Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng

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October 9th 2019
Published: October 11th 2019
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October 9 – Our alarms were set for 5am today so we could get to the giving of alms for the monks that takes place between 5:30-6:00am every day. The monks leave the monastery and collect rice from people on the streets that have come to donate, which is traditional in Buddhist culture. We did not participate but watched from the other side of the road to be respectful, unlike some tourists who were right up in their faces taking pictures in shorts and tank tops. We met a med student from a nearby village called Villi who wanted to practice his English with us. He was very nice and showed us a video with a light festival and boat race that is happening next week. It looks very cool but we won’t be able to come back, unfortunately. He also told us to visit the morning market, so when the giving of alms had ended, we did. We walked around, looking at the fruits and veggies and then headed back to the hotel for breakfast. I had fried eggs with watermelon juice this time, and Becky went for scrambled eggs. We finished packing and I chatted with my mom a bit. She’s on her own adventure on the way up north for a wedding, and she was staying with my sister for the night on the way up. We paid our hotel bill – less than $200 for three nights, taxi, day tour yesterday and minibus to Vang Vieng today for two people – and got on the minibus at 8:30. We sat in the back with all of the backpacks piled up next to me, and eventually the clouds burned off and it became sunny. We passed a lot of beautiful scenery with rolling hills and rice fields, but I couldn’t see too much from the middle seat. It’s very bouncy. Bounce, bounce, bounce. Halfway through the journey, Becky’s fitbit said we had done 10000 steps. We definitely walked 5000 steps this morning at the market, but apparently we had done 5000 bounces also. We stopped for a quick toilet break once, and a 30 minute combined snack and toilet break another time. We finally arrived in Vang Vieng around 2pm, quite later than I’d expected, but it’s not too surprising.

We’re staying at the Vang Vieng Guest House (which just changed its name to hotel, actually) and it’s not quite as nice as the last place. The a/c was not really blowing cold and the room was boiling hot. There was also no safe, which we had expected. We spoke to the woman at the desk and she asked someone to fix the a/c, and he did come, but in the end we ended up moving to an identical room one floor up. The a/c seems somewhat better, and there was a safe. We couldn’t get it to work when we left to check out the town, but when we came back, the lady helped us reprogram it.

On our walk in town, we stopped first at the information office and then walked in a circle around the main part of town. It’s rather dusty and unimpressive, and it looked like it would rain soon. We walked to the river, which required us to walk over a small bamboo bridge to get near the main river, but just as we were getting close, there was lightning. It seemed quite close, but I wasn’t sure. There was a “beach bar” nearby and we had just been talking about all the “kids” who hang out there after their tubing, and then there was a crackle from a nearby powerline and what seemed to be a VERY close lightning strike. I decided to head for cover with our new friends in hammocks chillin’ at the beach bar to get under cover as quickly as possible. I was quite nervous and there was another nearby bolt of lightning and powerline sizzle. It was quite scary really. It didn’t start raining and eventually we headed back to town with everyone else at that point so we could stay dry. We did make it back before the rain started, but I was a bit freaked out. Quite the introduction to this town. We sat in our room for a bit and it did start to rain. I watched a little bit of Seth Myers and when it stopped we headed out for dinner, deciding to keep it simple and go to the restaurant next door. I decided to order something ridiculous – the American friend rice – just to see what it was. And wait for it – it was friend rice with hotdog and bacon cut up inside! With a whole separate hot dog, piece of bacon, and a fried egg! Crazy. And it cost almost $5! I’m living on the edge. After dinner we went straight to the bubble tea place so I could get my first bubble tea since Christmas. I tried a weird one – chocolate. But it was good to have one again. On the walk home we saw a Siamese cat. Keeping in mind that we are close to Thailand and Thailand’s former name was Siam, it seemed pretty cool. After that we just chilled.

October 10 – I woke up today around 7am and stayed in bed for just a little while longer, snuggly in our super cold room under the covers. It was quite bright in the room but I had my eye mask on, so I could doze a little longer. When I went to bed I noticed that it was never perfectly dark in our room, since the door has slight cracks in it that go out to the hallway where there is a light. We both got up around the same time, relaxing for a bit before heading to breakfast. We both chose fried noodles. Afterwards we made a plan for the day but were slow about getting started. We decided to walk around town looking at possible tours for tomorrow and then try to see a nearby cave.

Our first stop was TCK, a travel agency that Becky has seen reviewed that seemed quite popular. We looked at a tour that was similar to one that we could book through our guest house and we decided to go with that one. We’ll be kayaking on the river, visiting two caves, one of which had a river and we’ll tube inside, and we’ll have lunch and also visit a natural pool for swimming. It includes a lunch and is a full day tour for $14 each. We also took the opportunity to ask him about some ideas for today, and he gave us some suggestions.

We walked first to the Tham Chang cave, a bit out of town. We had to pay 5000 kip to cross the bridge which got us into the property of a resort. We looked at a couple little caves and a natural pool while trying to decide if we should pay the 15,000 kip to actually visit the cave. We decided to do it and it was such a good decision. The cave was enormous and it had a light system built-in along with safe places to walk. It was quite extensive, there was almost no one else there, and we could take our time. Really good. From there we walked back into town for lunch and decided to have something small. We found a Chinese restaurant and split some dumplings, the first we’d seen on the trip. It was a big platter and they were delicious.

Our next stop was another walk out of town. This time we had to pay 4000 kip to cross that toll bridge. We found another cave and walked towards it on the path off the road. Just before we got there we bumped into a couple we had seen in the first cave, and from their description, we decided not to go into this one. The walk through the fields and the cows towards the limestone cliffs was nice though. We walked a little farther but it was so hot and humid and we decided to head back and go to the pool at the sister hotel. On our walk home we stopped and both got bubble tea. So refreshing.

The sister hotel, Vang Vieng Garden Bungalows, is just across the main street from us, a few minutes walk. It is little bungalows and far cuter than the place where we are staying. We arrived just after 4pm, bubble tea in hand and books at the ready, just in time to see the pool guy set up to clean the pool. Bummer timing. I read for a while and when he was done, I got in. The ladder was a bit sketchy and made all kinds of creaking sounds as it leaned forward as I went deeper, but it was safe enough. It was nice and refreshing to get in and swim around for a while. We actually got cold eventually, and it was time to get out and head back. Before we left we saw a hot air balloon (they have cheap rides here), a microlight, and a rainbow, both nice to see.

We went for dinner at the same Chinese place where we had lunch, and sat inside where they have a/c. They also had a large party of Chinese eating dinner, and they were so loud. But they were having fun and it was pretty hilarious to have to talk loud enough that we could hear each other. We both enjoyed our meals and headed back to the hotel via the night market. It was similar to but different than the one in Luang Prabang. There, the whole street closed down and everyone was set up on the floor, so that you looking down the whole time. Here, there was plenty of room to maneuver and everything was in normal stalls that you could easily look at while you pass by.We had a look as we walked and talked and then headed back for the night.

October 11 - see next blog

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Dinner with BeckyDinner with Becky
Dinner with Becky

My American fried rice has bacon and hotdogs!

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