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Published: April 17th 2010
The last leg of the boat ride from Pak Beng to Luang Prabang left me feeling horribly ill and Scott with quite a cough. We got into the city about half an hour late, after dark and were welcomed with a mild rain falling on the city. We had both had such an unpleasant experience on the boat because of the cold and the horrible bedbug / tick incident in Pak Beng that we were being overly careful about hotels for the night. The first place we looked had sheets that were literally crawling with bugs. Scott and Sebastian left myself George and Mike at the first place and went for a bit of a walk around town, they wound up finding us a beautiful guesthouse. It was $25 US a night for Scott and I’s “superior deluxe” room (with a bathtub and an indoor balcony) and the same price for a triple room for the other three. Our room here was nicer than the one we had in San Francisco for about a third of the price!! We went out for dinner and packed it in early hoping to catch up on some much needed sleep.
Riding silently down the Mekong, our driver suddenly ankers the boat and prepares for a storm.
day Scott was feeling much better but I was still quite under the weather so he went out with George, Sebastian and Mike to explore a temple with a view of the city. I’ll let him tell you about that:
One hundred and ninety steps to the top of Phu Si hill. By leaving Kristy behind in the luxury super deluxe room I had one mission, to take at least four pictures of myself. The top of the hill was breathtaking with a 360 degree view of the town shielded by a cartoonish wall of round topped mountains. In the center the Wat Chom Si a convenience stand and a World War II ground mounted gun. We walked down the opposite side of the mountain to discover the footprint of Buddha the large Prabang Buddha and various other statues and figurines. The monks were playing on the drums it was humid and my cough was not getting better. After making sure I got my five pictures and taking in the amazing view we turned back.
That day Tom, Joe and Charlotte (three others from our trek in Chiang Mai) arrived in town
mixing booze a river and a camera is never a good idea, i stored it far away in my drysack.
and we went out for a nice dinner and made plans to meet up in Vang Vieng in the next few days. The following day Scott, myself, Mike, George and Sebastian left on a drawn out but beautiful bus ride into Vang Vieng. The bus ride was 168 km’s but took about 6 hours as the road conditions in Laos are so poor, and the roads are so windy. Upon getting into Vang Vieng we quickly noticed that it was becoming a major party/ new age hippie town. It had changed drastically since I had been there 4 years ago. Not having been to Vang Vieng before I think many people take it at face value and accept it for what it is, I felt slightly disappointed with the way things had progressed in the past years. It seemed that all anyone talked about was tubing, which is the major attraction, but there is little mention of the many other amazing things there are to do in town such as trekking, seeing some amazing and large caves, as well as some spectacular waterfalls.
Our first day there we visited a place called blue lagoon, a cheap
drive into some local farming community lead to a shockingly beautiful blue lagoon with a massive cave a short trek up the hill behind. We spent a few hours here taking turns swinging into the impressively deep blue waters of the lagoon before hiking up to the cave which turned out to be a lot bigger than we thought (I would recommend a guide and a headlamp as we didn’t get very far but could tell there was much to explore). That night the others got into town and we made plans for tubing the next day.
Tubing is almost a rite of passage when visiting Laos, It has grown from a leisurely float down the Nam Song River with a few bars reeling you in via water bottle attached to a long rope to a gong show of bars pumping out loud trance beats offering free whiskey shots (for those brave enough, it’s strong stuff) You used to be able to float right back into town but now with the added bars you make it barely half way before the sun starts hiding behind the mountains telling you it’s going to get dark soon and
While driving the winding roads in central Laos we see the sun peak through some clouds to say farewell for the night.
it’s time to pack it in. The bars are all lined up one after another and you can float for maybe 5 minutes before another Laotian is yelling free whiskey and cheap buckets to you and you feel yourself literally being drawn in to the loud vibes and questionable rope swings. We were a group of 8 and decided on one tube for all of us at it was low season for the water and you could practically walk yourself down most parts of the river. The 8 of us made it safely down the river with only a few bumps and bruises (There was a mud bar with a volley ball net set up which quickly became a slip and slide course just trying to get out). After tubing it was a fast dinner and then bed for most of us as the day had worn us down.
The next morning Scott and I got up fairly early and decided that we needed some fresh ocean air and salt water and sand between our toes and booked a bus to Vientiene for later that day. Vang Vieng’s feeling of peace and relaxation had long worn
down and now gave the feeling if a rush to become some new age hippie and spend months in the town (which many ‘backpackers’ we met had been doing, one for a year). We packed up and caught our bus to the capital of the country and felt it would be best to try to get to Bangkok sooner rather than later as we had originally planned to be south around this time, and luckily were able to catch a tuk tuk to the airport and the last flight out to Bangkok that night.
All said and done, Laos is an amazing country definitely worth a peak and a week or so, but being away from the ocean air for so long left us with a bit of an unfortunate sour taste to the country. Everything in the country moves on Laos time, in other words a very exaggeratedly slow pace. There are many amazing things to see and do in the country, treks, many waterfalls and caves to explore, the incredible plain of jars in the north-eastern part of the country and many friendly people to meet. Laos is an indescribably poor country which is
The morning after her dreadful night in Pak Beng, fighting evil bedbugs and ticks her scars remain.
very apparent within hours of arriving, and it does take a toll on one when traveling here, trying to negotiate the difference between being ripped off and taking advantage of the people. If you can relax your mind enough the country becomes very enjoyable and easy to will away days at a time in the different cities.
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