For our final destination in Laos we headed south to the large Mekong river delta along the Cambodian border. Called the 4000 Islands region, the Mekong river widens and forms thousands of small islands. Some of them are large enough to have entire villages on them along with guest houses, great food and a relaxing slow paced life along the river.
Setting off from the capital we next headed south to the town of Tha Khek, for an overnight jungle trek and village home stay. A five hour bus ride south of the capital, Tha Khek sits along the border of Laos and Thailand. The city itself is a bit rough, but the surrounding countryside is beautiful, a forest covered hillside filled with dozens of large caves. We went on a single overnight trek, but one could easily spend much longer exploring the countryside and the surrounding villages.
After a week spent relaxing in Luang Prabang, Laos, it was finally time to move on, and make our way further south. Our next destination would be the country's capital, Vientiane, roughly halfway down the length of the country, along the Mekong River and Thai border. So we boarded a hot dusty bus for the long ride through the Lao countryside.
After experiencing the slower paced life of Laos' small northern villages we headed back to Luang Prabang for a week of colonial civilization. One of Laos' largest cities, at only 50,000 inhabitants Luang Prabang has a small colonial town feel with heavy French influence. Many of the buildings in the old town have a markedly European feel with high end shops, cafes and restaurants lining the streets between Buddhist temples. This classic modern city made for a great change from the simple life in the small villages, and a great place to hang out for a week.
After arriving in Luang Prabang on our slow boat down the Mekong River, we stayed a night before heading out of the city to spend some time in two small villages in northern Laos. We had been spending a lot of time in larger cities and were looking forward to experiencing small town life. We hopped in a packed and very hot van for the three hour ride north over bumpy and dusty dirt roads into the mountains of northern Laos, to the small villages of Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi.
After our brief stop back in Thailand, we boarded a slow boat a little ways into Laos for our two day ride down the Mekong to the city of Luang Prabang, Laos. Two days of great views and a bumpy ride avoiding rocks on our long, narrow and very crowded wooden boat. There are many ways to enter a country, but a long slow ride up a river was a new one for us and a memorable one as well.