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Published: June 12th 2006
The trip to Vang Vieng took us through windy, hilltop roads that made the 160km drive seem to last an eternity, the first glimpse of the town was that of the sheer, tree covered limestone cliffs that dominate the region. Clouds hang low in the hilltops and the scenery gives an eerie feel to the sleepy, riverside village. The main town itself is tiny and dominated primarily by the T.V bars on the main road that house weary/ hung-over travelers looking for a dose of The Simpsons or Friends to heal the scars of the previous nights over-indulgement. The menus in most of these bars are all identical copies of the others, and contain a list of drugs that you can include in your cuisine, or you can order the 'happy' option that will result in a random array of narcotics doused over a meat feast pizza. The openness of the drug culture here is in stark contrast to thailand where such behavior will probably get your hands cut off, here its a slap on the wrist and a 'run along you little scally wag' attitude.
There is plenty to do in Vang Vieng mostly centered around the river and
the local caves. Rubber tubing was definately on the list, floating gently down the river in an inflated tractor tire stopping at the different bars on the way for a few beer laos. Sober and unable to navigate her way out of a paper bag, lucy had her first crash into the reeds about 30 seconds after we left, and for the rest of the journey it was clear that assistance would be required if she were to last the 3km trip with all the air still in the tube. At all the bars there are rope swings, zip wires and huge swings to fling yourself off and unshaken from the earlier incident lucy decided that the zip wire was too tempting to simply be a spectator. Managing to alert everyone with her nervous stalling, and cries of 'come on, do it!' from the kiwi spectators, dave was ready with camera in hand to get the perfect action shot. Unfortunately she left the podium with the grace of a shot duck and headed south instead of the intended direction and hit the water about 4 feet from the bank. Apparently a girl had cracked a rib doing the same ariel
acrobatics that lucy had endured so she narrowly escaped a small spell in hospital. Determined not to let this slip-up ruin the rest of the day we headed off down river to the next bar. The rest of the day was spent arguing over which direction to head, the same experience as trying to navigate the english country-side, what is supposed to be a relaxing, uneventful journey can quickly turn into handbags at 50 paces. The rest of the bars were much of a muchness but each one did offer a different method to land in the river, and after the day was over we both agreed it was 3 dollars well spent. It turns out that 2 people had died in the past on the river, one only in April falling from one of the rope swings that we both had a go on. All the activities would be banned back home as health and safety would have a child if they saw the state of the safety measures.
We managed to find ourselves a good little Aussie bar to have a few drinks in at night and were introduced to the 'Famous Aussie prawn burger.' Having been
told about them by Aussie Dave we ordered two of their finest and they proved to be some of the tastiest western food we have eaten so far. The bar owner Mick (not Dundee) is married to a Laos woman called Noi and we spent most evenings chatting with them in the bar. Mick offered to take us out on the motor bikes for the day to show us local sites off the main trail and take us to some local Hmong villages. We greatfully took him up on his offer and spent the next afternoon tearing around the countryside and got to see some great spots for swimming along the river and got stared at by village locals, most of which were thinking "you're not from 'round 'ere".
We had a great few days in Vang Vieng and its the sort of place you get stuck in, the Eagles say it best, 'You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave'.
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