Laos












3/10 2006 Huay Xai, Laos
Lat N 20° 16,70', Long E 100° 24,67'
Today: 87.8 °F ( 31 °C)
03 Oct 2006
52826 km

We have been a bit worried about the conditions of the road between Huay Xai and Lung Nam Tha. The 200 kilometer road is the only way to reach other parts of Laos. All roads in Laos are rated in a four grade system; highway, asphalt road, dirt road, dirt road for 4-wheel drive only. During the monsoon this last dirt road is usually very difficult or impossible to travel. Do we need to tell you that our road fit the last category…

On top of everything we are now in the last month of the monsoon and we are not sure how this affects the road conditions. If we can not make it this way we really do not know what to do. But as long as the dust lingers in the air we are happy. This means we don’t risk getting stuck in the mud .

We went half the way today and stopped for the night in Baan Donchai. Tomorrow we are getting picked up here by a jeep to go on a real two day adventure. In Baan Donchai the whole village came to see us and our strange car.


















4/10 2006 Baan Donchai, Laos
Lat N 20° 24,97', Long E 100° 51,25'
Today: 87.8 °F ( 31 °C)
04 Oct 2006
52905 km

Wow what a cool place! We are staying in a canopy tree house in the middle of nowhere. The accommodation is primitive and it is really not for those who have a scare of heights. The only way to get to the tree house is through a “zipper” line high above the ground.

In Bokeo Forrest Reserve they have an eco project called the”The Gibbon Experience”. They want to show how everyone benefits from taking good care of the forrest and the wild life instead of cutting down the trees. Read more about the project at www.gibbonx.org .

For many years everyone thought that the Gibbons where extinct. But a while ago they found a Gibbons colony here in Bokeo. Now there are about 300-400 wild gibbons living here. If we are lucky we get to hear them sing or maybe even spot them.

We got picked up by a jeep that took us to a remote village. From there we had to walk for an hour thorough the woods. All of a sudden a monkey jumped up on Catharinas back. When it tried to open her backpack Bert decided to try to scare it away. The monkey got scared and tangled up in her hair. It turned out to be one of the orphan wild animals the project takes care of. They feed four monkeys and an eight months old bear.

All of us were geared up in a harness for rock climbing and gloves. One at the time we fastened our carabin-roller on the steel wire and “zipped” away high above the ground with an iiiiiihhha!!!

Our destination were a tree house number one; 45 meters up in a tree. This three story tree house was our accommodation for the night. The bedroom was a hard mattress on the floor covered by only a mosquito net . But believe it or not; even if this is a primitive accommodation there is in fact a shower , toilet and a kitchen up here in the three.

In the evening we were all telling stories about traveling and playing cards in the light of the candle. Very cozy indeed!


















5/10 2006 Bokeo Forest Reserve, Laos
Lat N 20° 24,97', Long E 100° 51,25'
Today: 87.8 °F ( 31 °C)
05 Oct 2006
52905 km

In the dawn the guide came to take us to look for gibbons. The morning mist was still over the woods and our first zip line disappeared in to the fog.

Around six in the morning the gibbons sings. The best way to find them is to follow the sound. Unfortunately we didn’t spot them, even though we searched for a couple of hours across slippery trails.

The”The Gibbons Experience” finances 40 employees. The villagers get paid to patrol the woods to prevent illegal logging and poaching, to work as guides, build tree houses or to cook for the visitors.

The food that is served is all natural and locally produced in the villages. As snacks we get roasted nuts, fried banana slices, honey, rice cakes and fruit. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all vegetarian dishes.

We “zipped” around like crazy all day across the woods. It is great fun and the speed is surprisingly high. Some of the wires are as long as 300-400 meters and cross the valleys high above the ground.

Also today Catharina came in close contact with one of the monkeys. He jumped up at her shoulders, put his arms and legs around her neck an refused to leave. Catharina wanted to get rid of the monkey asked the others to take it away. But as soon as someone came close the monkey showed his teeth and tried to bit them. The monkey had made up his mind. He definitely planed to stay on her shoulders. Catharina felt a bit uneasy because it was still a wild monkey even though it was used to be around humans. You never know what they can do.

Tonight the two of us have our own tree house , half an hour of “ zipping ” from the other tree houses. Very nice! We had dinner in the sunset with a fantastic view over the lush green hills. When it got dark we lay in our beds listening to all the “tropical sounds” from the woods. There are s a lot of sounds and they are really quite loud.
















6/10 2006 Bokeo Forest Reserve, Laos
Lat N 20° 24,97', Long E 100° 51,25'
Today: 87.8 °F ( 31 °C)
06 Oct 2006
52905 km

The rain was pouring down during the night and the morning, so this was not a good time to look for the gibbons. Instead we ”zipped” over to tree house number one to have breakfast before heading back to the civilization.

We had one hour of walking though the woods to get to the remote village where the jeep was supposed to pick us up. But during the night of heavy rein the river had risen to a level where it was impossible for the jeep to cross it. We had to continue walking for another four hours in the slippery mud to get to the road.

We arrived tired, hungry, dirty, thirsty after a total of five hours walk and celebrated this very nice excursion with a chilled Beer Lao.

Even though we didn’t see any gibbons, we still think this is a very nice experience. It feels like we have been in another world for a couple of days. They have created an amazing place here. We really do recommend “The Gibbons Experience”!














7/10 2006 Baan Donchai, Laos
Lat N 20° 24,97', Long E 100° 51,25'
Today: 86 °F ( 30 °C)
07 Oct 2006
52905 km

What a day. The last days of rain has completely ruined the already bad road. Highway 3 is made out of mud and when wet it is slippery as hell and full of huge mud holes that are hard to pass.

We now realize how lucky we where to get as far as Baan Donchai a few days ago. Today we only got as far as 800 meters before a big mud hole put an end to our journey to Lang Nam Tha. Bert was up to his ankles in mud trying to drain off the water so we could get through.

We had been told that the road conditions was getting even worse for every of the 120 kilometers to Lang Nam Tha. When is started out this bad, we felt it best to turn around and go back to Huay Xai.

But that wasn’t an easy journey. Twice we got stuck in the mud real bad and had to get trucks to pull us loose . We where dragging the chassis like a plow across the mud holes. Countless times we just managed get passed the mud holes.

The third time we got stuck in the middle of a village, but then we could pull the car loose by hand. But we where very surprised to learn that the villagers refused to help us unless we paid them. And they where just sitting there watching us struggle.

When we finally came back to Huay Xai both we and our poor SAAB was exhausted. The car had got two big dents on left front and rear door and we also had lost a part of our bumper. We definitely think we took the right decision in turning back.














8/10 2006 Huay Xai, Laos
Lat N 20° 16,70', Long E 100° 24,67'
Today: 89.6 °F ( 32 °C)
08 Oct 2006
52999 km

We are now working on plan B. Since we didn’t manage to get to Luang Prabang by road we are now trying the waterways. Tomorrow we load our SAAB on a cargo ship to sail for two days along the Mekong River to Luang Prabang.

An American aid worker helped us to interpret and arrange all this. She helped us to find a captain with a cargo ship big enough for our car and negotiate the deal. We were really lucky to find a ship, because there are hardly any cargo ships traveling this route anymore. Only passenger boats travel this route between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang. On top of that we got a fantastic price; 190 Euro for us and the car. On the passenger ships you have to pay 50-80 per person.

Tomorrow we are going to the customs with the captain to arrange all the paperwork, and in the afternoon we will take our car aboard the ship. The day after tomorrow we will sail for Luang Prabang. Great!

This is a big festival weekend in Laos. ”Awk Phansaa” is the celebration of the end of the monks three months rain retreat. The water festival “Bun Nam” with its popular boat competitions is held in association with”Awk Phansaa”.

The whole town was lit up by candles and candle-flame and Chinese lanterns in the evening. All locals bought floating flower decorations with incense and candles to put in Mekong River. Some people had built huge candlelit ships to send out in the river.














9/10 2006 Huay Xai, Laos
Lat N 20° 16,70', Long E 100° 24,67'
Today: 84.2 °F ( 29 °C)
09 Oct 2006
52999 km

Adventure and adrenalin every day now. Today’s rush is definitely the worst in a long time – to get our SAAB on the cargo ship.

We started out with a visit to the port authorities to show them all paperwork for the car. After that we wanted to give our car a high pressure wash before taking it aboard the ship.

Our poor car was muddy all over since we traveled the bad road the day before yesterday. The engine compartment was covered in mud and we had to wipe mud from the headrests, seat belts and the inside of the doors. Crazy!

At four a clock we went back to the port to load the car on the ship. We wondered how they planed to make this work. But the captain led us to believe that they had done this before.

They took out two pathetically thin and narrow timber beams for our two ton car. By then we got even more nervous! To increase the stability they put a couple of loading pallets under the beams. They measured width between the tires and fixated the timber beams with a couple of bamboo sticks. Then it was time to board the ship with the car.

The angle was very steep, the timber beams slippery and Bert was very nervous. When the car was almost up, the tires started to spin and the car started traveling sideways. Then we heard a crack when one of the loading pallets caved in from the weight. But with joint forces we finally managed to get the car on the deck . This is by far the most stupid ad risky things we have done this far on the trip. Hope it will be worth it.














10/10 2006 Huay Xai, Laos
Lat N 20° 16,70', Long E 100° 24,67'
Today: 84.2 °F ( 29 °C)
10 Oct 2006
52999 km

This is cool! We are gliding along the Mekong River and the SAAB is aboard. The trip to Luang Prabang will take us 18 hours, divided in two days. We really didn’t think this was possible.

Already before arriving in Laos we had this idea. But when we asked around everyone said it was impossible, because there where no cargo ships traveling this route. When we realized we could not travel the road to Lung Namn Tha, we gave it another try. The alternate route was not a good option; to take an expensive ferry to Thailand, drive 1000 kilometers to Vietienne and buy new visas to get in to Laos again.

The Mekong River is brown and wide with a strong current. At some places the water almost boils because of the many whirlpools. At dawn we parked for the night at a customs house.














11/10 2006 Mekong River, Laos
Lat N 20° 06,85', Long E 100° 35,61'
Today: 78.8 °F ( 26 °C)
11 Oct 2006
52999 km

The day starts early in Laos. Already at six the boatmen were preparing for the customs inspection. It is a heavy cargo, mostly roofing tiles and toilets. Outside, on the river there was a lot of traffic, people and voices. We were peeking through the bedroom windows in checking out the commotion.

A silent rein was falling on and off all day long. We stayed in the car most of the day. But we had a few hours in the sun chars – doing our king and queen waving to the passing tourist boats .

None of the crew speak English, but they managed to make us understand that we were supposed to arrive in Luang Prabang in the evening. When the darkness fell we were still many hours from Luang Prabang, so we had to spend one more night at the Mekong River. We are lucky not being in a hurry…














12/10 2006 Mekong River, Laos
Lat N 19° 53,60', Long E 101° 39,99'
Today: 84.2 °F ( 29 °C)
12 Oct 2006
52999 km

Today it was time to start worrying about how we are getting our SAAB off the ship. We had no idea what kind of facilities they had in Luang Prabang, but we prayed they would be better than in Huey Xai.

But it was no problem at all to get the SAAB off the ship. They parked the boat real close to a concrete ramp and managed to build a temporary drive off ramp for us. The ramp was not as steep as the last time. This was very good since Bert had to back the car off the ship…

Luang Prabang is a small, sleepy town with lots of atmosphere. Along the Mekong there are a lot of French colonial style guesthouses and restaurants.












13/10 2006 Luang Prabang, Laos
Lat N 19° 53,65', Long E 102° 08,28'
Today: 86 °F ( 30 °C)
13 Oct 2006
53009 km

We took a stroll around town to check out all the small shops. Ahh, they have such nice things. Unfortunately do not have room enough in our car for extensive shopping. The rule is; it is OK to buy it if we can eat it or use it during the trip.

Took a trip to some limestone caves north of town, where they keep over 4 000 Buddha figures. As usual we could not last even a day without just a little bit of adventure. We rented a small rickety boat to take us over the river to the caves. On the way back he ran out of petrol and we found ourselves drifting really fast downstream the Mekong… After a while he managed to make contact with another boat that picked us up.

We ordered a real Luang Prabang menu for dinner. We had heard that the local food was kind of different and we wanted to try it out. Some of the things were great like the rosted Mekong weed with sesame and the buffalo sausage. Other things were not all that great, like the meat stew that tasted like crayfish…
















14/10 2006 Luang Prabang, Laos
Lat N 19° 53,65', Long E 102° 08,28'
Today: 86 °F ( 30 °C)
14 Oct 2006
53009 km

We left Luang Prabang to go to Kwang Xi Waterfalls . We spent most of the day swimming in the very nice pools. But they were cooler than we expected, only about +20°C.

In the same area they had a rescue center for bear cubs, which parents got killed by poachers. There was also a six year old tiger that we got to pet and feed ! It was kind of exiting to be that close to a big tiger.










15/10 2006 Kwang Xi Waterfalls, Laos
Lat N 19° 44,97', Long E 101° 59,57'
Today: 77 °F ( 25 °C)
15 Oct 2006
53104 km

Our ticket said ”No overnight stay”, but the guard let us in to spend the night at the waterfall anyway. We took a refreshing morning dip before heading for Phonsavan. It took us a day of driving to get there, seven hours, even though the road was surprisingly good.

Stopped to fill petrol along the way. We were out of the local currency KIP, but here in Laos it is OK to use Thai BAT or Dollar US almost everywhere. It is important to bring lots of cash when going to Laos, because no ATM machines take foreign bank cards here.












16/10 2006 Phonsavan, Laos
Lat N 19° 26,99', Long E 103° 13,16'
Today: 82.4 °F ( 28 °C)
16 Oct 2006
53400 km

The Xieng Khuang Province where we now are is known for two things; Plain of Jars and Unexploded Ordinance,UXO.

Plain of Jars is very mysterious. No one really knows why all the jars are here and why they look like they do. There are as many as 60 groupings in the area, with sometimes as many as hundreds of jars in different sizes.

We visited the biggest site, which has 334 jars of 600 kilo up to 1 ton. The scientists think this is part of a funeral ritual. They put the dead people in the jars to rot and bring out the essence of the body. After that they were cremated and buried. The same jar was reused for the whole family or a whole village.

Something that is not mysterious at all is the UXO. Everywhere we see big craters from the Americans bombings during the Vietnam War. More than 500 000 flights where made and 2,2 million ton of bombs where dropped over Laos to force the Vietnamese soldiers out of Laos. As much as 30 % never detonated and are still a great danger to the locals.

We have to stay on the roads and never to leave the trails . All the time we have to think about where we are putting our feet and where we go. We need to stay within the white/red marks on the ground to keep safe.

To fill up gas is not an easy task in Laos. We found several places that actually sold gas, but we could not find a single place where they had a proper connection. Here in Laos they all use regulators. Instead we found a place where they could make us new mosquito window frames . At least that was a good thing.










17/10 2006 Phonsavan, Laos
Lat N 19° 26,99', Long E 103° 13,16'
Today: 82.4 °F ( 28 °C)
17 Oct 2006
53400 km

Everywhere we can see the most creative uses for UXO waste you can ever think of; spoons, stilts, grills , lamps, fence, signs etcetera. There is a lot of scrap and a lot of ideas.

Today we also paid the organization British Mines Advisory Group – MAG a visit. They have been here since 1994 to help the Lao people clear their land from UXO. In the years between 1973 and 1996 there were as many as 11 000 UXO accidents. A lot of the accidents happen because the locals collect and sell the scrap to survive.

But the dealers are not interested in UXO. This means that the locals try to defuse the bombs before selling the scrap. To find the bombs and mines they use simple homemade metal detectors like this.

We got very interested in the good work the MAG organization do here in Laos. We went to their district office in Muang Kham 60 kilometers north of the town to see if it was possible for us to spend a day with one of their teams doing field work. Unfortunately we only found a non English speaking person in the office. But we did leave a note with our request, and told them that we would be back in a couple of days. Then we went to Sam Nueva, a 250 kilometer drive.






















18/10 2006 Sam Neua, Laos
Lat N 20° 24,79', Long E 104° 02,93'
Today: 86 °F ( 30 °C)
18 Oct 2006
53690 km

When waking up we went strait to the market to get some breakfast. After that we headed for Vieng Xai and Pathet Lao Caves. On our way there we run in to a MAG team . They where out clearing a field form UXO. Luckily there was also an Englishman in the team who could tell us a bit about their field work.

They are nine people in the team, and it takes them about nine days to clear one hectare of farming land. The metal detectors search an area of 25 centimeters down in the ground. Catharina even got to test drive one of them . In places where they are going to build houses they use different equipment that searches an area all the way down to four meters.

The North Vietnamese used the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos for transporting supplies and ammunition to their troops in South Vietnam. As the Americans traced and bombed the routes in the Lao border area, the Ho Chi Minh trail moved further and further in to Laos. At the end of the war half of Laos was destroyed in their hunt for Vietnamese soldiers and communism. The English guy told us about an area in south of Laos, where MAG had identified 13 000 hits in one square meter!

Pathet Lao Caves is the large lime stone caves the Lao communists used during the Vietnam War. For nine years the president to be Kaysone lived there with parts of his family, the minister of defense, the general, a few more leaders and 3 000 soldiers.

In some of the caves there are still beds, tables, chairs, books, photographs etcetera. And in each of the communist leader caves there are an emergency room with thick walls and double steel doors and a Russian oxygen unit, in case of chemical warfare.

In the early 70-ties when the heavy bombings decreased, large houses and gardens where built for the leaders’ right outside the caves to make it easy for them hide in their shelters again if the bombings would start again. One huge crater in the garden they turned in to a nice heart shaped swimming pool.










19/10 2006 Sam Neua, Laos
Lat N 20° 24,79', Long E 104° 02,93'
Today: 86 °F ( 30 °C)
19 Oct 2006
53690 km

We usually do not travel the same road twice. But today we did when going back to Phonsavan. Where are all of the six millions Lao people? All the villages and towns are really small and they must live somewhere. Laos is only lush green hills and big woods.

Today we spent the whole day in the car and only met 10 cars. The way to travel here in Laos is bicycle, motorbike or bus.

We wonder if our car is fed up and want to go home. One thing after another breaks down, central locking, car stereo, safe and the stove. Today Bert mended the car stereo and the safe , but there is still a lot to do when we get to the house in Nai Yang Beach.












20/10 2006 Phonsavan, Laos
Lat N 19° 26,99', Long E 103° 13,16'
Today: 93.2 °F ( 34 °C)
20 Oct 2006
54006 km

Today we traveled all the way to Vang Vieng. We found a great place to park at the Riverside Bungalows, a huge lawn, shady trees, access to electricity, shower, toilet and unlimited chilled drinking water for only 2 Euro per night.

Vang Vieng is a very laid back backpacker Mecca. The guests practically are eating lying down while watching episode after episode of “Friends”. And every single one of the restaurants are showing “Friends”.












21/10 2006 Vang Vieng, Laos
Lat N 18° 55,80', Long E 102° 26,87'
Today: 95 °F ( 35 °C)
21 Oct 2006
54248 km

What nice breakfast we had this morning, liver pate from the Swedish army Felix pickled cucumber that we bought at IKEA in Kuala Lumpur. Aahhh, delicious!

We can tell that we are down at the planes again. The heat is so intense that the candles are melting. Bert worked on our car today fixing the central locking and the roof hatch, but the stove he didn’t manage to mend . We also wrote a long birthday e-mail for Bert´s dad, who turns 78 tomorrow.












22/10 2006 Vang Vieng, Laos
Lat N 18° 55,80', Long E 102° 26,87'
Today: 95 °F ( 35 °C)
22 Oct 2006
54248 km

Tubing down the Nam Xong River is the big thing in Vang Vieng. Everyone does it and so did we.

We got picked up by a overloaded Tuk-tuk , which took us three kilometers up stream, then we left the current to do the rest. Including the beer stops the trip took us three hours.

Along the banks barkeepers are shouting ”Beer Lao here!” fishing for new guests with long bamboo sticks. We had a great afternoon in the cool water checking out the party life at the banks . A lot o the bars also had trapezes or cliffs for people to do tricks and please the crowds.

Finished the day off with a game of boule at the tube landing.










23/10 2006 Vang Vieng, Laos
Lat N 18° 55,80', Long E 102° 26,87'
Today: 95 °F ( 35 °C)
23 Oct 2006
54248 km

We have now decided to skip south of Laos. There are a couple of places we would like to visit, but we need to travel 1000 kilometers to get there and we are getting a bit short of time. We need to get back to Thailand to meet Peo and Helena.

Instead we decided to go to the Laos capital, Vietienne at the border to Thailand.














24/10 2006 Vietianne, Laos
Lat N 17° 58,03', Long E 102° 36,43'
Today: 95 °F ( 35 °C)
24 Oct 2006
54409 km

One of the best things about Laos is BeerLao , cheep and delicious. We have been drinking a lot of beer since we came here.

Since the brewery is situated here in Vietianne we felt we definitely should pay it a visit to pay out tribute. We arrived early at the brewery and where old to sit down have a beer while waiting .

The brewery is big and modern. They produce 20 000 beer bottles an hour. While we where at it we decided to fill up our stock of beer. For a 650 ml bottle we paid 50 Eurocent, and we bought 48 bottles . It felt kind of cool to park our SAAB next to the big brewery trucks to load the four boxes of beer.

In the evening we actually found an ATM that actually accepted foreign VISA and Mastercards here in Vietianne. All the ATM´s we have seen before only took local cards.










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Today: 32 °F ( °C)
25 Oct 2006
-197300 km









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Today: 32 °F ( °C)
26 Oct 2006
-197300 km