So...On July 21st Michelle and I boarded a bus at 6a heading toward Savanaket, Laos. This bus ride like many of our long rides was pretty exhausting. The total time it took us to get to our final destination was close to 13 hours. Beyond the long ride, we did have some pretty nice memories. This was Michelle's first time doing a land crossing (Vietnam to Laos). I'd say this was the first land crossing I've seen where farm animals are littered all over the place. Once we crossed into Laos, you can definitely see a huge difference between the two countries. Vietnam is certainly much more developed and in the 2nd world. Laos on the other hand is definitely 3rd world.
On the bus ride, Michelle and I were very fortunate to meet a very well travelled man from Austia, Gerhardt and his 11 year old son Julean. Once we arrived in Savanaket, all of us sat down for dinner together and heard about their travels.
After spending a night in Savanaket, we left early the next morning for Pakse, about 280k south. Another super long ride, but this time we were on a public bus. This bus ride we stopped constantly. No bathroom break, no food break, only breaks to pick up people in various villages. On one of these stops, the bus was overrun with people offering food of many kinds. I mean many kinds. Picture 30 people holding in each hand 20, 24" bamboo sticks consisting of a chicken, frogs and/or bugs. As hungry as I was, I grabbed one with chicken. When I say chicken, it's a whole fricken chicken. Claws, head, neck...you name it. The problem was, I didn't have a place to put the bones and other various parts I didn't eat. Not a great choice of food to eat on the bus.
We arrived in Pakse after about 9 hours, completely exhausted. We were in no mood to lug our backpacks around looking at multiple places to sleep. We settled on a place recommended to us from our Austrian friends. Not a bad choice at all, but more money than we wanted to spend in Laos.
Okay...so, from multiple travellers Michelle and I have spoken with that have taken a similar route as we are doing, they didn't have many good things to say about Pakse. For many, this is a place that people just pass through. We really feel differently. After spending the first night in Pakse, we rented a motorbike and headed south to see an amazing temple (or Wat). This place was pretty amazing! Built into the mountain, I can't really say how old it is, but originally it was built by Hindi followers. It has since become a Buddhist place of worship.
The next day Michelle and I packed up a little backpack with some toiletries and headed out on the motorbike. We drove out to the Bolvean Plateau, 80k northeast of Pakse. There we saw multiple stunning waterfalls. I might add that Michelle had never seen a large waterfall and over the course of two days, she saw many. Words can't do it justice.
After driving this first leg, we went on a different road heading north by another 60k. On this stretch of road we saw where all the Lao coffee is grown. I might add, on this ride, there really aren't any cars or motorbikes around. We passed through multiple villages, but the biggest hazard was the occasional slowing down for various farm animals crossing.
Our final destination on the bike was Tad Lo. This area has three different waterfalls, all epic. One in particular I really can't describe. Picture looking over a granite face about 400-500 feet, straight down. You are all alone here. No barriers. no signs telling you to be careful. If you are afraid of heights (mom), forget it.
We ended up staying in Tad Lo which really is an oasis. It reminded me of the movie "The Beach." You're passing through all these villages, go down a dirt road for 4k only to end up by an amazing waterfall with a couple of guest houses. I can't beleive backpackers haven't found this place. We walked around a bit once arriving, which by the way, our asses were sore as all hell after riding for 5 hours. We ended up having dinner at a place called Jom's Restaurant. Now this is where the fun starts.
Jom, he's a great guy. Michelle and I were comfortably drinking our Beer Lao, sipping on some Lao Lao, when I got the urge to go to the bathroom. Turning the corner, there were four guys around a table, one holding a machette scrapping what I didn't believe he was scrapping. I pointed to the pig walking by, they shook their heads. I pointed to the dog next to the pig and they smiled. I saw a dog on a spit the last time I was here. Now here layed a dog dead on the table. I got out the video camera and watched them open the guy up and gut him. Holy shit. Jom asked if I wanted to try...I immediately said, "Fuck that, I've got a dog at home."
Fast forward, I went back to the table where Michelle and I ate dinner, all the while constantly checking out what was going on with the dog. So...I decided to do it. When in Rome right...I totally ate dog. I had this Dutch guy video tape me and all. Woke up in the morning feeling a bit guilty, thinking of Oliver. Jom told us how they got the dog. The villagers need money and they sell them. It's a delicacy. Foi Gras in Laos.
So now we're back in Pakse. We head out early in the morning for the 4000 Islands. There for about a week and head south to Cambodia. Not sure when or if we'll have email.
I love you all. We're thinking about everyone!
Kev & Michelle