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Posts Tagged ‘Waterfalls’

Upon hearing we were headed to Laos, a lot of our friends and family from home asked, ‘Laos?  Why are you going to Laos?  What’s in Laos?’  It seems to be a country that not many Americans know much about.

Wedged between Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, Laos is a small country that during the Vietnam war, the USA dropped over two million tons of bombs over Laos, destroying villages and displacing thousands of citizens.  In addition, a large percentage of the bombs failed to detonate, leaving behind contamination from the unexploded bombs , which has injured or killed thousands of Laotians since the end of the war.

However, despite its grim past and current poverty, Laos is a beautiful country with friendly people…we looked forward to exploring and seeing what it had to offer. 

Crossing the Mekong in a longboat, we arrived at the Thailand/Laos border, had our passports stamped, and began the long and bumpy bus ride to Luang Prabang (there are very few paved roads in this country…it took us nine hours to go around 60 miles).   Along the way, we made friends with Megan, a fellow passenger from Denmark that was travelling for a few months around India and southeast Asia; she would turn out to be our travel buddy through the majority of our time in the country.  We arrived in Luang Prabang around 10:30 p.m., checked into the first reasonably priced guesthouse we could find, and passed out.

Thailand/Laos Border...very official

Our first couple of days we spent making new friends and exploring the town…Luang Prabang is so quaint and charming, it almost makes you want to throw up.   Situated between the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, its cobble stone streets are lined with cafes, shops, Buddhist temples, and buildings inspired by French architecture.   There is an extremely slow pace of life here…all the restaurants and bars close up around 11 p.m. and the only late-night action after that is the local bowling alley (it only has 5 lanes…ha!), which of course we had to check out.

At the bowling alley. I bowled a 13.

One day, our group took a trip to the nearby Kouang Si Falls to walk around and do a little swimming.   It had rained the night before, so the pools were a little murky, but still incredibly beautiful.   Kelly and I jumped off one of the falls and Megan did the rope swing.   Fun times.

 

A couple of days later, we booked a one-day trek that involved a hike through the jungle, lunch in a mountain village, and kayaking on the Mekong.   After a month of laying around on beaches, the trek was a bit difficult, not to mention crazy…we were climbing over huge boulders, fallen trees, and walking through leech-infested forest.  We made it to the mountain village where we had lunch at a local’s home.   The poverty in these villages is somewhat shocking…there may be a house or two that have brick or concrete walls, but most are made of bamboo, thatch roofs and some plywood.   You see homes and villages like this all over Laos and it made Kelly and I feel very fortunate to have such cush lives back home.

This is someone's house

Our hosts were very friendly and the food was delicious.   After lunch, we began our kayaking down the Mekong, which made the hard trek worth it…the paddle down was absolutely stunning.

On the Mekong

Cute kid trying to get us to pay him $1 to set a bird free, which of course just flies right back to its cage. Lil' hussler!

On our way back to town, we stopped at Ban Xang Hai, a small village where Lao Lao, the local whiskey is made. A lot of the whiskeys are poured into glass bottles with snakes, scorpions, centipedes…even a fricken bear paw…and are supposed to give you crazy dreams. We tried a few flavors sans insect/animal parts and it was pretty brutal.   It tastes a lot like rocket fuel.

Lao Whiskey

The rest of our evenings in Luang Prabang were spent wandering the nightly street market, cocktails at Hive Bar (along with a Lao village fashion show!), and dinner by the Mekong.

Fashion Show at Hive Bar

One morning I dragged myself out of bed to watch the procession of monks, a tradition where monks collect their alms for the day.  Every morning at 6 a.m. the monks of Luang Prabang walk along the main street, which is lined with local men and women seated on mats.   They place sweet cakes and sticky rice in the monks’ urns…this offering is the monks’ only food for the day.  It is a beautiful custom to witness, despite having to watch a few tourists get right up in the monks’ faces to snap photos, which I found a little disrespectful.

After 5 relaxing days here, Kelly, Megan and I headed to the party town of Vang Vieng to do some tubing and watch an obscene amount of ‘Friends’.

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One of the ‘must sees’ for us on this trip was a visit to Iguazu Falls, a series waterfalls over 200 feet high that cascade over an ancient lava flow. There was no way we were coming to Argentina and not checking this out.

After a 18 hour bus ride, we arrived in the small town of Puerto Iguazu and got settled in our hostel, Residencial Uno. The owners, Dian and Balleria, have five big dogs that ruled the place, so we got to get our ‘cute dog’ fix during our three days there. Our first night the owners hosted an asado (an Argentinean bbq where they cook the whole cow) and Kelly and I tried some of the intestines and the kidney. Kelly loved the taste, but I could take or leave it.

Dog

There were five of these dogs. So cute!

Our first day at the falls was action packed. The park has two circuits, an upper and a lower. The upper circuit allows for a bird’s eye view, while the lower lets you actually walk around and into the falls. We immediately went to see the main attraction, ‘La Garganta del Diablo’ (The Devil’s Throat) upon entering the park. Whoa. There are no words to describe this thing and the pictures do not even begin to do it justice. The sheer amount of water pouring over the edge was mind boggling.

devils throat

The Devil's Throat. The cloudy stuff at the bottom of the photo is actually mist spraying up from the waterfall.

throat

So much water

more throat

Incredible

After about 30 minutes or so of staring in awe at the throat, we headed off to catch our speed boat that took us up the river, over rapids and into the falls. We took some fast turns into the falls and got completely soaked. It was a blast! The boat dropped us off on the lower circuit and we were able to check out the falls from the ground level, and again, got sopping wet.

Boat Ride

Us on the boat

Falls from the boat

On our way to the falls...view from the boat

Us on the lower circuit

Us on the lower circuit

Upper Circuit

Upper circuit. Can you see the rainbow? They were everywhere.

We made our rounds on the upper circuit and returned to the park the next day to hike the Macuco trail, a more remote hike that leads to a secluded waterfall. After a couple of hours basking in the sun, picnicking, and taking pictures of all of the butterflies, we said goodbye to Iguazu Falls.

Butterfly

Pretty

There are also some short videos of the falls and many more photos on our flickr page, which is under our photos tab.  Check em out!

Our goal was then to get to Mendoza, the main wine region of Argentina. We spent one night in the university town of Cordoba on our way there and made a new friend, May from Baltimore, that ended up tagging along with us. Fun days ahead…

 

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