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Laos – Tha Khaek – 15th-16th February

The tummy bug came back to haunt Helen and once again she was caught on a day of travel…always carry Imodium as it comes in very handy for those long bus journeys!! So it wasn’t the best night and we were a little worried about the journey as our next destination; Tha Khaek was a good 8 hours or more away. Still onwards we travelled as sometimes just getting on with it needs to be done, especially when we’re on a time schedule of sorts. The first part of the journey was the boat back over to the mainland where we were directed to a bus carrying passengers to Pakse. It took around 2 hours to reach Pakse and when we arrived at the bus station we were moved onto another local bus with one other traveller, Floss. The middle aisle on the second bus was full of rice bags so we took a few seats at the front and waited…and waited. It was another hour and a half before leaving the bus station with more locals boarding as we drove out of the bus station.

It was a very long bus journey indeed, we don’t really know how many times we stopped, started, the bus driver got off for food, more locals got on, but by the end of the journey the middle bags of rice were loaded with people all the way through the bus. These journeys are always the one’s we remember though and we definitely recommend taking local buses when you’ve got the energy. We arrived at Tha Khaek bus station at around 11.15 pm, along with Floss we picked up a tuk-tuk into town which is about 4km away. The tuk-tuk was packed with a family, two other men, one large epson printer, us and our bags! The Travel Lodge, our first pick was closed up and full with some guests sleeping on the floor, so we drove around the town and the driver took us to a guest house where there was one room available. Floss took it and we decided to go in with her, it was an old office that had two single beds, one fan and polystyrene around the walls to insulate it. There was also a strong stench of garlic, but as it was now midnight and only costing 50,000 kip between us all we took it for the night.

The following morning we packed up and walked around looking for other possible, affordable places to stay whilst en-route to the Tourist Information Center. We don’t always go to these places as often the tourist information can be less than helpful but we had read in the Lonely Planet that they offer well-priced eco-tours in the area. There was a hotel a few houses down from the office on the right and they had rooms available with en-suite for 50,000 kip/room, the 3 of us decided we would move here. Walking a little further up the street we found the Tourist Information office and it was closed, with a sign saying opening times 1.30-4.30pm, we hung around for a few minutes and along came a man on a scooter, he unlocked the office and in we went. They have a good brochure listing 1 to 3 day treks and sights in the region, our main purpose of visiting Tha Khaek was to visit the mighty Konglor cave, but to do this as a one day trip would involve a lot of time spent in a mini-van or on a bus and the 3 day trip with the cave included was no longer on offer. So we settled for a 2 day trek in the Phu-Hin Bun national park where we would walk for 2 days, visit a few caves, stay in a local village and visit striking lagoons. This was pretty good value for money at around $82 each for 3+ people, Ann from France arrived at the same time and booked the trip along with Floss and ourselves and we hoped more people would book on for the following day as we would get some money back in this instance.  In comparison Green Discovery Laos who also operate tours in this area of the country are nearly double if not triple the amount of the tours offered by the tourist information, they do seem to offer some very good options such as 3 day kayak, biking and trekking but they are priced way above our budget and cost more than the higher priced tours we did back in Vietnam.

We moved to the new hotel and spent the remainder of the day exploring Tha khaki; visited the market, where Helen bought a piece of traditional Laos–style material that would work as a sarong for bathing purposes, and we walked up to the Travel Lodge to arrange accommodation there for our last night in Tha Khaek. We took a back-lane around the town and watched the locals get home from work, kids playing in the street and many people offering us their hello’s along the way. We stopped off for some western food at the main square in the centre of town and then walked back to the hotel to rest and pack for the following day. Unfortunately for the rest of the evening Helen’s tummy bug hit an all time high of toilet visits and restlessness, we were worried about the trip and vowed to get some anti-bacterial antibiotics in the morning.

(Leica M9, Summicron-M 50mm f2.0 & Olympus PEN, 17mm f2.8 & 100mm f2.8, processed in Lightroom 3)

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One Comment

  1. Posted 16 Mar ’11 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Yikes, poor Helen!!!! Hope you’re feeling better soon dear!!! xx
    (ps liked the doors/padlock shot a lot!)

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