After our journey back to Hanoi from Cat Ba, we had enough time for lunch and a bit of shopping before we had to head to the airport to say goodbye to Porko 🙁
We sat playing our newly learned Dummy card game in the airport for a couple of hours before saying our goodbyes. We’d certainly (auf jeden Fall) had a fun time having Porko there and we hoped (hoffen) he’d enjoyed (genießen) his time too!
Unfortunately (Leider), Tessa and I couldn’t get a flight that same evening but we’d be flying at 10:30am the next morning to Luang Prabang in Laos. We’d booked a night in the Viet Village Hotel just a ten minute drive from the airport so we got an Uber there, ate some food, slept and then got an Uber back to the airport the next morning!
As we stepped onto the tarmac (Asphalt) to board our flight, Tessa exclaimed (ausrufen/hervorstoßen) “we’re not flying in that are we?!”. The comically (spaßig/skurril) small plane sat before us was propeller-driven (Propellerantrieb) and seated about 60 people in 2-2 rows. I’d flown in a plane of this size before but Tessa certainly looked a bit nervous as the engines (Motoren) roared (aufheulen) and our tin can (Blechdose) bombed along (rasen) the runway.
Mid-way through the flight she was very happy though as we got an unexpected (unerwartet) meal of a cheese and ham roll with a bottle of water! Can’t beat a bit of free food.
One hour later, we landed in Luang Prabang and had our second aviation-related (bin mir nicht sicher, wie ich das übersetzen soll. Etw, was mit Luftfahrt zu tun hat, vielleicht Luftfahrtbezogen?) laugh of the morning as we spotted (entdecken) the ‘airport’ terminal. What would probably be classed as a large shed (Schuppen) by European standards was where we would officially enter the 7th country of our trip. The immigration department (Einwanderungsbehörde) inside the shed was of a similar standard (ähnlicher Standard) with a bunch of grey desks (Tische) straight (direkt) out of a 1970s TV show. We handed over our $65 USD for our visas (Tessa’s was $30 whilst mine was $35 for some reason) and were told that there was an added $1 administration fee (Verwaltungsgebühr) for each stamp (Stempel). Considering (Dafür, dass) granting (gewähren) visas and stamping (stempeln) passports (Reisepässe) is about the most administrative-y (verwaltungsbezogen) thing you could possibly do, this addition charge (zusätzliche Gebühr) for basically doing their jobs was a little bit puzzling (verwirrend/rätselhaft). It also presented a problem because we’d only changed up (umtauschen) the exact $65 USD needed. The very helpful immigration officer said he would happily (gerne) accept Euros or Pounds so we ended up handing over 5€ and receiving $2 USD back. Great service (Guter Service), good exchange rate (super Umrechnungskurs). But we’d got our stamps so all was well.
We shared a minivan with a few others into the city centre of Luang Prabang and then walked to Phasith Guesthouse, where we’d be staying for the next four nights.
We’d originally (ursprünglich) planned (replant) to spend (verbringen) a couple of weeks in Laos but time had caught up with us and we decided (entscheiden) to limit (begrenzen) Laos to one city to allow (erlauben) for more time in Cambodia later on in our trip.
Luang Prabang city was designated (ausgewiesen) a UNESCO World Heritage site (Weltkulturerbe) in 1999 so there are no large buildings – all accommodation is guesthouse-style – which gave it a very peaceful (friedlich) and relaxed atmosphere. There are also no large buses allowed with their 50-strong groups of enthusiastic (enthusiastisch) selfie-snappers (Selfie vernarrte Touristen) meaning that, although there was a considerable (deutlich/erheblich) backpacker population, it was a friendly, respectful and interested crowd (Menge/Haufen).
Our guesthouse was situated (gelegen) just a two minute walk from the famous Bamboo Bridge which spans (überbrücken) the Nam Khan river. The bridge is only crossable (überquerbar) in dry season (October to April) because it gets washed away (weggewaschen) when the rains come in the wet season. Once the water level (Wasserpegel) of the river drops (fallen/sinken) again, the locals rebuild (Neuaufbau) the bridge! As you can imagine, the bridge is rather rickety (wackelig/gebrechlich) and feels quite unstable (unstabil) when you’re walking across it but it’s actually a very impressive (beeindruckend) feat (Leistung/Kunststück) of engineering and well worth the £0.50/0.56€ entrance fee.
One other Luang Prabang delight (Highlight) we’d read about was the Night Market which runs every night of the week through the main street in the city centre. It turned out (herausstellen) to be one of the best markets we’d visited on the whole of our trip. The street is closed to cars from 4pm and is taken over by stands (Stände) on either pavement (Gehweg) and smaller blanket (Decke) vendors (Verkäufer) in the middle of the street leaving two lanes (Gassen/Spuren) to walk up and down. Luang Prabang has a local (örtlich) crafts (Handwerk) sellers association (Verband) which means that the vast majority (erhebliche Mehrzahl) of the items (Gegenstände) for sale in the market are genuinely (wirklich) handmade (handgemacht) or are of a very good quality. Silk pillow cases (seidene Kissenbezüge), woollen blankets (Decken aus Wolle), traditional Laos clothing, locally grown coffee and much more. We spent ages walking through the stalls and discussing (diskutieren) how much stuff we’d be able to fit in our bags to take home (wie viel wir in unsere Backpacks stopfen können)!
We’d picked up a map from the helpful staff at the tourist information centre and, next morning went on a sight-seeing tour of city.
First up was Wat Xiengthong which is the most impressive (beeindruckend) temple in Luang Prabang. Approaching (Annähernd) 500 years old, the temple features (bieten/besitzen) several (mehrere) large statues, pavilions, shrines and is still an important Lao monastery (Kloster). Over the street was the small Wat Phak Kan temple which housed (beherbergen) a photo exhibition of Buddhist monks meditating (meditieren). This turned out to be an interesting insight into their weeks-long pilgrimages (wochenlange Pilgerreisen) to the forests to seek (suchen/anstreben) solitude (Einsamkeit).
After visiting the smaller Wat Sene temple, we headed to the Royal Palace Museum in the very heart of the city. Built in 1904 for King Sisavong, the palace is an interesting insight into the luxurious lives lived by the Lao monarchy (Monarchie) which was in stark contrast (extremer Kontrast) to the population (Bevölkerung) they ruled (herrschen) – Laos was, and continues to be, one of the poorest (arm) countries in the World.
The palace gardens are home to the Phra Bang statue. Although it stands just 83cm high, the Phra Bang is an incredibly important (unglaublich wichtig) statue for the Lao people, made of gold-silver-bronze. Originally arriving in Lao as a gift (Geschenk) from the king of the Khmer Empire (modern-day Cambodia), the statue’s beauty (Schönheit) is seen as a symbol of the right (Recht) to rule Laos. Stolen (Gestolen) by the Thais in the 18th century, it supposedly (angeblich) brought such bad luck (Unglück) to the ruling (herrschend) people that they returned (zurückgeben) it to Laos in the 19th century. Each year, at Lao New Year, the statue is paraded (in einer Parade gefeiert) through the streets of Luang Prabang for the people to worship (anbeten).
Also in the gardens is a large carp pond (Karpfenteich), the Royal Ballet Theatre (which holds tri-weekly performances) and garages for the royal cars – two hideous (hässlich/scheußlich) Lincoln Continentals and an even more hideous Citroen of some sort.
That evening we returned to the night market and had dinner at a vegetarian buffet (Büfett) that we’d seen the previous night. There we enjoyed a large plate (Teller) of delicious rice, fried banana, fried pumpkin (Kürbis), green beans (grüne Bohnen) and many other niceties (Feinheiten) for just 10,000 Kip (£1/1.16€)!
Next morning, we walked to the city centre and hopped onto a shared (geteilt) tuk-tuk headed for Kuang Si Falls. 30km south of Luang Prabang, the main Kuang Si waterfall is an impressive 60m high but the real attraction are the multiple bathing pools (mehrere natürliche Schwimmbecken) at various levels. After arriving, we headed straight past the crowds (direkt vorbei an den Menschenmengen) and climbed (klettern) up a steep (steel) and slippery (rutschig) dirt path (Dreckpfad) up the side of the waterfall to the top where you can look over the edge and jump off a rope swing (Schaukel) into a large pool at the top (don’t worry, it’s far from the edge!). The water was fresh to say the least (Das Wasser war erfrischend, umm nett auszudrücken)! As the top is covered (bedeckt) in rainforest (Regenwald), the pool up there doesn’t get too much sunlight (Sonnenlicht) to warm the water up (um das Wasser aufzuwärmen).
We’d read about a ’Secret Pool’ on the way back down which was, apparently, usually deserted (verlassen/menschenleer) and offered (bieten) a great view (Aussicht) of the pools below. We eventually managed to find what we thought was the path which ran back in towards (zurück in Richtung…) the waterfall (the dirt path is about 30-40m off to the side of the main waterfall itself) and tiptoed (auf Zehenspitzen gehen/schleichen) through the mud (Matsch) and down the rocky tree roots (Baumwurzeln) until we spotted (entdecken) our target (Ziel). However (Jedoch), as we arrived at the Secret Pool, we spotted (bemerken) a guard (Wache) (who then spotted us!) and said that we were not allowed into the pool. What a disappointment (Enttäuschung)! He did let us walk up and take a picture of the pool and, to be fair, the pool does feed off to a sheer 20m drop (der Pool endet in einem 20m Fall) so safety could well be an issue (Problem). He then pointed (hinzeigen/deuten) us back up the proper path (korrekter Weg) to the Secret Pool which featured a large wooden fence (Holzzaun) intending (beabsichtigen) to keep out wannabe swimmers – oops!
I wanted to take one final swim before heading home but, as we arrived at one of the lower pools, a strange sight was before us. A Chinese girl still wearing a full-length dress was taking #modelshot selfies in the pool. She then proceeded (fortfahren) to climb up (raufklettern) onto the small rocky waterfall which fed the pool (about 1m high) to take #modelshot selfies for another couple of minutes. All very bizarre. After tentatively (zaghaft) getting into the water to make sure it hadn’t been laced with some happy stuff (er wollte sichergehen, dass nicht irgendein komisches Zeug im Wasser ist, das einen komisch werden lässt wie das chinesische Mädchen), I went for my swim. In fairness to the lass (Mädchen), I swam up to the small waterfall and grabbed onto (festhalten) the rocks and the water was quite powerful (stark) so she did well to pull herself up (hochziehen) and sit on the top!
Satisfied (Zufrieden), we headed back to the car park via an enclosure (Anlage) and rescue centre (Rettungszentrum) for bears of different breeds (Zucht) which was run by the international Free The Bears Fund. It was very interesting and outlined (skizzieren) that abuse (Misshandlung) of bears – particularly for the entertainment of humans (vor allem um Menschen zu belustigen) – is still rife (weit verbreitet) in much of Asia.
We bought some salted dried banana chips (getrocknete, gesalzene Bananenchips) (much better than they sound!) and hopped back in the tuk-tuk for the drive back to Luang Prabang.
For our final day in Luang Prabang (and Laos as a whole), we planned on taking a boat to the Pak Ou caves, about 1.5hrs north of the city along the Mekong River. At 11am, we arrived at the jetty (Hafen) where we were told to come back at 2pm where we could share (teilen) a longboat to the caves on the afternoon trip. With a few hours to kill (Wir hatten ein Paar Stunden todzuschlagen), we decided to climb (besteigen) Mount Phousi and visit the Wat Chom Si Buddhist temple at the summit (Gipfel/Spitze). At 100m high, it can’t exactly be classed as a mountain (Man kann es mit seinen 100m nicht wirklich Berg nennen) but the views (Aussicht) from the top across the city were certainly spectacular.
After freshening up back at our hotel – we had just climbed a mountain! – we headed back to the jetty (Hafen) for our boat trip. Unfortunately (Leider) , when we arrived, we were told that there were not enough people for the boat to go.
“We’ve been waiting three hours and you told us the boat would definitely be going!”, we said, exasperated (entnervt/verärgert).
“Not my problem”, came the reply.
“Could you at least help us get on another boat?”
”You can walk along and get another one. Not my problem”
We were fuming (rauchend). We’d practically wasted (verschwenden) our final day in Laos and now wouldn’t be able to see the caves or travel along the Mekong. Despite (Trotz) all the scams (Betrug) and bad service (schlechter Service) we’d received (bekommen/empfangen) in our four-and-a-half months in Asia; this was a new low (ein neues Tief).
We stomped (stampfen) back through the streets towards our hotel and considered (erwägen) hiring another tuk-tuk to the caves but, by this point, we were so pissed off (angepisst) and drained (aufgelöst) that we didn’t even feel like going anymore.
After cooling off (abkühlen), we headed to Delilah’s Café opposite (gegenüber) our guesthouse and sat playing cards with fruit shakes for the rest of the afternoon. A pleasant (angenehm) few hours but, even now, we’re still angry (wütend) – not so much about missing (verpassen) the caves but that someone would just drop people in it and ruin (ruinieren) their day without even apologising (entschuldigen). (Tessa: “I’m pretty sure, that even with a small group they would still make money, but it shocks me that instead of making a bit of money, they’d rather not make any money at all.”)
That evening we decided to cheer ourselves up (aufmuntern) by trying the famous Lao BBQ. Just up the road from our hotel, Lao Lao Garden offers (anbieten) what it claims is “the most meat for your money in town”. I’d read several blogs recommending (empfehlen) the restaurant so we were hoping for a good (and fun) meal!
Out came the bucket of fire (“Feuereimer”) which was placed (platzieren) in a hole (Loch) in the middle of our table. Next, a metal dish pan (Metallpfanne) (pyramid-shaped with a large lip) was put over the fire bucket to heat up (aufheizen). And next came the food! Strips of water buffalo (Wasserbüffel), chicken and pork (Schweinefleisch) accompanied (begleitet von) a large plate of veggies (Gemüse), glass noodles (Glasnudeln) and a huge bowl of broth (große Schüssel voller Brühe). The broth gets poured (gießen) in the bottom of the dish pan with the veggies and you then cook your own meat on the sloped top.
The meat was succulent (saftig) and delicious (köstlich). The veggies crisp (knackig) and the broth tasty (locker). We had a great feed (Essen) and a fun time cooking it! At 100,000 Kip (£10/11.75€), it isn’t cheap (nicht günstig) but it is certainly worth splashing out on (es wars wert das Geld rauszuhauen); for the food and the experience (Erfahrung).
After filling our bellies (Bäuche), we returned (zurückkehren) to the fabulous Night Market one last time and bought a few bits and pieces for ourselves and presents (Geschenke) for family back home (no asking and no telling!).
Next morning we’d fly out of Laos and Chiang Mai – it was time to head back to Thailand!