Since leaving South America we haven’t really planned much more than a few days in advance but with 5 weeks between now and needing to be on a train out of northern Thailand into China and wanting to make sure that we see some of our ‘must dos’ we need to stop the avoidance tactics and ‘do our homework’.
One last prevarication of breakfast whereby I continue my interesting introduction to Laos food with ‘rice porridge’, a watery rice soup with gristly meat bits and unidentifiable vegetables, is followed by a few productive hours of reading the guidebook.
By lunchtime we have a rough outline of our next month or so and also a lot more information on Laos, which as usual we hadn’t read much about until we arrived in the country.
Ironically the Democratic Republic of Laos is one of 5 single party socialist/communist countries in the world that only opened is borders to tourists in the 1990s. It is very conservative in terms of dress and it’s customs, though many tourists flout this and potentially offend the locals by wearing revealing items that expose too much flesh. This highlights another aspect of the Laos people, incredible politeness, so it is unlikely that they would ever say anything.
A stroll into the Luang Prabang centre across a rickety bamboo bridge (that is not accessible in the wet season) and we find that Laos has managed to secure possibly the most laid back lifestyle of any country we have ever visited.
Life here is wonderfully relaxed, nobody seems in a rush, nobody seems get angry, almost as if the Mekong River that slowly meanders past the city sets the pace for the city. This ex-French colony gained independence in 1953, but has retained a great deal of the French cuisine with baguettes, pastries and crepes being available in cafes all over the place.
When we visit the cash machine we discover potentially why everyone round here seems so happy…..they are all millionaires! One withdrawal later we join them with a cool 1.5 million burning a whole in our wallet. Our new found wealth is sadly short lived once I discover that a beer sets you back 20,000 so sadly I have to email Aston Martin and cancel my order..