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Published: March 9th 2009
Necking a Beer Lao by the Mekong River.
So we left Bangkok on an over night bus (please let this be the last time we do an over night bus!) and arrived just outside the border in the early hours of the morning. We sorted out our visa over a coffee and were taken across, no major problems except I almost couldn’t get into the country as I don’t have any blank pages on my passport any more in which to get a visa! The guy managed to squeeze it onto the very last page just behind the emergency details bit. I don’t think that page can be used for visa or stamps, but he did it anyway. Ah, who cares!
Half an hour later we arrived into Laos’s capital city Vientiane. We went hunting for a place to stay and as usual the Lonely (liar) Planet suggestion in town was fully booked out. Luckily we walked around the corner and found a rather nice hotel for just a few extra dollar, so we book into there. One of the first thing we noticed about Laos, well Vientiane to be precise, was how quite and calm everything seemed. All the guide books said that Laos is a very
chilled out place and that the south is even more chilled than the north. Well as we were in the north I wonder what the south would be like?
Walking around the town you can really get a feel for the French colonisation. The town square has an almost Alpine feel to it, and there were lots and lots of bakeries and baguette places to eat in. The food on offer was very good indeed and cheap too.
We took a walk down to the Mekong river that runs through the city, along the banks are a load of temporary restaurants and bars that over look the water. We got a Beer Lao (local famous beer) and watched the sun go down over the Mekong for the second time (as we’d seen it first in Cambodia).
We only spend about two days in Vientiane as we really wanted to go north to Luang Prabang, then back down to Vang Vieng to go tubing - but more on that later. So we booked our bus north, apparently a seven hour drive - not true.
Kelly says this was the worst bus journey that we have done all year. The
On the road
Bus gets caught in land slide then a wheel blows out.
roads that run between Vientiane and Luang Prabang at best are rubbish. It’s like driving up to the Alps but never getting to the top. The roads go up and down and back and forth for about five hours. It's incredibly tedious and if you are on one of the naff ‘VIP’ buses you’ll certainly start to feel sick after an hour or so. It was raining whilst we were travelling, and along the way we came across a land slide which the bus driver sat at for half an hour then decided to go over anyway. The drops at the side of the road where huge and the mud slippery but he went for it anyway. It was quite unnerving. Somehow though we made it and we carried on. About an hour or two later a huge bang came from the back of the bus, then lots of short ones. The driver stopped once more and jumped out, one of the back tires had blown out. So we all jumped out of the bus and waited by the side of the road up in the mountains. To be fair they did have the wheel off and replaced in about
View from up high.
15 mins (I imagine it happens all the time) but the wheel that came off had probably the baldest tire I've ever seen - nice to know we just went over wet mud in that eh?!
So, we all jumped back in got thrown around for another hour or two and eventually made it into Luang Prabang almost ten hours later!
Luang Prabang is a world heritage site meaning that all the original buildings are kept in tact and are well maintained. The town it’s self is boasted to be the prettiest town in the whole of South East Asia and I would agree with that. The buildings are magnificent and there are about 25 temples in and around the town. The Mekong River runs one side of town and the Nam Kham River the other. Nam Kham was the side we stayed, it had a few bars and restaurants dotted along the shore with excellent views to watch the sun go down, watch the locals play around in the river, sometimes washing, sometimes fishing and watching them grow and tend to their vegetable gardens. It was all very quaint.
The town offered several tourist activities, local cooking courses,
Kouang Si, one of the pools.
tours along the Mekong and trips to some caves with Buddha’s in them?? We decided to go to the local waterfalls, after all it was boiling hot and there wasn’t a swimming pool in sight! The waterfalls are similar to Agua Azul that we encountered near Palenque, Mexico. Lot’s of dipping pools dropping down to the next level. There was one large waterfall at the top but we spent most of our time in the pools cooling down.
Also, whist in town, we hired bikes and went for a bit of a cycle, we ate in a Laos BBQ, which was a great, basically you cook your own meat over a kind of hot plate surrounded by a soup?? We also found a french style wine shop that had a bar. The wine wasn't cheap but it was a welcome change from beer. After a few days we made our way back south.
We arrived into Vang Vieng, a small town three hours north of Vientiane that's surrounded by pretty much nothing but mountains and farm land. The town it's self is very small with just one main road going through it. It's totally geared up for tourism -
Riding the tube.
well only one type of tourism - drinking and tubing!!
So the town had a load of bars that play Friends on TV non stop all day and night, there is a couple of bars that show other shows like The Simpsons or Family Guy, but 90% of them show Friends?!?
So, you laze around on mats and watch tv drinking the occasional beer. If you are feeling adventurous then you'll do what the place is known for. Tubing. So tubing basically is getting a rubbing inner tube and jumping on a tuk tuk up to the top of the river, then going to a bar, drinking, swinging off huge rope swings and floating down the river to the next bar... this goes on all day every day. It's actually cheaper drinking at these bars than the ones in town? Some people we spoke to had been in Vang Vieng for two weeks and twelve days out of the fourteen then had been tubing!
It was huge fun and a great way to spend Valentines day!
We arrived at midday and got drunk very quickly, at first the rope swings looked daunting and dangerous but as the beers went down
Huge reclining Buddha.
the swings looked more and more inviting, so much so that by the end of the day I'd gone off all of them bar one. There was also a mud bath half way through, quite randomly?
As we arrived at the last bar, the sun had gone down behind the mountains and everyone was smashed. The music blasted out and everyone was jumping around like lunatics. It was a very fun day, and just what we needed to finish our trip on.
The next day we eventually made it back to Vientiane to spend the day. We hired a moped and went to a place 25 kilometres out of town called Buddha Park. A park that contained loads and loads of Buddha's and such iconic statues. It was very odd? The day after we boarded a night train to Bangkok.
We checked back into the hotel we used several times before and used the swimming pools. The only things we had planned now was to shop (for loads of pointless souvenirs), pop over to China town for some food and to go to the Sky Bar - the highest bar in Bangkok.
We got our least crappy clothes
The Sky Bar - 64th floor - with very expensive drinks!
on and jumped in a taxi to make our way to the State Tower where the Sky Bar is located. The bar it's self sit on the 64 floor, where, when you arrive they take you over to a smaller bar overlooking the city. After ordering a beer, cocktail and a couple of pieces of sushi of which all came to a whopping £40 (yes this place isn't cheap!) we made our way to the main bar. It sits just behind a restaurant which I can only imagine costs a small fortune to eat at. We stood at the round bar with glowing base that changes colour every few seconds. The view over the city was amazing, the bar was pretty good too, but with the cost being astronomical we 'slowly' finished our drinks and left. Unfortunately we couldn't take many pictures in the bar (they don't allow it) so we couldn't show you how amazing it really is.
The next evening we left for the airport, checked in, had a champagne in the airport lounge (the celebrate our trip once more) then sat on a packed plane for 12 hours to get home...and that was the end of that.
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