When I got to the border of Laos and Vietnam I wasn't sure what to expect. I was hoping I'd be able to get a new visa for Vietnam on arrival but this wasn't the case. So I headed into Laos. I was worried about both borders because I was coming over via a motorbike that technically I did buy but the papers are in the name of a vietnamese person. I had read that both borders have been known to give foreigners a hard time and usually a bribe is involved. I also read that even though the border I crossed at is open, Bo Y, that sometimes the Vietnamese officers turn you away and say it isn't. All this said I have to say that the whole thing was a breeze. I was in and out of both checkpoints relatively fast. Once into Laos you have to travel 120km before you come to any sort of a proper town, glad I got gas before coming into the country. The road is beautiful as you drive up, around, and down mountaintops. You can see from the near get-go the difference between Laos and Vietnam in the nature. So much vast land of just fauna. The road was almost empty of other traffic and the land seemed almost untouched. But I also realize I'm in a pretty new part of the country that is slowly starting to be developed so I am not chalking too many of my experiences up to being factual yet. One thing I wish I took a picture of was this sign before you got to Laos that said "Frontier Land" I didn't know it when I saw it, but this really summed up the area I was heading to.
As I was driving those long 120km I kept wishing I had taken more water with me and then I remembered something, I'm in Laos! I couldn't wait to grab a Beer Lao after the hot drive. Not a huge drinker but Beer Lao is very tasty, especially when compared to the watered down stuff they call beer in Vietnam. When I got in, no one was at the hotel I was staying at so I decided to wander around for a bit. Did I tell you that I came during Laos New Year? Yep, my 3rd new year of 2011. For new years kids shoot water guns or sometimes just dump/throw buckers of water on you. So I was greeted, fresh on arrival, from the people across the street by having water poured over me. Shortly after a Beer Lao was handed to me, and the drinks seemed to keep on coming. Soaking wet and getting a little buzzed what better to do than dance to Laos music? Houses would have mini sound-systems set up pumping out loud music, sometimes with karaoke mics attached. As you ate or drank beer, danced or sat down, kids would constantly come up behind you and pour water down your back. Occasionally someone would have powder in their hand and covered you in face powder, baby powder, any type of powder, maybe lipstick or other makeup. Though I didn't understand a thing, I went with it.
Having not really eaten much all day, being in the sun with little water and then downing a bunch of beer needless to say I got buzzed and I got tired. I headed back to my hotel to see if people were there yet. They were and she was Vietnamese, which meant I could somewhat talk with her. She fed me dinner and I headed to my room after to unpack. I planned to go explore this city some more but fell asleep for a few hours. When I woke it seemed maybe a bit too late to go out to explore more of the new year festivities.
Alas, one thing was clear. This is a very different place than Vietnam.
The next day was still part of the new years celebration so I wandered around some more and was invited to more peoples houses, offered more beer and got to try other Laos food. (What's sort of funny is that I'd been looking for balut for the past year and bought some a few days before in Vietnam. Now after finally trying it and having it in my radar, I was being offered it in Lao.) Sadly, I don't really have any pictures because I was afraid of having water poured on my camera. Again I took a mid day nap brought on by heat and Beer Lao.
The next day I'd wake up early and head off to Paksong, Lao's coffee capital.