www.asiaphoto.de > Laos Pages > Travelogue
Laos is the least develloped of the three former French Indochina states (including also Vietnam and Cambodia). After many years of virtual isolation, Laos has become more open towards the outside world. However, caused by the lack of infrastructure, the number of visitors are still low compared to its neighbours Thailand or Vietnam. There isn't too much foreign influence, so Laos still represents the old Indochina. Unspoiled from mass tourism, Laos offers plenty of adventures for the individual traveller.
If you like a country depends on what you experienced on other trips and what you are really looking for. I just spent two weeks in Laos itself. Although I did not stay very long at most of the places, I think I could feel what makes Laos different from most other SEA countries. That feeling is something magic that is difficult to describe. I was overwhelmed by the peaceful and laid back atmosphere. Almost everyone I met was very friendly and helpful. People are not just after your money. Probably all of Asia was like that 30 years ago.
Here's an overview of my route:
Berlin - London - Bangkok - Vientiane - Luang Prabang - Pakbeng - Mouang Houn - Udomxai - Luang Nam Tha - Muang Sing - Vieng Phuka - Huay Xai - Chiang Khong - Mae Sai - Chiang Rai - Bangkok
At 3.30 pm local time we touch the bumpy runway of Bangkok's Don Muang
airport. I say goodbye to Anne, change some money, put off my warm pullover,
grab my backpack and here we go. As usual, I'm heading to the bus stop some 100 meters left from the
airport entrance, ignoring all touts and taxi drivers. Lots of girls in
their blue and white school-dresses are waiting there. A bit surprised,
they look at me, smiling. The first bus doesn't even stop, it's too crowded.
Two minutes later, another bus of line 59 (red bus, blue number) stops
and I somehow manage to get on it. The fare of only 3,50 Baht.is still
incredibly cheap. This time, it takes about three hours to make the 15-20
km to the city, most of the time is spent just waiting in endless traffic
jams. When the bus moves, hot, polluted air is blowing in my face through
the open windows, sometimes mixed with the delicious smell of foodstalls
near the road. Wow, welcome back to Bangkok. For those who want just
a quick and convenient ride to the city, the airport aircon bus to Sanam
Luang or a taxi would be the right choice. For all others, I highly recommend
the "slow bus" to get a first, real impression of Bangkok. There is another
farang (westerner) on that bus, a couple of seats behind me. When the bus
driver makes clear that he stops here and we have to take another bus,
we have a look at my map, but are not sure, where exactly we are. People
here seem not to be very familiar with city maps, noone of the locals can
show us our position, even the drunk policeman is no big help. Finally
another bus 59 arrives and we go on to Democracy Square. Roland is from
Cologne and on his first trip to Thailand. We decide to share a room and
walk up Sam Sen Road to the National Library where we turn into a small
sideroad and take a big and clean room in Sawatdee Guesthouse for 300 Bt.
I like it more here than in those crowded and noisy places in Kao San Road.
After checking in, we walk down the small, quiet roads to the Chao Praya
river. I'm surprised about the "low" air temperature in the evening, the
estimated 25 degrees are really comfortable now.
|Wat Ratchanatda / Loha Prasat|
|View from the express ferry|
|On the market|
We sit down at a table after choosing our food from the cooking pot.
I have a hot, spicy soup with vegetables and meatballs. We talk with an
old, chinese man at the table next to us. He spent all his life here in
Chinatown, working in the import/export business. Later, I learn that a
big part of the trading and financial activities in Thailand are controlled
by the Chinese. We take the express ferry again for our way back and enjoy
the ride and the sunset. In the evening, we head off to Ramkamhaeng university,
because I heard there are some non-touristy places like student pubs. After
having excellent (indonesian-muslim?) food in a simple restaurant we have
a look in the MTV music bar in Ramkamhaeng soi 24. Most guests are quite
young here, sitting at tables, chatting and drinking. They play loud, mostly
western disco and pop music, but there is no dancefloor. The place is OK
for a beer.
|Wat in Chinatown|
This time, I take the correct bus and reach my tailor quicker than expected.
There is not too much outbound traffic in the morning. I spend the afternoon
with Roland exploring Klong San Sap. We take some pictures in the area
between Phetchaburi Road and World Trade Center, which provided interesting
contrasts between the simple, wooden architecture of klong houses close
to the water and huge hotel skyscrapers in the background. Strange to find
places like that in the middle of Bangkok. From Ratchdamri Road pier we
take a klong boat out of the city and have a pretty long ride for 9 Bt.
Many properly dressed office workers and schoolchildren are on their way
back home. We return with another boat and get off at Golden Mount. A very
nice trip with many interesting views. Back at the guesthouse, I take a
shower and pack my stuff. I say goodbye to Roland and we exchange our adresses.
He plans to stay in Thailand for another two weeks before moving further
south to Malaysia and Singapore. There is no more time for the internet
cafe (yes, it's open this time!), I don't want to miss my train. I catch
the next bus and change at Sanam Luang to bus 25, which passes near the
railway station. When I get to the platform, the train is just slowly pulling
in. I buy a bottle of water and a beer and take my seat in car No.1. A
girl comes along selling food. I choose chicken curry on rice, all wrapped
in plastic. That's what I like about Asia: There is no reason to be hungry
at any time. Good food is available almost everywhere. At 7.20 pm the train
leaves the station, only 20 minutes late. The track out of Bangkok is very
bad, so we move very slowly for about half an hour. At the other side at
the window a Thai girl is studying a french exercise book. Later, at Don
Muang station I ask her about the book and if she likes to talk with me
in French. She moves to the seat next to me. It turns out that her English
is better than her French, so we do not speak French. However, we quickly
get into an interesting conversation. Her name is Jin, she is 19 and a
language student at Bangkok university. We talk about her studies,
living in Bangkok, and, of course, travel. She is going to visit some friends
in Vientiane, so we have the same way. Later, we get white sheets and the
seats are switched to sleeping position. Everyone is busy, prepairing for
the night. We move to our beds. Jin smiles at me, "Bonne nuit". This
is the first time I travel with a walkman. I fall asleep to the sounds
of R.E.M.'s new album "up", mixed with the monotonous rattle of the train.