Both very pleasant countries to visit. Laos with its history of French colonialism still quite evident, and its friendly locals barbecuing and singing karaoke on the sidewalk every evening. Ha!
And Cambodia, that appears to have bounced back quickly from the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, with unnecessarily friendly locals, and many reasons to visit besides the marvel of Angkor Wat.
On the slow boat floating down the murky Mekong River. For two days, 90% of the time there was no sign of habitation, just lush bamboo, palm, and dipterocarp forest uninterrupted to the tops of the surrounding hills. Curiously, though, there was very few signs of wildlife. We only got an explanation for the lack of life later when we were discussing with a naturalist in Cambodia. His explanation: “because they eat it all.” We had heard Laotians bragging, “I’m Laotian; I eat everything.” Including rats, eels, birds, crabs, crickets, well…everything. And apparently that diet and attitude has had an effect on the ecosystem…
Laos style tuk-tuk, and a glimpse at the French influenced architecture in Luang Prabang.
Intricate mosaic work on one of the wats (temple) in Luang Prabang.
Ringing in the new year with a bar full of backpackers and one burning man in Luang Prabang. Note: the favorite beer in Laos, the creatively named, Beer Lao, is a tasty lagar, better than any of the Thai beers.
Crossing the river for a jungle hike to several hill-tribe villages. Note, this is one of 37 boat trips we’ve taken so far since the start of pretirement back in June. Ha!
Kids playing a kind of jump rope game in one of the villages we hiked to.
A collection of inert explosives at the UXO visitor center in Luang Prabang, Laos. The non-profit organazation works to locate and diffuse UneXploded Ordinances in Laos. The US dropped millions of tons of bombs on Laos throughout the conflict in Vietnam that spilled over into Laos making it the most bombed country in the world.
A map showing the bombings that took place in Laos. Even today, decades after the war, an average of one person per day is killed or injured by UXOs!! The visitor center was educational and sobering.
Giant tree we came across while hiking to Kuang Xi falls near Luang Prabang, Laos.
The aforementioned Kuang Si falls, a stunning travertine creation. I’m not big on waterfalls, but this one blew me away!
The falls continued cascading down through the forest in many inviting terraces. Unfortunately it was too chilly to go for a dip. Maybe next time 🙂
A common food in Laos – BBQ fish.
After a few days in Luang Prabang, we flew to Siem Reap, Cambodia. The main draw, of course, is the ruined temples of Angkor Wat, made famous by the Tomb Raider movie and video game. However, we found out that Cambodia had more to offer than just the history and temples.
A Cambodian gas station.
We took a day trip out to Tonle Sap lake, the largest in Southeast Asia. We visited a couple floating villages along the way, but the main draw was the bird sanctuary that provides nesting habitat for 10 ‘globally threatened’ species, as well as many others. We saw many. The sight of thousands of nesting birds was a unique and special nature moment I won’t soon forget (sorry, no good photos of the birds on the phone; they’re all stuck on the Nikon for now).
Cambodian flag flying over Prek Toal floating village.
Crocodile farming is a popular profession in the floating villages.
Hard to tell, but this floating house is on the move being towed by two small boats. As the lake level changes seasonally the villagers move their village to follow the water. Incredible!
Wagesons at Angkor Wat. I could go on and on about how fantastic Angkor Wat is, but so many better writers than I already have before. So all I’ll say is that it’s probably all true; it is undoubtedly one of the wonders of the world! Believe the hype.
Biking amongst thousand year old statues and buildings. Out of this world!
Angkor Wat sunrise.
The old market at Siem Reap – a surprisingly authentic market amongst the glitz and neon signs of the tourist area.
We found Cambodia to be a pleasant country with amiable people at ease with conversation with tourists and comfortable in putting a friendly arm around you. Never too pushy.
Learning of the unimaginable history of the Khmer Rouge and the decades of war its shocking to see how funtional the country is and how happy the people are. I only wish we could have stayed longer. I highly reccomend a visit here!