30.01.2012 - 06.02.2012 26 °C
After a lot of thought 'can we afford to or not' we decided to fly into Laos over the only other option of taking the 24 hour bus from hell (as our tour guidebook calls it). We booked the flight 4 hours before take off in a cafe with a cup of the best tea in Vietnam, so we left for Hanoi airport straight from the cafe. It took just over 1 hour and came with some really good plane food. We arrived at the Laos airport and completed our 30 day visa, with our first thoughts being back to the heat (whoop whoop). Outside we jumped into a tuk-tuk and headed to central Vientiane to find a new base for the night. First impressions were really good, we were both surprised how clean the city appeared and how calm the traffic was (no one beeping the horn every second). We started our search for the hotel which was harder than expected due to lots of places being already fully booked and the others being over our budget, but in the end we gave up and paid a lot more than we wanted to.
We decided to do the monument to Mekong cycling tour which is a 7km bike ride around the city. We hired a pair of push bikes complete with basket and yes I looked a complete idiot. On the tour we visited the presidential palace, Haw Pha Kaeo (national museum), a couple of markets called Talat Khua & Talat Sao and the Patuxai (a monument which is a copy of the arc de triumph). We both enjoyed the day, with the Laos people being the most chilled out and the friendliest we have come across in Asia to date, so if the rest of the country is the same we are really going to enjoy our trip here. Gem has been craving a curry for a while now and when we came across one she couldn't resist so a chicken korma, garlic naan and rice later she was a happy traveller. We just managed to squeeze in a walk along the riverfront night market before hitting the sack for sleep time in readiness for the bus in the morning to Vang Vieng.
The bus journey was very rough as it was pretty much a rock dirt track, if you were'nt being flung one way you was going the other (sleeping was not an option). We arrived at the bus station to be greeted by the usual waiting tuk tuks all ready to take you to their chosen hotel, we jumped in and took a look at the hotel and within 30 seconds the decision was made and we decided to take a walk to look at what else was about. After 15 minutes some guys pointed us up a road to their guesthouse which seemed a good base and only cost around £5 a night! The first few days were spent chilling and looking around the village and we found somewhere good for food with a bakery so we treated ourselves to a giant choc chip cookie! The main attraction of Vang Vieng is tubing, (in case you don't know what this future Olympic sport is) you basically sit in a large rubber ring and float down the river being pulled in by a rope into riverside bars. I forgot to mention your choice of drinks in each bar is free shots and buckets. To get to the top of the river you catch a tuk tuk at the tubing station which drops you at the wooden bridge to start the river ride and there we met our new friends/drinking partners Lara and Tim from Australia and Swedish Gabi. Our international drinking partners were quality and within minutes of arriving in the first bar we had shared shots and buckets together. The fun really began when moving onto the next bar on the rubber ring when all trying to catch the rope to be pulled in before floating too far up. We somehow managed to keep together and it got harder to get out the ring the more tipsy we got. In one of our last bars there was a giant inflatable to jump on from about 20ft which you then position yourself on the end to allow a guy dressed in a morph suit with a skeletor mask to jump from a tree around r35ft high which in turn launches you into the air like a ragdoll and into the river (you couldn't make this up). Drunken Gem got all brave and decided she wanted to jump (ha ha) ten minutes of run ups and her asking the skeletor guy if he'd save her she finally made the most pathetic jump in tubing history, I thought it would be best if I attempted to save her (or launch her into the water) so I did. The sun dropped behind the mountains and then came tubing in the dark and I bet you can't guess who was floating off down the river after missing the jump off (yes it was Gem). We ended up in the back of a pick up truck for a lift back to base followed by a quick shower and more beers. It was a fun day and we had lots of laughs with our new friends.
The next day we all met for breakfast and then went to the blue lagoon which was a scenic place to sunbathe and take a swim. There was also a cave in the mountains behind so the girls took a look, but it was quite a steep climb so they were pretty shattered when they returned.
If we could sum up our visit to Vientiane & Vang Vieng in 5 or so words/statements.
1) Leighton's vision of heaven (tubing)
2) Amazing setting (Vang Vieang)
3) Really friendly people
4) Very Chilled out
5) Want to go back
Random sights/things in Vientiane & Vang Vieng.
1) Gem drunk asking skeletor to rescue her
2) Gem claiming the sign outside the museum said it was free (in her defence she was riding her bike)