Day 10 - Saturday, Nov 1, 2003
Luang Prabang

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Up at 7 something, a cuddle and a wash and met the girls at "half 8" for breakfast - at which point we discovered Ruth can barely walk; she's covered in dramatic purple and green bruises and red scrapes, and her ankle is swollen. We left her at the Scandinavian Bakery (moose sticker on door, plastic snowman on counter, croissants and coffee and cookies) and Claire, Dan and Dodo went to the travel agent a couple doors down. Dan and Dodo bought plane tickets from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (the girls already had theirs) and then the guy said there was a cancellation and that 4 seats were available on Lao Airways back to Vientiane! Dodo was suspicious, but it did seem official, so now we have tickets. Claire keeps invoking "the Force" and said if we couldn't fly it had happened for a reason.

- Kuang Si -

From the Tuk-Tuk 11:10 AM 11:14 AM
We rejoined Ruth at the bakery, told her the good news, ate breakfast, left her there and got the travel agent guy's tuk-tuk driver friend to take us to the big waterfall, Kuang Si. It was an hour's drive (fortunately this was a pickup truck tuk-tuk, not a motorcycle one) on dusty gravel roads. Dodo took loads of pictures for Ruth, including of water buffalo and little fluffy horses crossing on the road, but the camera doesn't do quick snapshots well (she did figure out how to set both shutter speed and depth of field but still doesn't know all the best settings).

More Kuang Si Pictures

- Phet, the Tiger -

11:16 AM 11:16 AM 11:17 AM 11:18 AM
At the waterfall, it was about a 15-minute walk from the entrance gate past stalls with food and sodas, woven straw/bamboo souvenirs, and a huge chain-link fence enclosure with a 4-year-old female tiger named Phet (Lao for diamond). She was rescued from poachers as a cub in September 1999, along with her two brothers. Her brothers died, but she has grown up here. There are only 1,227 Indochinese tigers left in the wild. (

More Phet, the Tiger Pictures

- Kuang Si Waterfalls -

11:26 AM 11:27 AM 11:28 AM 11:30 AM 11:38 AM 11:39 AM 11:40 AM
11:41 AM 11:42 AM 11:43 AM 11:43 AM 12:09 PM Those Nuts Everybody Eats 12:53 PM
12:54 PM
The waterfalls were indeed fabulous. Dodo took a ridiculous number of pictures to show Ruth, but it's always hard to get scale and steepness in a photo. Long drops but also smaller cascades with a rough limestone curviness under them (surprisingly rough, so we could walk barefoot in places that looked treacherous without slipping - and there were barnacle type things growing at the edges of the cascades) and a steep path up the right side to the top. We hiked all the way up but then didn't see a way across and it was very jungly and silty up there. So we hiked back down the same side, explored the lower cascades a bit, and Claire and Dan had a swim. Dodo walked back to the "food court" and got a Pepsi (3,000 kip) and a bundle of those things everyone eats here ("moc-t-ai"?) for 1,000 kip. A woman with a cute toddler on her knee and an old woman (the kid's grandma?) showed Dodo how to bite the seed husk open and peel it off, but she never mastered it. They taste like raw peanuts only milder, and are softer and white. She sat happily munching her seeds and watching Claire and Dan swim, and when she found out they'd each found a small leech crawling on them, she was glad she'd stayed out.
So, when they'd basked a bit to dry off, we headed back, Dodo returned the Pepsi bottle, and when we put a couple bucks' donation in the box at the tiger place, a woman appeared and called the tiger into her enclosure, where she lay down and let us reach through the bars and stroke her head (rough thick fur).
Dodo lay down and dozed on the return tuk-tuk ride, very pleasant but not possible to actually sleep.

More Kuang Si Waterfalls Pictures

- Phou Si Hill -

Powwowed with Ruth at café, got fries and G&T, headed back to hotel to recharge the camera, and then Claire, Dodo and Dan set off to climb Phou Si hill.
Phou Si hill reminded both Dodo and Dan a little of Lykavitos Hill in Athens, but this one had no streets or cafes, just stairs zigzagging up it and monks' buildings; a small temple at the top, and some cave Buddhas and a Bigfoot-sized "footprint of the Buddha" in stone on the way back down. Plus a great 360-degree view, fires smoldering by the river (we think, to keep mosquitoes off the laborers) and a big golden wat in the distance (forest retreat), and the one short airstrip of L.P. Airport. Also atop "pussy hill" was an anti-aircraft gun from the Vietnam war, a grim reminder that the U.S. bombed the shit out of Laos for no good reason… commie-phobia. The Communist government is still in charge of Laos and seems to have comfortably slipped in the direction of free enterprise - the current U.S. prefers capitalism to democracy so they seem fine with Laos now.

- Market -

We returned to the hotel for Ruth and picked a dinner restaurant from the Rough guide: Park Houay Mixay restaurant. Ruth paid 5,000 kip to take a tuk-tuk, and then it turned out to be right around the corner! Very greasy "traditional Lao" meal and no liquor. At another table sat a dour Japanese couple who didn't speak the entire time, but the woman photographed each new dish as it arrived. They had arrived in an official-looking car and were whisked away in it as soon as their meal ended.
Had a nightcap (Pernod) and Dodo and Ruth crashed around 10:15. Dan and Claire continued to drink Beerlao, and found at 11:35 they were locked out of the hotel. Had to knock to be let in.

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