It was not your average day, crossing over from Thailand into Laos (via a 5 minute river boat). The transition seemed too easy. Sighting the big orange bus on the side of the road, just after crossing the border into Laos I have to say was a magical sight. I have traveled extensively with Stray Travel in New Zealand and I have to say, I was pretty excited to journey with them again, this time in South East Asia!
When I say it was easy, I don't mean going through immigration. This can be a draining process for any traveler. There was a big line of us waiting to get through into Laos and start our epic journey with Stray Asia. The wait was a whopping 3 hours! Everyone stood waiting with their arrival cards and passports intact. And I have to say it was all worth it. As soon as we were on the road, I felt at home, I felt relaxed.
There are so many temples you can stop and visit, but don't miss out on the White Temple in Chiang Rai. Built in 1996 and all of the construction wont be finished until 2070. This is the most modern temple around! You must be careful when walking through not to turn around and walk back, as this resembles a path from hell to heaven, no looking back! A few of the girls on the bus had to borrow sheets from the front desk just to cover their legs (at most temples in around S.E Asia you will be asked to cover up parts of your body) as a sign of respect. After our stop over, we were happy in Luang Namtha meeting the locals in the village and getting the opportunity and experience to stay with a few of them.
Dinner that night dinner consisted of roast pumpkin, sticky rice with tomato puree, beans and chicken. It was delicious! A few of the people in our group were taking full advantage of the 'hop on hop off' feature of the Stray bus, so we said goodbye to a few of our friend in Luang Prabang and a few new people had hopped on our bus, so it was a win-win situation! The highlight of Luang Prabang for me was the beautiful Kungsi waterfalls. If there are a few of you, the cheapest way to get there is via tuk tuk. There is a bear sanctuary at the bottom to wander around leading up to the magnificent sets of waterfalls and places to swim. It is BEAUTIFUL. Unlike anything I have ever witnessed in my life.
After a few more stops we had made it to the capital of Laos - Vientiane. By far the most developed area of Laos. The temples were amazing and we were impressed by how much this place had to offer. We had the afternoon to cycle around and the night time to check out the markets (you will generally find markets everywhere you go around South East Asia - the biggest markets in the world however are the Chatuchak markets in Bangkok) definitely worth checking them out if you're after a bargain.
After 3 weeks of traveling around part of South East Asia we were looking forward to heading home to our own beds! It was great being apart of the Stray Bus groups, I just wish we had a few more weeks to play with so we could have stayed longer at some of the places. If you have a few months or more to travel around Asia, I definitely recommend Stray Asia. Helpful guides to offer advice and pre-book your accommodation if you wish, otherwise the bus is just a great, friendly mode of transport to get you from A to B.
You can expect to travel for between 4-7 hours on most of the sectors so do it comfortably, do it with Stray Asia!