March 11, 2007

Good Afternoon Vietnam...

We arrived in Vinh from Phonsavanh courtesy of a tolerable 10 hour bus jaunt over the hills and across the border. Vinh is a large city in central Vietnam that according to guidebooks has very little to attract tourists. We found it to meet our needs; as a place to stop before heading to the coast. After finding a hotel and getting our hands on some Dong, we headed out for our first Pho and some Bia Hoi.
The Bia Hoi (Fresh Beer) turned out to be a fun experience. It is served straight from the keg into jugs. The lager beer has very little carbonation and it served at room temperature, much like an English Ale. At about 95c AUD for a 2 litre jug its also pretty good value.
From Vinh we headed to Cua Lo where we are now, a lovely long beachside area about 15kms away. This place is obviously a busy resort area in summer time ( a couple of months from now) but for now we found we are the only tourists in town. Having the choice of hotels and every shopkeeper in town after your business always makes for good fun. They really don't get many foreign tourists here, we are finding even more interest in us than alot of places in China. The people are really smiley and friendly and being so close to the beach we have indulged in some of the great local's lunch was 2kg of Prawns which set us back about $4AUD

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March 6, 2007

The Jars of Phonsavanh...

We arrived yesterday in Phonsavanh after a 6 hour bus trip from Vang Vieng. Today we went out to see the Plain of Jars sites that are scattered around the area. They are large carved stone funerary urns , 2-3000 years old. We also stopped in a village that has used some of the bomb casings kindly deposited by the Americans in their fences and building, quite a unique sight.
Laos is the most bombed country on Earth, between 1960 and 1970 some 2 million tonnes of bombs were dropped, something equivalent to a plane load of bombs, every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day for 9 years. Amazing.
There are many, many unexploded bombs in the countryside, keeping what would have been tourist sites off limits until they are cleared.
Also new to us was the armed presence along the road and even on the bus. Apparently there have been some skirmishes recently between the army and some local bandits, so every 5-10 kms on the main road there are a few guys having a snooze with an AK47 by their side. Ready for ...well I'm not sure. The 'Bus Marshall" was a chap with a short stock AK under his jacket, who also did alot of, as long as this was a trait also enjoyed by the baddies, order would be seemingly maintained.
Vang Vieng was a nice relaxing stop for us, we tubed down the river a couple of times. It was great to gently float down in the sunshine, although it is a weird sight to see a couple of hundred other tubers doing the same thing (well you don't actually see that many - that's how many start...most never make it down, choosing to stop at the bars and swing off the rope lines all day before getting a tuk tuk back to town before sunset).
Vang Vieng also had its share of something we have seen at every stop in Laos. Local Parties. At first we thought we were lucky for spotting one in Luang Namtha, but now we realise it goes on every day, everywhere. Marquees are erected, tables and chairs laid out and music is blared. Everyone dances in a circle around the dance area....maypole-esque, while twirling their hands to the music that is a cross between bad karaoke and a ring tone.
Next stop for us is jumping across the border to Vietnam where we have some time before our folks pop over to travel with us for a few weeks which we are looking forward to.

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