The famous phrase "same same, but different" uttered at least 10 times a day in Laos can really sum up the similarities between Thailand and Laos.
Food, speech and culture are very closely related yet the mindset of the people seems to be different. The culture in Laos is much more relaxed. In Thailand pronouncing words with the wrong intonation leaves people blank faced like you are speaking some alien tongue, in Laos the people seem to understand and accept falang speech.
Laos is pronounced 'Lao' if you're wondering...
Vientiane the capital city boasts the Laos version of the Arc de Triumphe... It has 400,000 residents and doesn't really feel like a capital city. There is French influence there and lots of tasty international cuisine. I had a 4 course delicious French meal complete with red wine, crème brûlée, salad and baked fish with a tasty cream sauce... the only problem the cost (about $10 USD) was quite high for Laos...
A better deal and much tastier fare was the Indian/Pakastani food from the Zahid Family Restaurant. A family restaurant indeed as it is basically out in the yard of their house with picnic tables and plastic chairs. The best part, the smiles and delicious food. People write reviews and leave them on the wall... one reads "If this curry was a woman she would be fit as. This curry has changed my life" Signed Johhny from the UK.
Escaping Vientiane I reached Vang Vieng a raucous party town where I went rock climbing and cave exploring and of course sampling the local Lao Lao whiskey.
The best part of the adventure was working my way up the Mekong on a 2 day slowboat trip. The terrain changed from mountains and steep walled ravines to flatter farm land as we neared Huay Xai. The boat cruised along winding its way along the river like an eel, avoiding rock outcroppings and submerged logs hidden away below the muddy river. I befriended an Australian who was cruising the country by motorbike, and a couple of newlyweds from Portland.
Peaceful the time eased by. Tranquil compared to the trip the crash helmet wearing
passengers took on the jetboat that reached the destination in half the time of ours.
Finally I've arrived on the farm in Pai, Northern Thailand where we are preparing for a rice harvest festival.