Friday, January 04, 2013

Heading South

I'm writing this from a hammock which is the way forward for any kind of stationary activity I reckon.

Perhaps confirming that we've been doing a bit of "flashpacking", we decided to grab a second internal flight from Vientiane to Pakse in an effort to maximise the time we have left as the road infrastructure in Laos is still pretty primitive and we'd have lost at least a day to dodgy bus travel. This allowed us to take a trip from Pakse to the wee (and I'm talking one street wee) town of Champasak.

Almost to offset the flight guilt, we took a sawng thaew (literally translated as "two rows" - think converted pickup trucks with benches down the side) to get there which was an adventure in itself. These things won't go until full (and I mean full - people, chickens, every good imaginable). So we sat for at least an hour and a half before departing, amusing locals with my gangly legs squished on a bench. My ass was numb by the end. People came by to sell pretty much everything you could imagine from the back (we bought bread - very tasty!). After all that, the trip itself was only 45 minutes.

Champasak itself was charming enough in a sleepy way, but the main attraction is the incredible Khmer temple ruins of Wat Phu. We rented a bike to get there, cycling through a series of small towns where kids were intrigued to see us. Lots of waves and "sabaidee" (Laos for hello). The temples themselves were so deserted considering their magnificence. I think most tourists leave Laos behind after Vientiane. The ruins are located at the base of a mountain, pretty much covered by jungle so you'd hardly know they were there until you were nearly at it. The temple grounds were so serene and peaceful - you could really feel the weight of history over this place (the place is largely undisturbed since the 10th century).

Got back just in time to catch a Beer Lao alongside the Mekong as the sun went down. Unreserved contentment at this point!

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