Posted by: The Travelling Mallorys | October 4, 2010

Lovely Laos – Vientiane and Luang Prabang

So we arrived in Vientiane, capital city of Laos, after horrible Hanoi and couldn’t have asked for a more perfect place.

It is the the sleepiest, slowest, relaxing place we have ever been.

Perfect for me! After the traffic madness of Vietnam it was crazy to be in a place with virtually no road traffic and where drivers obeyed traffic lights and even – get this – let you cross the road!!!

Traffic-free zone in Luang Prabang. Lovely!

Traffic-free zone in Luang Prabang. Lovely!

Sarcasm aside it was a real antidote and we soaked up our time there. We wandered around and saw many beautiful temples, the golden stupa Phat That Luang and of course this – Pathuxai.



Lao’s answer to the Arc D’Triomphe with a less than complementary commentary from Laos Tourist Board!

Like a Monster of Concrete

Like a Monster of Concrete

And the food, man was it good! I tried laap for the first time at a dodgy looking stall at the riverfront market. I had no idea what it was as the little man didn’t speaka the English and my Laotian was not yet up to scratch. Anyway it turned out to be minced chicken (or you can have beef or fish) traditionally served raw but these days it’s fried with loads of spices and tons of herbs, served with steamed rice. My tastebuds tingled!

There were so many wonderful restaurants in Vientiane we were spoiled for choice. Gavin enjoyed Laap and me the other Lao noodle dishes, and here were many international choices too and we couldn’t resist some of them. We treated ourselves to the ex-pat’s fave, the Joma bakery and ate divine breakfast burritos. We also had THE best pizza we have had in years at another place, and a really comedy massive breakfast at a place called Vista.

It was a special Aussie breakfast for me. They gave me tea, two pieces of toast, double fried eggs, beans and bacon. Then a bowl of fruit salad and then some yoghurt. And I laughed at how small my plate was for the huge fry-up – it barely all fitted on the saucer they served it on – and then the waiter came out smiling with half a baguette for me and apologised for the toast being too small! He must have thought I was complaining about there not being enough food. Believe it or not friends, I ate the lot.

And had to go back to bed afterwards! My only disappointment came solely because so many places seem to underestimate vegetarians. Have had this convo with other veggie friends recently. We went to Sticky Fingers, a local hip haunt (you know us!) and I ordered the vegetarian version of the fajitas – yes, I have a Mexican craving – and what I was given was dreadful! Soggy tortillas filled with mushy winter roasted vegetables. The place is run by an Aussie so there is no excuse. I will continue this investigation when we get to Oz…I know it might be hard to believe but we veggies do like a bit of flavour!

We also visited an amazing place called the COPE centre, a centre for rehabilitating people who have been injured/affected by UXO (unexploded ordinance devices). As with Cambodia and Vietnam, Laos has been massivley bombed.

It’s so sad – so many of these devices are hidden all throughout the country and still causing devastation. However the COPE centre chooses to focus on the people behind the statistics and the amazing advances in prosthetic limbs and occupational therapy to help people live a normal life again. The visitor centre was emotional and uplifting and we, again, learned an awful lot about the legacy the so-called developed world has left in this region of Asia.

As you can see our time in Vientiane was spent not doing much, eating loads and recharging the old batteries. I also had a shave and gave myself a haircut.

We headed the Luang Prabang next, so called ‘Most Romantic City in Asia’. Alarm bells rang a bit because it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which usually means that, although the place is pretty, everything will be overpriced and touristy.

We didn’t have a great start. Arrived in the lashing rain and our guesthouse was meant to have sent a pick-up for us but hadn’t. When we got a taxi, got soaked and finally arrived, our new hosts were less than friendly.

Zut alors! Our room was also step down from the types of place we had been recently been staying too – back to backpacking reality, but at flashpacker prices. Bare, basic room, ineffective fan whooshing warm air around you, ants and the occasional cockroach…. Happy days!

Evil fan

Evil fan

Undeterred we grabbed an umbrella and stepped out to explore and get some food. We realised immediately Luang Prabang was also sleepy!

The place found to eat was staffed by a lovely girl who seemed surprised we wanted to come in, and when we attempted to order explained that the chef was out – “she’ll be back soon and I can’t cook!” – then when chef did return (a 15 year old girl) they didn’t have the ingredients for anything we wanted! I loved it!

If you avoid the main tourist street in Luang Prabang then it is a lovely place. Set out on a peninsular on the Mekong, the pretty streets are jewelled with tucked away temples, little eateries, riverfront cafes and a very quiet charm which won us over.

We love the Mekong so took a slowboat trip out to the Pak Ou caves. The boat trip there was relaxing and calm, with a stop at a so-called whiskey village. We didn’t partake. The caves were interesting, populated with hundreds of mini Buddhas and we even had to use a torch to see which was exciting!

Cave of a thousand Buddhas

Cave of a thousand Buddhas

The only thing that spoiled to the trip was the berk on our boat.

A total public school boy posho twit who simply could not keep his opinions to himself. He started by banging on about f’ing good tubing is in Vang Vieng and then rudely blamed his girlfriend (who he always referred to as SHE!) for hurting herself.

We thought knob, but you know there is no escape on a slow boat. He then, to our horror, revealed he was a science teacher, shaping young minds. He proudly bragged that he has only chemistry qualifications but teaches biology and has no idea what he is doing. Ha ha ha!

We tried to extricate ourselves from having anything to do with him and he happily began an more bigoted exchange with 2 young Israelis. Their conversation touched on huge sexism and racism, including some sort of ‘joke’ about 9/11 as well as bouts of religious intolerance. What a guy!

The rest of our time in Laos passed much more pleasantly – some more nice temples, exploring the meandering streets, nosing about the Royal Palace, ambling through markets, lounging in book shops, eating and drinking.

At the Royal Palace

At the Royal Palace

Having heard from all and sundry about getting drunk and sitting in a rubber ring on a river in Vang Vieng, we decided against tubing and so it was time to head back to Thailand for part 2 of our adventure there.

And here we are, ensconced in a little apartment! We are taking a break from the constant travelling and staying put. It is so nice to be able to cook what we want!

But it does mean we have to do washing up which is less fun. We also have a pool here and a gym (but I don’t think I’ll go near that). It’s great! In fact, I am off for a swim now. Next time people!

Need more Travelling Mallory fun? Have a look-see at our new Map page.

Bye for now x



  1. […] that we first met them at our cookery course in Cambodia, then again completely by chance in Laos and now in Melbourne! Insane! Anyway, we went for a beer with them and had a lovely […]

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