XAYABOURY, Laos (Vientiane Times/ANN) – The road stretching between Vientiane and Xayaboury province has become more convenient than ever. It now hosts a daily stream of both buses and mini-buses (Lot Songthaew) carrying local passengers and tourists.
The mini-buses come from the Dongnathong Northern Bus Station in Sikhottabong district, Vientiane. Passengers can also take one from Lot Songthaen station, nearby the Sikhay market in the same locality.
One reporter from Vientiane Times and four private photographers chartered a Lot Songtaew, which cost one million kip, to travel to the Elephant Festival in Xayaboury province for two nights and three days.
Passengers who don’t want to charter a mini-bus can buy a bus ticket for 130,000 kip on the Vientiane-Xayaboury province route at the Songthaew station near the Sikhay market. There are two trips, one in the morning and another in the afternoon.
The elephant festival took place in Xayaboury province from February 17-22, about 400 kilometres from Vientiane. It’s quite far, but worth the trip for those who want to see just how big a Lao elephant really is.
We met at the house of the photographers in Thongtoum village, Chanthabouly district, on Friday morning, near the Thongkhankham market. Our minibus arrived on time.
Our driver did not speak much but he was friendly with the passengers.
“My name is Touy Norpaenkham, but please call me Touy the driver,” he said without smiling. “This white coloured Songthaen will bring all five of you from here to Xayaboury province and return to Vientiane safely.”
Our journey began at 10am and after almost one hour of travel we parked temporarily at the gas station to use the bathroom and buy drinking water.
Vangvieng is one of the most popular tourist destinations among foreigners, especially from Korea and China. They like boating and swimming along the Xong River. They also like to visit the Poukham cave.
Soon the minibus arrived at the centre of Vangvieng, where we had a chance to stop for lunch, before we hurried along the nine-km mountain road to avoid wasting time.
The road running over the mountains is very high and the journey up the mountain takes an hour.
After that, the road leading down the mountain was not as steep and we descended quickly.
We soon arrived at Meuang-nan junction point in Nan district, Luang Pravang province. At this point, the right turn leads to Luang Prabang province and left to Xayaboury province.
From here we took another hour to reach the town of Xayaboury province in Xayaboury district driving across the Mekong River bridge between Pakkhone village in Luang Prabang province to Thadeua village in Xayaboury province.
The town of Xayaboury was beautifully decorated to welcome the elephant festival and Visit Laos Year 2018 campaign. Every road, fence and house was decorated with the image of elephants.
Since December, many tourists, both Lao and foreign, have come to ride elephants in Xayaboury. Some days, about 100 people take rides.
Visitors like to pose for photos with the elephants and watch them perform shows, believing this will bring them good fortune. Xayaboury district has more than 50 elephants to entertain visitors.
Last year, more than 100,000 foreign tourists visited Xayaboury province.
After visiting the festival and attractions of Xayaboury for two night and three days, we returned to Vientiane. This time we took another route running alongside the Mekong River. It took less time, about five or six hours. This route is very popular among travellers going from Vientiane to Xayaboury.
The route runs from Xayaboury district to Paklai bridge which connects Nasak village in Paklai district to Xayaboury province. It crosses the Mekong River to Khokkhaodor village in Xanakham district, to Vientiane province; the length of which is about 150km.
Visitors can relax and have a nice lunch along the Mekong River.
The bridge was finished last year. Total construction cost was 189 billion kip, with the Netherlands government providing a grant totalling some 2.3 million euros (over 20 billion kip) towards the construction of the bridge.
The rest of the funds came from the Lao government.
The Nasak-Khokkhaodor Bridge also eases traffic from Loei province in Thailand to Vientiane via Road No 4 in Xayaboury province and Road No 11 on the left side of the Mekong River.
Vientiane is 204km from the Nasak-Khokkhaodor Bridge.