4 black Dogs and 2 blond Girls

Michael is a tuk-tuk driver in Vientiane.
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We were honored to stay in his large beautiful house with his 4 big dogs Barolo, Baghira, Taiga and Mira and a whole bunch of other animals. Heaven for the kids.
(Michael’s Wife and kids are on vacation.)
Daily highlight for Ada was the stroll by the riverbank of Mekong at 17:00.
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The water level rose daily, it is rainy season, the last evening we could launch avalanches.
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After about 2 days Ada started bossing around the dogs and they happily obeyed her. Even Lena lost most of her fear and petted here favorite, Barolo.

Of course, Michael is not really a tuk-tuk driver, he just owns one.
Many happy Thanks, Michael.

***

We now go to Bangkok by night train and then proceed to Koh Samui (booked until here), an island in the south of Thailand. We may also change to one of the other islands around there. After 14 days or so we’ll go back to Bangkok for a few days and then fly to Muscat for 7 days. Planned day for arrival back in Switzerland is 26. July 2013.
A year and a day.

PS: someone told me that the pictures from the riverbank look very dangerous. We were not at all aware of that. The river below is shallow and flows quite slowly. Not very dangerous.

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Vang Vieng, tubing captial

Now in Vang Vieng.

Just before we left the Tages Anzeiger (biggest Newspaper in Switzerland) had two Articles Der Party-Fluss des Todes (Party river of death) and Die tödliche Touristenattraktion in Laos (Deadly tourist attraction in Laos).
Written after a guardian article Vang Vieng, Laos: the world’s most unlikely party town was published.

The article says that at least 27 travelers have died in 2011 tubing and partying in Vang Vieng. Actually wikipedia says 22 dead people. Such discrepancies usually mean that no one cared to check the figure. I think it is as BS as most of the article.

Vang Vieng, deep in the jungle of Laos
Vang Vieng is a four-hour bus journey on mostly dirt roads from the capital Vientiane

Both are very far from the truth. If Vang Vieng is deep in the jungle than Nam Nern (See Where the Tigers are) is on the other side of the Moon. The main roads where paved years ago and the road to Vang Vieng is a pretty big road.

Anyway. Before we arrived here, we heard rumors that the tubing was closed. Not quite true. (for the truth see the end of the wikipedia artikel).
So we just had to do it. With the kids of course. And not enough. We also booked a cave tubing to begin with.

Here is the river:
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Then it started to rain and it rained the entire night and was still raining in the morning.
So we were on the verge of calling it off.
There was no way to get the money back and the rain almost stopped. So we decided to give it a try.

We were plagued by visions of sudden floods and drowning.
But they had the promised life vests perfectly fitting Ada and Lena.

The track to the elephant cave where the tubing cave is was slippery and very wet.
See the elephant?
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Finally only Ada and I did the tubing cave (Thamnam Cave). The Guide took Ada’s tube with his feed and pulled here into the cave followed by Papa.DSC_5450_Tubecave The entrance is quite small but after that the cave is 1 m high and 4 m wide. Actually piece of cake, especially because the more difficult part could not be done because of high water level.
One pushes up the stream by a rope the way out is just floating.

Back to the Nam Song river (Nam actually means river) after lunch and some drive we came to the start for the tubing.
They did not have a small tube for Ada, so they constructed a seat for her with ropes.
Lena was on the Kayak with the guide.

And then they came. A Group of young chicks with beer in their hands and no life vest. Honestly though, if not drunken a life vest is not necessary for that trip. Even with some high water, it was quite harmless.

Then we glided down and had a wonderful trip.
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I was not once afraid for the live of my kids. Despite all visions.

Plain of Jars

Arrived in Phonsavan.
We survived this long trip quite well. Back on the main tourist track.
Even found a hotel where one can go to the toilet without getting wet feet.

The main attraction in whole north Lao is the Plain of Jars.
Truly marvelous. We visited the Site 1, 2 and 3. There are over 90 sites, but some have but 1 jar.
For 2 month now we believed that the plain of jar is, well a plain with jars.
That is not the case. Most sites are on top of small hills or in the case of site 3 on a ridge. The entire region is not really a plain. Compared to the rest of Lao it is a plain, about as hilly as for instance Appenzell.

Nobody knows for sure what they were made for.
We were surprised on the variety of style and forms they have.
They are cylindrical, round, almost cubic, conical, irregular; they have a rim, no rim, inside rim, outside rim; are rather raw on the inside or smooth, thick walled, thin walled, almost hollow, just a fraction hollowed; have round, elliptical, square or rectangular (up to 1:2) openings; are made of sandstone, granite, conglomerate, limestone and breccia; are very big or rather small. The smallest were stolen.

Very few have lids but none were found in place.

Site 1:
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Site 2:DSC_5269_Plain_of_Jars_2_Vat_Sensou_Kharam

The only lid with a carving we found.
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Site 3:
A search picture.
Find Astrid, Ada, Lena, Thomas, Phong (the driver) and 45 jars.
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And now for something completely different.
We saw the following picture in and Indian restaurant here.
Where is it? Please comment. But no speculation 😉
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Hintang Standing Stones

On our way to Phonsavan.
A neglected archeolocial site is Hintang. Most infrastracture is detoriating.
Too far to go there. Some nice hikes to the several 100 menhires would be possible. We just were able to visit the main site.

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The discs once covered burial holes some meters deep with several urns.
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At lest 1500 years old but not much is known. The entire site is spread over 10 km.

The secret war and a hidden city

For nine years till 1973 a “secret war” waged in Lao.
Lao is actually the most bombed country (per capita) in the history of mankind.
History of Laos

Especially in the region we are in now the bombing was the worst and as ineffective as it was in Germany.

We did not stop in Sam Neua but went straight to Vieng Xai where the Pathet Lao Caves are.
Caves on wiki

In these caves the communist leadership and part of their army hid, up to 20000 people.
There was everything in these caves, from hospitals to cinemas.

Vieng Xai is a very neat village, we like it.

We had our guide and a very good audio device.

What can be visited are mostly the caves where the seven leaders lived and worked.
Here their main meeting room:
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Audio Guides:
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The caves are in a very neat environment.
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Where the solders lived, also a small stage:
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Into the heart of the mountain.
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The caves were artificially enhanced. But in some parts even stalacsomething can be seen.
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One of the interesting tidbit was the fact the bombers where often not given a specific target.
Just bomb where you see chicken and ducks they were told.
After they heard that from a captured pilot the people killed all animals with a bright color.

Tomorrow there will be a very long trip to Phonsavan. Sleep well.

Where the Tigers are

From Vieng Thong our driver Phong brought us the 50 km (=1.5 hours drive at full speed) DSC_4841 to Ban Sonkhoua (Ban=village) where the trip into the Nam Et/Phou Louey NPA (National Protected Area) starts.
Organize the trip with namet for details

This is actually the only place in Indochina where there are still tigers.
They took us into 2 small boats and the most incredible boat tour I ever did started.
I had no idea that such a small river can be navigated.
For Swiss readers. About the size of the Sihl.
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Up the river for some 20-30 km to the site of the lodge.
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Actually a village that was abandoned some 30 years ago. Nothing visible anymore.
It is cleared from mines and UXOs. At the hill close by was an american landing area for helicopters.
The secret war is everywhere in Lao.

From there we went upriver again on an ever smaller river, just a creek at the end.
At a salt lick was the end. A little bit downriver we had our diner on a river bank. They cooked on a wood fire.
One of the dishes was fern that they had collected at the riverbanks. I had no idea some species of fern are edible.
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Then we glided downstream in darkness just guided by flashlight trying to see some animals.
We were already warned that now in the beginning of the wet season not many animals can be seen, and so it was.
Does not matter, that trip was incredible.
The kids fell asleep after a while.

The next day we made a trip through the jungle by the lodge, where some plants and the history of the site was explained. We climbed a small mountain with the remains from the stupa.
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Here 2 persons and of course Astrid are missing. There were many people involved to keep as alive. Where were the only guests for weeks and some of the money goes to some 7 villages close by the park.

Then back down the river.
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This post actually written 15.06.2013