Published: December 15th 2008November 13th 2008
Vang Vieng and Vientiane
We had heard about Vang Vieng back in Australia as this place where you can sit in a tube and go down a river whilst people give you drinks. It has definitely become an essential stopping point along the backpackers route through Laos. We were excited to get there all we had to do was get from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng. We decided to book an early bus from Luang Prabang because we wanted to arrive into Vang Vieng at a normal time so that our search for accommodation will be a little easier. The trip was to take 6 to 9 hours however for us it took closer to 12- 13 hours. This was because the bus in front of us broke down as something was wrong with its tire. Our bus stopped to help and after around 1 ½ hours of sitting on the side of the road in a random Laos village, the bus was finally ready to go. This feeling of relief only lasted for around 1 minute as we turned a corner at the other end of the village and the bus was sitting on the side of the road
again. 1 ½ hours later they decided to load everyone and everything (including 4 motorbikes which were sitting on the roof) into our bus. Then we were off again except this time we had a guest sitting on our seat with us. Suffice to say it was a very squashy ride. It became an extremely uncomfortable ride very quickly when the lady who was basically sitting on top of us started to spit into a plastic bag. She was not the only one doing it, many of the locals for some reason spit into plastic bags which they then throw out the window. It is not a nice thing at all to be around and is particularly disgusting when they start doing it over the top of you.
Eventually we arrived in Vang Vieng but it was late at night and any accommodation that was halfway decent was booked out. So at the end of a horrible bus trip we ended up staying in some very dingy accommodation for the night.
Early the next morning we woke up afresh and after checking into new accommodation we checked out the town. It was very small but very idyllic. The town itself
is located on the banks of a river which is surrounded by mountains. During the dry season the locals build lots of rickety bridges over the river. These bridges then get washed away during the wet season. It is very amusing to watch the locals drive motorbikes over these bridges as you can see by the photos.
Eventually we knew that the time had come for us to go tubing. Basically how it all works is you hire a tube from a place in town, then you hop on a tuk tuk with your tube and they drop you a few kilometres upstream and then you float down to the town and get out. On our trip out to the drop off place our tuk tuk driver hit a dog which sort of unnerved us. Lonely planet also writes that a few people have died whilst tubing, so we were expecting some rapids. This was not to eventuate, the tubing itself is actually very boring. I think that you need to be blind drunk to think that it is very exciting. Although it is very beautiful. Along the edge of the river are bars and people with ropes who will
pull you in so that you can have a drink at their bar. Some of the bars are very entertaining with big slides and flying foxes into the water.
We left Vang Vieng to head for the capital city of Laos called Vientiane. Our plan was to get a plane from Vientiane to Siem Reap in Cambodia. However when we went to the airline office they informed us that this route was booked out for the next 2 weeks. So we needed a new plan. After much discussion we decided to fly into Hanoi in Vietnam. The only problem was that it was Friday afternoon and we needed visas for Vietnam and the embassy was not going to open until Monday. So we sat around reading books and doing very little in possibly the worlds most laid back and chilled out capital. We have been to many places where the hammock is prominent but not a place where the hammock is such a dominant feature of everyone's life as it is in Vientiane. All of the tuk tuk driver spend there days hanging in the back of their tuk tuks in a hammock. They are so comfortable that it
can at times take quite a bit of convincing to get them to take you somewhere.
Eventually on Tuesday morning our visas for Vietnam were granted and we booked a flight out for the Wednesday.
Unfortunately we have no pictures of Vientiane because during our time there we slowly slipped into the Tuk-tuk driving hammock sitting way of life and we kept meaning to take photos the next time we went out. So in the end we only have our memories of the most laid back capital on earth.