01.03.2007 - 08.03.2007 30 °C
After a month stay at Muang Ngoi, I finally headed south to Luang Prabang, a world heritage town, for a few days, then to Vientiane, capital of Laos. Because of its history and location (next to Mekong River), most buildings in Luang Prabang are French colonial styled. To accomodate the large number of tourists, the city is also full of trendy restaurants and a great night market. With the assistance of my local friends, I even bought a traditional Laos skirt. Vientiane, in comparison, is not as interesting, however, it is probably the most laid-back capital city in the world with only a few large hotels, motorbikes and SUVs.
A 10-hour bus ride took me from Vientiane to Pakse, a typical small Laos town with plenty of guesthouses and a few wats (temples). From Pakse, I took a 2-hr minibus to Doi Det, the border of Laos and Cambodia. Because of the many islands here on the Mekong River, it is also called the 'Four Thousand Islands'. Since there is only a few hours of electricity at night and high humidity, I quickly moved on to cross the border the next day, after a nice relaxing boat trip at sunset.
My first day in Cambodia turned out to be a surprise. The people at my guesthouse invited me and another American couple to a local wedding after a boat ride for dolphin-watching. The abundance of cheap beer and good food provided everyone a great time that night.
From Kratie, a 6-hr bus ride took me to the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, a city that went through very much in recent history. After a short visit to the Royal Palace, I visited Tuol Sleng, the Genocide Museum, which used to be a local high school. Only 30 years ago, the Poi Pet regime had massacred about 14000 people at this school over a 4 year period. Photos of victims and torture tools filled the museum with a chilly atmosphere.
From Phnom Penh, I took a 'very long' local bus to Siam Reap, where the famous Angkor Wat is. As impressive as it is, the whole Angkor Wat was filled with tourists from sunrise to sunset. The town Siam Reap is, as a result, packed with luxurious resorts for all types of tourists, esp. Japanese and Korean. Compared with the shanty houses along the same avenue with disabled children running around with no underpants, one has to wonder if Angkor Wat actually benefits local economy or just a tourist trap?