Published: July 21st 2012July 21st 2012
It's been a magical few days here in Laos. Katie, Alyssa, Nate and I departed sleepy Vientiane for the backpackers playground that is Vang Vieng. The journey there alone was notable. The trip takes about 4 hours back bus and we decided that being stuck in a local bus with no air condition for four hours in 100 degree weather didn't sound like much fun. So instead we walked to the bus station and kind of waited around until someone approached us and asked if we were looking to get to Vang Vieng. We, of course, were. So for about $1 more per person we chartered an air-con bus to our destination. This was probably one of the more awkward things we have done this trip. After all we were unsure that we would even get there, let alone whether or not that would pack the bus to the gills so that the trip would become more uncomfortable then the city bus.
We waited around for a while and finally more and more people started showing up to get into the bus. We got a little worried as someone had told us that the bus would likely have people sitting
in the aisles and such. However, it wasn't too bad once we finally took off. The bus was at max capacity but it was still very comfortable and air-conditioned! Then the real shenanigans began. We literally stopped about 12 different times are various fruit stands on the side of the road so the passengers could buy more fruit. And my god, did they buy a lot of fruit! One woman on the bus actually continuously ate fruit for the entire 3 hour drive! I never knew anyone could even eat that much fruit! Then we began dropping people off in random places, like at block parties and mountain shacks , etc. It was definitely a pretty funny ride and we were DEFINITELY in Asia!
Anyway, once we finally arrived in Vang Vieng we were immediately astonished at how beautiful it was. The mountains seemed to jut straight out of the ground and protrude through the sky in such a beautiful way. The town was small and was bustling with happy backpacking tourists. Vang Vieng is famous for two things: tubing and caves. We decided to tackle the caves the first day since we were a little too tired for
a whole day of tubing.
We trekked a few kilometers down the road and crossed over some bridges to arrive at the caves. They were massive and extremely relaxing. We then spent the rest of the afternoon wading around in a crystal blue swimming hole just outside of the caves. It felt amazing to finally beat the heat. Afterwards we frequented one of the many diners in town. Vang vieng restaurants have an extremely unique theme. Many of them serve you your food on raised platforms (without your shoes on) where you sit on cushions and relax while you watch friends on a flat screen tv. (Yes, Friends the TV show from the 90's...). It was really relaxing, so much so that they got a lot of tired (and probably drunk) backpackers falling asleep in their restaurants....
The night life in Vang Vieng was extremely busy. All the bars were packed full of young tourists drinking cheap whiskey buckets and dancing to loud electronic music. It was a strange scene but everyone was so damn happy it was easy to forget about how commercialized everything was.
Now to the main event: tubing. Tubing in Vang Vieng is
unlike anything I have ever done. For about $6 you rent an inner tube from a tubing company and get driven up to the top of the river to float down. This all sounds very calm and nice, however, when they say 'float' down it's not what you would expect. The river is laden with bars which toss ropes out to you to pull you in from the river and fill you with free whiskey. I will leave it at that and you can use your imagination for the rest. But just as a warning about 30 people a YEAR die from these shenanigans. The current is fast and the conditions can change in a second so if you are not responsible and do not go with friends who watch out for one another I can easily see this happening. The scariest part was near the end of the float. There are absolutely NO signs telling you when and how to exit the river and we had to eventually climb out at a random drive way where locals stared at us in disbelief. When we finally got out we realized we had gone far passed where we wanted to exit
and had to walk for a while to get back to the center of town. The river is definitely not for sissies!
After a day of tubing we were all pretty exhausted and fell asleep by 8 pm. The next day Alyssa and Katie took off to travel down the islands of Thailand while me and Nate continued our epic Asia adventure. We are currently in the sleepy town of Luang Pragang. This town is the "french gem" of Laos filled with delicious food, quaint bars and French architecture. In a matter of hours me and Nate will be saying good bye to Laos and Hello to Hanoi, Vietnam!
There are more photos below