Once we got to the bus stop in Bangkok we realised that although we had booked our ticket to Vientane we could actually go all the way to Luang Prabang which made sense and also fitted in with our plan…… ‘F’, or is it ‘Y’ I can’t remember now the plans have changed that many times! Anyway, it made more sense and so we purchased the rest of the ticket and set off north through Thailand to Laos.
After a very chilly bus ride we arrived at the Nong Khai peace bridge over the Mekong and filled in our visa application forms whilst wrapped in blankets. Turns out it gets kinda cold up north! Arriving at the border we paid the visa fee and then we were in Laos, another country another national ale… although that would have to wait we had a fair way to go yet.
As per usual things did not go to plan and after a change of bus we were told that although we’d purchased a ticket to Luang Prabang we wouldnt get there until the following day and that we actually had to make an overnight stop in Vang Vieng. Not particulary worried, as we had planned on staying here on the way back we got off the bus and found our way to the most perfect bungalow ever. As you walked out of your bungalow you were greeted by a large green field, huge limestone mountains and a lovely river. It was so peaceful… perfection. Better still, whilst on the bus we had befriended a few people, Alex the German, Kaelin & Terese the Americans & Uri and Elon the Israli soldiers. We all ended up at the same bungalows and then went out for dinner that evening.
Vang Vieng is a beautiful place but it is certainly a bit strange, every bar has a tv, and on every tv Friends or Family Guy is showing and there is literally no getting away from it. During dinner we sampled Beer Lao which is supposedly the best beer in Asia, we’d heard alot about it and were certainly expecting big things. We weren’t disappointed, it really is good. Luckily for our livers…. and our wallets, everywhere in Laos shuts at 11pm and so we had an early night.
The following morning, Al, myself and Alex were all supposed to be catching the bus to Luang Prabang but had decided that we would like to stay a little longer and check the towns big attraction… tubing. Changing our plans, yet again, we sorted out our bus tickets and then met up with everyone else. We later walked into the town and found a place renting rubber tubes, hired 7 and got dropped off by a tuk tuk 4km up stream of the town.
Now the reason tubing is so popular is not just because of the breathtaking scenery but also because whilst you are casually floating down the river there are a number of bars constructed of various peices of wood selling cheap beer lao and the local spirit lao lao. Getting in the water we noticed the first bar… it was 200m away. next thing i know i’m out of the water and in a bar on the river, Beer Lao in my hand. Not a bad life i’m thinking but at the same time realising that we had another 3800m to go and i am already in a bar.
Not to worry though we stood in the sunshine enjoying a beer when i noticed the zip wire. A few more mouthfulls of beer later and i’m off down this zip wire plummeting into the cold water. It was pretty refreshing though and the offer of a free shot of Lao Lao for doing it made it worth while for sure.
Floating onwards a little further we stopped at another bar, this time i noticed it had a trapeze… a very very high trapeze and not being someone who likes hights i took a beer and watched a couple of people have a go shouting various swear words when they realised how high it was. half a bottle of beer Lao later and dave is climbing up this ladder full of confidence. That is until he gets to the top and realises… wow this looks even higher than it does from water level.
Realising that everyone is watching and waiting for me to go i took a leap of faith and jumped off the platform…. i was quiet for a while then shouted… “shit!”. yeah it was high up and i was swinging accross the water thinking what have you done you idiot. Within a couple of seconds i was loving it though and it gave me such an adrenalin rush that i did it another 3 times.
Moving on we floated some more and stopped for one final beer before floating back to the town. It was a really fun day and it had been really relaxing floating down the river, beer in hand.
That evening we ordered dinner, played a few games of pool and then went to bed at 11 knowing we had a long journey to Luang Prabang ahead of us the following day.