I’ve been pretty awful at updating since I got to Laos, but let’s blame that on the slow Internet connection here, OK? We spent our first few days in Luang Prabang. The town, full of cafes and al fresco restaurants, reminded me of a quaint European town. Even the architecture is styled after European buildings, showing France’s lasting influence on one of its former colonies.

We lazed our way through Luang Prabang (much as we’re lazing through the entire country), cafe-hopping and checking out the night market. On our last day, we headed out of town to play in some waterfalls and a swimming hole.

We decided to venture east to Phonsavan to see the famed Plain of Jars. The seven-hour minivan ride was just awful. Phonsavan is only a few hundred kilometers from Luang Prabang, but the only way to get there is by winding and swerving through mountains. We finally got to Phonsavan around dinnertime and searched for a guesthouse for the night. Lonely Planet recommended the Kong Keo guesthouse, but I can’t imagine why. We got there and looked around for the reception desk, only to find a man pissing on the outside wall of the bar. He got us a room and apologized for his drunken state (“Sorry, I have problems.” “Women problems?” “Yes, how you know?”). We met up with two guys we met on the van ride up to Phonsavan for dinner and drinks before calling it an early night.

The Plain of Jars was just that–plain. These jars, ranging from 1-3 meters in height, have been littered around the area for thousands of years, but nobody knows why. To be honest, there’s not much to do at the sites except take funny pictures of yourself popping in and out of the jars. We also visited the former capital of the province, which now exists as a few small shacks and a wat bombed into oblivion.

After our day trip in Phonsavan, we boarded another bus to Vang Vieng. The seven-hour trip on a public bus meant several toilet stops along the way. And by “toilet,” I mean, “everyone gets out on the side of the road and does their business simultaneously.” Weirdest. Experience. Ever. Especially when I stepped too far back and mooned everyone left on the bus. Still not the most humiliating part of the trip–that came a few minutes later, when an old Lao woman got back on the bus after the toilet stop and pinched my arm and grinned. I have never been so mortified.

Vang Vieng was an alright city. It would have been better had I not contracted food poisoning within half an hour of arriving. Note to self: Do not eat chicken from a street vendor in Vang Vieng. Big mistake. I was in bed sleeping the whole of the next day, absolutely miserable. I slept it off fast enough, and on our second full day, we made it tubing. Tubing is the only real attraction in the town. It’s tubing on a river, nothing strange there. The only difference is that every 50 meters or so is a bar. They rope you in, give you free whiskey shots and occasionally free food, and let you swing/slide/jump into the water. One place we stopped had a gigantic slide. We’re not talkin’ your mama’s country club pool slide here, folks. I went soaring a good 15-20 feet up in the air before landing in the water and being roped back to shore. Ridiculous.

Now we’re in the capital, Vientiane, which is likely going to be our last stop in Laos before moving on to Cambodia. Will post again before we leave, but for now, there’s a croissant with my name on it! Thank youuu, French colonization of southeast Asia! (Did I mention my six-dollar steak last night? How about the three-dollar carafe of wine?)