposed to be one of the most scenic routes in all of Southeast Asia. However, the idea of constant rain made me think the opportunity to make the best use of this journey would be lost in the mist. So, I decided to take the bus to Oudomxai for two nights and take one day to tour waterfalls, hot springs and the village of Lam Ta. Then I would go back to Luang Prabang for another few nights and travel to Xieng Khouang from there. The trip from Nong Khiaw to Oudomxai was supposed to last about 3 and a half hours.

The first hour was in a sawngthaew (truck with wooden planks to serve as benches) to a junction where I would get bus transport to Oudomxai. It was a interesting and pleasant ride as I befriended a few people and their children.

The bus was a small thing, probably from China. There were 25 seats. As I learnt later this was increased by placing stools between the aisles for more passengers. By the time we got to Oudomxai, the bus was packed including 3 farang girls that were picked up along the way. My seat was near the back on the aisle so I had a bit of leg room.

The journey was over a pot-holed non-paved road that twisted around curves and hillsides. This hit some children the wrong way. I heard a bit of a commotion at the back and turned to see a young boy fast asleep with shrimp thrown up all over his clothes. Meanwhile his mother was trying to breastfeed a younger child. It was awkward to say the least for her.
I gave her the kleenex I had whilst the ticket-collector gave her a few plastic bags from her plentiful supply. It is common for people to throw up as the bus twists and turns on its route.

About two hours later, the baby beside an Australian girl (she was sitting on one of the stools) vomited. The lady with the two young kids had already left so I told the girl to take a seat at the back, which she did. But, she sat where it was still wet as she did not want to sit close to a Lao man. Up to her.

We arrived at Oudomxai a few hours late, and it was pouring rain. I got a tuk-tuk to my hotel; however, the Chinese hotel owner refused to recognise the Agoda reservation and wanted thirty dollars for the night. I refused and walked down the street near the bus station where there were a string of Chinese hotels. I got one for $8/night on the main floor. It was clean and very spacious.

After eating I decided to take a tour of the town. One point to note about Lao towns is that there is not much in the way of lighting. So, I got lost. I walked around looking for the bus station since it was near the hotel, and asked a few people for directions. They pointed to an area I had passed about 30 minutes ago so I thought they must have misunderstood my question which is understandable as I am not fluent in Lao. By the time I got to a bridge it was pitch dark and the bullfrogs where out in full force. This prompted me to turn around and head back in the direction I came and try another street. It was now ten and I reached the bus station just where the people had said it was. I must walked right by the station. I did note that there were two young ladies in short-shorts hanging out by a hotel at a tuk-tuk stand in conversation with a number of men. I made a mental note of the name of the hotel.

Owing to the heavy rain there would be no waterfall, no hot springs and no Lam Ta, thus the next morning I took the small bus to Luang Prabang. The 5 hour trip lasted 8 hours as we were slowed by road construction. The bus idles whilst a truck gets filled with sand and mud and moves on. The operation takes about 20 minutes, and there were four delays like this. Meanwhile, we were going through the mountains so it meant another ride with children and some women throwing up. It is good that the bus attendants keep plastic bags for this purpose. Other delays were a result of many pee breaks, and women halting the bus to purchase fruit and vegetables. One cannot deny that a ride on a Lao bus through the mountains is colourful. And, as usual, the bus was packed to the gills with people, food, and various odds and ends.
ເຮົາຈະລ່ວງພັ້ນຄວາມຕາຍໄປ່ບໍ່ໄດ

User avatar
Lao-miner
udonmap.com
Posts: 125
Joined: November 7, 2009, 5:40 am

35 Days in Laos

Post by Lao-miner » August 27, 2014, 7:40 am

Great post laan yaa mo
they are an interesting bunch the Lao. ive been in laos 8 and half years now, married a Lao girl and we have 2 little Laosys ( Lao aussies) Some things about Laos still piss me off , like the rule of not driving with your headlights on in the day time, i always forget to turn it of, Yet its not illegal to drive without wearing a seatbelt, Go figure? all minor irritants however, and i do sometimes forget that i live here because its "different" Laos is changing rapidly and modernising yet still remains quite authoritarian in the communist way. I think theres always been a sort of so called high class here but the growing number of middle class is steadily rising as evidenced by the expensive cars on the street, i was amazed a few days ago to drive past a newly built super car showroom , all kinds of luxury cars in there, where do they get the money? having said that you can still see a lot of grinding poverty and consequentially it appears the crime rate in the capital is going up with what the law like to refer to as anti social activities, bag snatchings , muggings, etc.

User avatar
Shado
udonmap.com
Posts: 1683
Joined: January 22, 2007, 4:58 am
Location: Udon Thani

35 Days in Laos

Post by Shado » August 27, 2014, 8:47 am

As usual, enjoyed reading your report Khun Laan Yaa Mo. You reminded me that we still have to be a bit careful when we take some of the village dek dek for a trip in the car. Some of the little ones are not yet used to the motion.

Post Reply

Return to “Laos”