Published: December 17th 2009December 12th 2009
An early morning start in Luang Prabang got us safely aboard a 7am bus to the capital city, stopping on way at Vang Vieng. It was a queasy 6 hours for me thanks to the windy road over the mountains and recovering from the ills of the previous day. The bus dropped us 2km north of the city at the bus station, despite the small town only having one main road. This has become a point of contention with us travelling around. Towns in both Thailand and Laos have built new bus stations over recent years, always placing them in hard to get to locations just outside of town. This puts travellers with heavy backpacks at the mercy of tuk-tuk drivers, adding extra cost and hassle to getting between towns. We try to avoid this wherever possible, be it by local transport if available or occasionally walking in the heat. Thankfully this time, a small local bus was about to set off and dropped us in town for for free.
Vang Vieng has become a travellers Mecca for partying and drinking over recent years which is fine unless it interferes with my sleep- something I'm very passionate about!
Keen to avoid the usual late night chatter from Americans who love the sound of their own voices but were unfortunately born without the ability to regulate their volume, we checked into a small hotel just outside of the main party centre. It was clean, cheap and best of all it was pretty empty and we were the only westerners so had a bit of peace.
Exploring that evening, we discovered loads of backpacker cafés serving good food and playing DVDs of Family Guy, Friends and The Simpsons continuously, which we're ashamed to say we indulged in and enjoyed a great deal. Travelling around in totally new cultures is great but after a while the occasional bit of western familiarity goes a great way to relaxing and recharging your enthusiasm for new things.
VangVieng has become famous for its river tubing, which is also accompanied with a dozen or so riverside bars selling cheap beer and giving away free shots of whiskey. They're really impressive, built from bamboo and often sitting out over the river, they have high swings and zip lines that propel tourists from up high down into the water. Its all fun but the beer
and the low river levels in the dry season have apparently caused serious injuries over the years. So for a small fee, we were given a tube and driven up river to the drop off point. We started off floating between a few bars, taking advantage of the free alcohol and rock music. A lot of people spend all day in the bars and many were completely wasted by lunchtime which seemed a bit of a waste so after an hour or so, we decided to jump in the tubes and float down river away from the group of bars. We drifted slowly for several hours down the river, passing over the occasional small rapid. The scenery was spectacular, with the high jagged mountains covered in tropical plants, with local people in their canoes fishing and children playing and swimming.
The river eventually took us back to town where a group of five children jumped in the water, swimming towards us and grabbing onto the side of the tubes. At first we thought they were trying to tip us over but they were actually pushing us back over to shore as we were at the end of the tubing
run in the hope for a tip. The whole tubing experience was really enjoyable and is a must for anyone who happens to be passing this way.
There are more photos below