The Laos Effect

Paksan Travel Blog

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Were we stopped at a bridge over a river
We entered the Laos side of the border and it seemed every bit as shady as the Vietnamese side. Some people had to get visas and the rest of us went to get stamped in. Once again, the border official wanted something. Thankfully, our guide spoke Lao fluently so she sorted out whatever issue there may have been. We exchanged for some Lao kips (currency) before heading up a hill to meet our new driver. Our lunch time fears were soon justified.

As I was walking up the hill, I began to smell an awful smell. Then I heard whimpering. I finally saw the source, a large truck of dogs being taken to Vietnam to be sold as food. I was shocked. But because I eat meat, I cannot judge other people's food decisions. I can say that it was terrible to see the way they were crammed into the cages.

Our new driver was lovely. He smiled warmly as we approached the bus. One good thing about being in a tour group is that you know you will always have someone to meet you on the other side when you get to a border. Our guide explained that what we saw with the dog truck was illegal. People chose to smuggle them across that border crossing because the officials could be easily paid off. I guess they usually start in Northern Thailand and then the dogs are taken up through Laos before being smuggled into Vietnam.

We were relieved to get out of the border area. As we drove, I saw the sun for the first time in a few days. As with the other border crossings, I could see the immediate differences between the countries. Like Cambodia, Laos was drier and poorer than Vietnam.
But it wasn't like the desperate poverty of Cambodia, it seemed more like a simple country life. There were miles and miles of no people as we drove on winding roads through the mountains. It was so quiet and relaxing.

Earlier that day in Vietnam, we rarely saw people in the villages. If we did it was usually women picking rice. In Laos, when we drove through a rare village, it was usually more lively and mellow at the same time. Everyone was outdoors socializing or playing soccer and school kids were walking around. I saw a couple of foreigners, the only ones we saw that entire day, walking in a tiny village. I wondered how they ended up there. We stopped at a bridge on a river, I'm not sure what the significance of it was, but it was nice.
Limestone mountains
We stopped again at a limestone forest. The rows of jagged peaks were wonderful in the light of the setting sun.

When it was still light outside, I noticed that a lot of the huts had big satellite dishes. As it got dark, we could see into the huts. It looked like entire extended families were sitting on the floor crowded around one TV. Fluorescent lights were hanging in front of each home and it looked they were strung from hut to hut.

Our guide told us we were staying in the Paksan Hotel that night, "the premiere hotel in Paksan." That made me laugh because seriously, where the hell is Paksan? We finally arrived at around 8 or 9pm at the "Paksan Ho". I'm sometimes easily amused so I had a good laugh at the missing "tel" on the neon sign.
My room also made me laugh. I opened the door and there was a large space with nothing in it. I turned the corner and there was another large space with my bed. The bathroom, of course was tiny with a shower head over the toilet arrangement. But overall, the hotel was clean and spacious.

We went down to the hotel restaurant behind the hotel. They gave us one menu. We asked for more. But the waitress told us that was it, they only had one menu. I ordered tom yum soup with chicken. I was given tom yuck with chicken bones. Disgusting soup-2, me-0. But it was all good because Laos has this amazing way of making you incredibly calm and content. By the time we finished, a huge thunderstorm had rolled in. We were all worn out from our long day and headed back to our rooms to sleep.
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Were we stopped at a bridge over a…
Were we stopped at a bridge over …
Limestone mountains
Limestone mountains
Paksan Ho
"Paksan Ho"
photo by: worldcitizen