On January 22nd, we flew back to Vientiane from the Plain of Jars where we stayed in the town center and merely rested for a day. Denise got her hair cut and a manicure|pedicure in a very posh place called the New Wave hair studio by a gentleman that stated he had cut the hair of many foreign diplomats. Pete got a quick trim at a cheapie barber.
We left Vientiane on January 24th for Tha Khek on a 5 hour VIP bus. It sounds a lot more impressive than it is. All VIP means is that you get air con, a semi-comfortable seat, and a toilet on board, though that should probably count as a minus rather than a plus. The road was very uneven, thus the bus rocked severely from side to side the entire way. Fortunately, Denise found two seats together and semi-slept most of the way. We took a tuk-tuk to our hotel “Inthira” in Tha Khek.
When we arrived, we found the temperature was very low for this area to the point of actually seeing our breath. Phonsavan from where we had just left, had a forecast low of 28 degrees F with a chance of snow! We found out on the news that many animals in the north such as water buffalo and pigs died due to the freezing temperatures. This was an unusual cold snap all over SE Asia, including Japan, Vietnam, China, and Taiwan.
There were no reports of human deaths here in Laos. Since this country has no need for heat in their homes, people had to build little fires to stay warm. We were very fortunate to have moved south when we did. Otherwise, we would have had a miserable week.
Unfortunately, Pete had some gastrointestinal trouble which we will not go into in any detail. Denise hired a tuk-tuk driver to take her to several caves and natural areas while Pete stayed close to the facilities. It was cold in the tuk-tuk but luckily she brought her silk long johns thanks to the advise of her friend Larisa! We had also brought some fairly warm jackets which saved the week. At one point, we were wearing multiple layers of our clothing.
Denise took a tour to Kong Lo cave where she took a long tail boat 7 kilometers through a cave. The head lamp that she brought lit up the entire cave. The boatmen were very skilled at maneuvering through some low spots in the river. It was a beautiful trip although it required a long ride in the van. A Canadian couple went along and were great company!
Pete was getting better when she returned, but still not able to eat well. We took him to the local doctor who ordered some blood tests which turned out to be normal. They used sterile technique and a sterile needle. The hospital was very basic but seemed to be efficient. The diagnosis was traveller’s “troubles”, the cure, time and rehydration salts. It took about five days to clear. Pete is pretty sure the culprit was a bad masala dosa from the Indian restaurant across the sreet from our Vientiene hotel.