Published: August 4th 2006August 3rd 2006
So lazy I don't even bother to update my journal. Aah.
In Luang Prabang, the seductive town where I left you I spent most of my time hanging around in cafes and sampling the excellent coffee, baguettes and Lao food on offer, reading books and chatting with whoever happened to be around. It was nice. I also paid a visit to the waterfalls/swimming lagoons outside town and got wet and cool in a forest setting just before the hordes came in the afternoon. While exploring these waterfalls I noticed that young local monks seem to be able to gain acces to pretty much anywhere: sure footed boys in orange robes appear at the most precarious and slippy outcrops and waterfalls while foreigners slide down mud and get hot and sweaty to get to safer vantage points.
I also visited the museum in Luang Prabang which which used to be the royal palace bafore the royal family disappeared suddenly after the communist takeover. It is devoted mostly to the royal family and their lifestyle and it seems weird that the people who were so readily disposed of have been turned into a tourist attaction by the very people who deposed them. There was also a room containing gifts from other countries, including a shard of moon rock and replica lunar lander sent to the 'Kingdom of Laos' by Richard Nixon back when there still was a Kingdom.
Other than that, like I said, it was mostly just relaxing.
After a few days there I felt I had to leave to avoid getting trapped and, altough I would have liked to explore the towns to the north of Luang Prabang This would have eaten up my time and required severe backtracking so I headed south, deciding to stop for a day in Vang Vieng to witness the circus and try the incredibly fun sounding activity of tubing. For those that don't know, Vang Vieng is a small town set in really lovely limestone mountain scenery which most visitors miss due to being loaded up on drugs and watching Friends, Family Guy or The Simpsons at large volume in well cushioned TV restaurants. Why you's come over to the other side of the world to do this mostly beats me, but I know it's easy to fall into the trap. One travelling companion went for beakfast in one place and and was very easy to find fo the rest of the day.
I admit to sticking around for a couple of movies, but the main reason that I was there was to try tubing. You basically rent a tractor tyre inner, get a lift to a launch point upriver from the town and float back, maybe stopping off at numerous bars, swings and water jumps on the way. However, I missed the point by only stopping at one bar/swing, savouring the scenery and the incredibly fun sensation of floating down the river then accidentally floating past my stop and having to climb up the river bank and having to walk back with my giant tyre due to tuk-tuk drivers trying to overcharge me horrendously. Luckily somebody gave me a free lift back on their motorbike, which was nice of them.
Since I was going to go insane if I heard the Family Guy Theme tune one more time I left to Vientiane on an overpriced, overcrowded minibus due to being misinformed about timetables the previous day. I believe I commented in a previous entry that Vieng Xai would have made one of the least likely capital cities ever, but Vientiane isn't much better on that score. It is a large but sleepy town though its capital status and large amount of expat workers mean good eating and excellent amenities for the traveller. For sightseeing it isn't up to much- the big gold temple is far away and currently being renovated and the arc d'triomphe copy is a slightly Asianised concrete monstrosity (it even admits it on the sign). I had to stop a few days in order to get a Cambodian visa and spent this time (guess what?) chilling out, getting a traditional massage (simultaneously painful and relaxing), eating tasty food, walking around and checking out local live music (I'm still not really sure what I make of it).
Now, with the clock ticking on my time in Laos, I'm heading south, breaking up my journey in the run down yet rather interesting city of Savannakhet. Next update: probably Cambodia.