After checking out the old library, we headed over to see some sacred turtles in the local village and an old temple that had been bombed during the Vietnam War. It was there that we found out that Laos has been bombed more times than any other country in the world! Then it was a long bus ride down to Tad Lo where we would hopefully get to ride some elephants and chill at the huge waterfall. Now up to this point our driver had been awesome and got us everywhere safe and sound, however as it got dark it was the first time we got a little nervous from his driving. For one thing it’s fairly common for dogs, chickens, water buffalos, you name it, to wander out into the roads and in the day time they were easy to avoid, but as it got dark he didn’t seem to change his speed and me and G were pretty sure at one point he hit at least one puppy that was lying in the road even though he tried to deny it. G was sitting in front and was pretty shook up by the end of it and very angry on the way he had been driving.
After the long drive we were all tired and had a fairly early night before getting up the next day to head over to the elephants. Annoyingly we weren’t able to get a ride as you had to book the day before, but we got to hang out with one of the elephants and a particularly hilarious moment was when Joel kept trying to feed it a banana she didn’t like and ended up grabbing it with her trunk and throwing it away! Afterwards the owner came out with a huge bunch of bananas which she happily munched on in front of us.
Once again we didn’t have much time at the waterfall before having to head back to the bus to continue onto our next stop to see Mr. Coffee and his coffee plantation. Mr. Coffee was a very cool dude from Holland (with an awshome dutch akshent!) who had been living in Laos for some time and had been running his coffee business with his wife for about 4 years. Personally i’m much more of a tea person (spot the pommie) but i was really interested to see how proper coffee is made, right from the very beginning of picking the beans. I had absolutely no idea that coffee beans actually started off as red berries! This particular variety that Mr. Coffee was harvesting was the arabica plant and we first headed over to his plantation for some more info and to pick us some coffee beans!
Then it was back to his house to show us the process of sorting, removing the beans and drying them before finally showing us how they are roasted and cooled, which is apparently one of the most important stages for good coffee!
After watching all of this i was really keen to get some raw beans and try roasting some myself on our barbie for Christmas, but unfortunately with Australia’s anal customs laws, i wouldn’t have been able to bring them through, so i settled for a couple of packs of already roasted beans to try when i got home.
Moving on we then checked out a couple more waterfalls, where i saw the biggest spider i have ever seen chilling out above us in the nearby restaurant. I wish i’d had a zoom lens with me as this thing was ugly. Our local guide told us it wasn’t dangerous but i seriously doubted that. It looked like it could happily eat your face off.
Another long drive finally took us to Pakse where i publicly humiliated myself at the local Karaoke bar our tour guide took us to. Sitting there everyone else was too nervous to sing so out of some unknown courage i ended up singing a few songs before persuading our Swedish tour guide to sing some Abba! After a few more terribly depressing Laos songs (every music video seemed to have someone crying in it) we’d had enough and decided to choose something fun, and what else could you choose other than Vengaboys – We like to party! It was a fun night and good to get out of the routine of sitting around in our room.
The next day we drove to nearby Wat Phou, an ancient Khmer temple not far from the border to Cambodia. Annoyingly this place was perfect for some photos but rubbish weather had finally caught up with us and it rained for most of the time we were there. Then on the way out we saw our second giant creepy crawly. An absolutely massive Centipede with claw-like legs and a huge body. When we got close to take photos the locals were freaking out and telling us to get away. Obviously i had no intention to touch the damn thing!
Afterwards it was a mad dash to get down to Don Det where we would be doing some Dolphin watching. We were really grateful to Charly who managed to get everything sorted on the way so we had enough time before it got dark. This was another time i wish i had a zoom lens, as my 17-50 wasn’t getting any decent photos, but the scenery was beautiful as we floated around the large river seperating Laos from Cambodia. We then had a lovely sunset on the way back to the harbour. A perfect way to finish our last day on the Stray tour, and our last day in Laos.
The guys and i were all really glad we chose to do the Stray tour and although there were a few things we didn’t like, we still had an awesome time travelling with them through the South of Laos. For anyone else looking at doing the same, i would definitely reccommend travelling down from Luang Prabang yourself, and then jumping on the tour at Vientiane. Without a doubt my favourite part of the tour was getting to stay at the local village for a night, something i never imagined i would get to do, and an awesome experience.
That night we all got together for dinner and a few drinks, and we said goodbye to Simon who would be sticking around a couple more days before he headed into Cambodia. For the rest of us it was back on the bus and up to Pakse again where we would cross the border into Thailand and jump on my first sleeper train to Bangkok!