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Published: April 10th 2010
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Hello all, here is an update on the travels so far….
We left Vientiane on a short 3 and half hour coach trip to the beautiful village of Vang Vieng.
We arrived in the afternoon and instantly loved the place; the small village with just 3 main roads is set amongst huge mountains and next to the nam song river.
We found a beautiful room for 50,000 kip which is under £4 with hot water and cable TV.
That night we went out to explore the legendry Vang Vieng. We found the much talked about “Party Island”, which is a small island formed by the river full off bars.
You get over to Party Island on a precarious bamboo bridge which is very rickety and has bits of wood missing from all over the place, unbelievably people take mopeds over this bridge, surprisingly enough we didn’t see anyone fall in the river while extremely drunk trying to move over for mopeds!
We went to bucket bar and ordered a bucket of Lao Lao, which is Lao whiskey, the bucket was only about £2 but they give them away free between 8.30 and 9.30.
Unsurprisingly this bar was very busy, after chatting
to a few people about Tubing, the main draw of Vang Vieng, and a couple of buckets the rest of that night is a bit of a blur.
I have flash backs of gate crashing the bar next doors Ipod linked up to their sound system, putting on an eclectic mix of music and dancing on a bamboo stage no doubt looking like a right fool - but as far as I can remember - it was fun !
Tubing is where you hire a rubber tube from town and they take you and said tube, along with other tubers down to the nam song river were you’re dropped off to drift back into town in the tube on the river. The river is dotted with bars who all throw you a line and pull you in. They all have free Lao Lao whiskey on the tables and shots regularly passed around, buckets are very cheap also.
All the bars have either rope swings or slides into the river, some have mud baths and mud tug of war.
The deal is your supposed to get your tube back into town by 6pm or you loose some of your deposit,
The bamboo bridge
hardly anyone gets their ring back in time as it takes 3-4 hours to drift down the river without any bars or rope swing/slides, needless to say the locals make a killing out of lost deposits.
As you can imagine, water and rope swings mixed with young people very drunk off free whiskey is a bit risky and although I didn’t see any injuries myself I saw a lot of people with bandages and on crutches and heard a lot of stories or broken ribs and burst eardrums!
After speaking to a few people who had done tubing we were told that there was no need for the tube, you can just get a tuk tuk to the river and walk/swim/paddle to most of the busy bars and the tube is an unnecessary expense.
I was too ill to do anything the next day but Stu decided to go and have a look at the river, leaving me to nurse my hangover.
About 4 hours later a very drunk Stuart came back (minus a pair of flip flops) with paint and writing all over him advertising various bars etc saying how much fun it is at the river.
I stayed in that night so I’d feel up to going the next day.
Again we didn’t get tubes; we just went to the river and stayed at the first 4 or 5 bars and met loads of people, did a few rope swings and got quite drunk.
This is the general drift of our time in Vang Vieng, we stayed there about 15 nights, went to the river about 6 times, 3 of those days though we just went to a quieter bar further down the river and sunbathed with a few Lao beers.
We did get a tube one day and drifted all the way down the last bar, which is called “last bar”!! But didn’t make it all the way into town by tube, we decided to get a tuk tuk as the river was very low and it was taking and age.
I think we still made it back and lost our deposit though!
The rest of the days were spent chilling in friends bar, were they play Friends repeatedly 24/7 and have lie down area’s were you get food and fruit shakes.
One River free day we rented bikes and went
out to a fishing lake where Stuart caught his first fish of the trip.
We’ve had the Rod since Malaysia 2 months ago and haven’t caught anything so this was quite an achievement!
The photo doesn’t really do it justice as it was quite a big fish, we let him go though, well actually he jumped out of Stuarts hands and flipped his way back into the lake, but we were going to let him go anyway!!
After way too long in Vang Vieng we decided to move onto Luang Probang, we took a 7 hour bus through treacherous mountain roads all the way to Luang Probang which is a Unesco Heritage site.
Luang Probang is very pretty, it’s located between the Nam Son and the Mekong river and if full of temple’s and therefore monks.
There is a curfew of 12 o clock, so all the business’s, bars and restaurants close about 10.30 to give workers chance to get home before the curfew and all guesthouses lock their doors at 12 o clock to make sure all the tourists are in.
This is for a couple of reasons, I don’t think they want to turn it into another
Found him !!!
Vang Vieng and also the locals have to get up at 6am every morning to give the monks Alms, which I think are little rice cakes.
Every morning at sunrise I was woken by the sound of huge drums, this was being beat by the monks in the temples all around Luang Probang, they did it close to sunset as well, it was beautiful to hear and see.
During our time in Luang Probang we went to see the waterfall, this was absolutely beautiful, the waterfall had about 5 tiers and each fall went into a pool of the most gorgeous clear turquoise water I’ve ever seen, you could swim in these pools which were ice cold but so nice after walking up to see the waterfall.
They also had a bear rescue centre were you could see the bears playing and feeding etc, they were so cute, I really wanted to cuddle them, probably not a good idea though!
After 3 nights in Luang Probang we decided to make our way to Chiang Mai in Thailand as it the Sangkron Festival on the 12, 13 and 14 the April.
This is their new year and the water
Death slide in the background
festival were all the locals throw water, and sometimes flour, and the local kids have super soaker guns and basically everything that moves gets soaked.
Apparently Chiang Mai is one of the best places for this; we haven’t been there yet and wanted to go so this seemed like the best plan.
To get there we booked a 2 day slow boat up the Mekong River to the Thai border, this is very popular with travellers and supposed to be a nice journey.
It started off really well, we got one of the really good soft seats on wooden boat with mostly hard wooden seats, and as it made its way up the Mekong River the scenery was beautiful, huge mountains, strange rock formations, villages in the hills, kids playing in the water and wildlife such as tropical birds, water buffalos, deer’s and goats.
Amongst all this loveliness Stuart thinks he saw a dead body floating down the Mekong, Stuart is convinced but I wont go into this any further as what Stuart thinks and what actually happened are often worlds apart !!!
The travel agents told us it took 7-8 hours, but after 9 and half hours we
were still on the boat!
It took nearly 10 hours in total before it came to the half way point of Pak Beng where we stayed the night at a guest house and did it all over again the next day!
The boat conveniently dropped us at the Laos side of the border just after 6pm when the border closes (we had been warned they’d do this) so we had to spend another night in the Laos border town of Huay Xui before taking a short boat ride over the border the next morning and a 5 hour minivan trip to Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai is buzzing with excitement of the forthcoming New Year Sangkron festival, we walked out of our apartment today and got soaked by loads of poeple with buckets of water and kids with water guns.
We bought our own super soakers ready for the big water fight.
We've booked ourselves on a Thai cooking course tomorrow, we get picked up about 9 by a local chef, taken to the market to hand pick all our ingredience then spend the day learning how to cook Thai style - cant wait, Thai food is amazing and I'll definately
be putting it into practise when I get home.
I'll let you know how it goes in the next blog.
Laura and Stu Xxx
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