Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Money, Money, Money

Tuesday 18th January 2010

MP3 track of the day: Money, Money, Money – ABBA

Weather: Another beautiful day in Louang Phabang

I didn't sleep that well last night … I don't know why, maybe because I went to bed early and I didn't really need the sleep. Anyway I was up for 7:30am. Once ready I picked up a bag, full of all my souvenirs, and headed to the local post office. My guidebook stated that the postal service within Laos wasn't the best, however with over 2kg's of stuff, I couldn't really carry it around with me (and will Cambodia's postal service be any better?).

Once at the post office a guy packed my stuff for me; he did such a good job that I was confident, as long as my parcel didn't go walkies, that it should make it back to Blightly in one piece. As I mentioned above the weight was over 2Kg's and so it cost me – wait for it – 325,000 kip to send 280,750 kips worth of stuff by sea mail, which would take two months (I wasn't sure about the time; normally sea mail takes three months, don't know why Laos is any quicker). In Pound Stirling it cost me £26.00 to send £22.50 worth of stuff … it maybe expensive but at least I got rid of a lot of weight.

I went back to my hostel, stopping on the way for breakfast, to pick up some more money and exchange bags. I then went to the river front to do my final bit of sightseeing within Louang Phabang. On the other side of the 'Nam Khan river' there was a small village which I was told was worth visiting. To get there I had to pay 4,000 kip (33p) to cross a bamboo bridge, which was amazingly strong and sturdy. Once on the other side of the river I headed up some steps, through a small wood, to emerge within the village. The village was actually pretty big; I had entered at a 'T-shape' junction and so I headed left first before turning around and heading right. The village was okay, not massively interesting however the amount of infrastructure improvements where staggering. The entire road network was being replaced and older buildings where being torn down to be replaced by new. I did wonder, as there where quite a few guesthouses here, if it was the positive impact of tourism, or if it was down to the Chinese pouring money into Laos, that was responsible for all the improvements … maybe a combination of the two.

Also, as I walked up and down the streets I did noticed the French colonization impact on the housing architecture. Personally I feel that, after seeing dwellings within Malaysia and Thailand, that this is another positive impact on Laos as the houses here seem to be of a better standard than in it's neighboring South East Asian countries. After forty minutes of looking around I went back to the bamboo bridge; before crossing I spent another ten minutes walking along the small beach, taking a couple of photos, before making it back to the mainland of Louang Phabang.

I had now finished all of the sightseeing that I wanted to do within Louang Phabang and because of that I have decided to move on tomorrow. Louang Phabang is a nice town to chill in however, apart from the white temple and the night market, it's tourist attractions are somewhat lacking. I walked along the main street of town and went in every tourist office possible to get the best price for a mini-van to Phonsavan. What I lack in comfort, within the mini-van, I gain in less traveling time and, I think, additional safety. The roads in Laos aren't very good and, as I shall be traveling through the mountains, I really don't fancy boarding a huge vehicle. The mini-van takes seven hours to arrive at Phonsavan whereas the bus takes eight and the mini-van can drop me off in the middle of town, near all the guesthouses (I hope), whereas the bus will drop me off probably at a out of town bus station. Last night I looked at trying to pre-book accommodation, within Phonsavan, on the internet but alas it looks like I shall be turning up in another town without anywhere booked. Things went okay in Chang-Rai however this is slightly different kettle of fish. Firstly, whereas Chang-Rai was only three hours from Chang-Mai, Phonsavan is seven hours from Louang Phebang and so there is no way that, if I can't find anywhere to stay, I could get a bus back within the same day to Louang Phebang (not only is the time of travel a problem but I think that there is only one bus per day). Finally I also have a feeling that there might not be any dorms within Phonsavan and so it might cost me more for accommodation than in other places; however I do want to see these 'Plains of Jars' and, being a UESCO world heritage site, I'm guessing that there should be loads of places to stay. To limit the financial pain I may make a quick two night stop there (arrive first night, visit the Plain of Jars the second night and then leave to Vang Viang). It all depends on what I find there.

I came back to my hostel to prepare to leave tomorrow. I packed my bags, tried to find a map of the city of Phonsavan on the internet (got one but it isn't great) and 'google searched' for more Phonsavan accommodation before heading out to purchase some snacks for the journey. Whilst I was out I printed off the map I had found before purchasing two packet of biscuits and a packet of crisps for the journey. I was pretty starving and so I also purchased a chicken kebab that had just been taken off the fire (so I was pretty sure that it was safe). I didn't have anything else to do and so, once again, I went on the internet to research Phonsavan a little more. 'Spicylao' is okay however currently it's just been full of Americans saying 'awesome' (and one American has the most annoying laughs) all the time so it goes without saying that it's time to leave.

Having enough of the Americans I went out to have one more look at the night market (dunno why as I wasn't going to buy anything … kill time maybe) before having my final meal. I returned to my Hostel around 7:30pm, went on the internet (AGAIN) before getting ready for an early night. So here we are, my final night within Louang Phebang and I'm in my dorm at 8pm reading my book. Including accommodation I have spent over 600,000 kip today and so another bank visit will be needed soon. I'm glad to be moving on tomorrow and I'm looking forward to 'The Plain of Jars' … not looking forward to the journey or the potential cost though.

Toodle Pip!

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