11.01.2008 - 16.01.2008 30 °C
Vang Vieng was a bit of a tourist ghetto, the town being purpose built for travellers. Accordingly the two main streets were just littered with restaurants and bizarre, but popular, TV bars - bars with TV's pumping out Friends on a continuous loop. A bit tragic. Jenny was quite drawn to them though.
The place that we were staying was great. A bit out of town, and right on the Nam Song river.
So for the first couple of days we spent most of our time loungeing about, dipping in the river to cool off, and watching sunsets over the spectacular scenery surrounding the area. Jenny made a couple of little flea bitten friends whilst we were there, and made them a little house, and bought them a tin of tuna every night. The highlight of Vang Vieng was the tubing. It was such good fun. We got driven by tuk tuk about 5 km upstream from Vang Vieng and dropped at the rivers edge with our inflated tractor inner tube.
Then we spent the rest of the day slowly floating down the river. It turned out to be a bit of a boozefest, as there were lots of bars dotted along the banks, with little kids with sticks trying to lure you in.
We got lured into quite a few on our way down the river. Most of the bars had rickety homemade wooden towers jutting out over the river with rope swings or zip lines to slide down, so the entertainment was watching drunken idiots jumping off them and bellyflopping into the river. By the thrid bar we had both plucked up enough dutch courage, aided by the free flowing beerlao, to have a go.
Was great fun, although the next day we both had pretty sore necks from awkward landings. I also have a weeping sore on my foot which I can't account for. It was so much fun though, and we met loads of randoms along the way. Was pretty cold by the end of it, as the sun had set behind the hills. The scenery on the way down the river was incredible aswell, although not particularly peaceful given the frequent shouts and screams of people jumping in. We went out that night and ended up in a bar chatting with one of the guys we met doing the tubing, and a Lao who owned the bar. He was really interesting, but very pissed. He kept filling up a bucket with Lao whisky in front of us and encouraging us to get stuck in. He said he was fond of Western women but was dismayed by why so many were like 'water buffalo'.
From Vang Vieng we took a bus ride 6 hours North along a really windy road through the hills to Luang Prabang, where we are just now. The countryside in Laos is absolutely stunning. The journey through the hills was so spectacular. The mountains jut up thousands of feet vertically and it's all so green. Luang Prabang is a really cute little town at with the Mekong river on one side, and the Nam Khan on the other, on a peninsula.
It has a little hill in the middle with a temple perched on top. In fact there are I think 30-odd temples in the surrounding areas. It seems like threr's one round every corner.
They're all dripping in gold leaf, and shiny things, which appeals to my taste. Think I'd quite like to live in one. Hiking up the hill to the temple Jenny was doing quite a bit of moaning about how she hated days like this but she was happy to get the opportunity to free some caged birds at the top - supposedly to bring good fortune.
I was persuaded to have a go aswell, and felt like we'd done something good, although Jenny I think wanted to buy all of the cages and set all of them free as she didn't have many left. Unfortunately we found four other women selling lots of them at the bottom of the hill too. The view from the top was pretty incredible. Along with all the temples there are the accompanying monks adorned in traditional orange robes.
Traditionally most Lao men at some point in their lives become a monk. There are lots and lots of them wandering about Luang Prabang, which is quite an unusual sight. Unfortunately they have a habbit of getting up really early in the morning to go and accept alms from the locals. The unfortunate thing for us being that we're staying right behind of the temples, and have been woken by the eerie, slow rhythmic banging at 4 am of the massive drum that they have.
As if that wasn't enough there's a demented rooster that cries every couple of hours throughout the day and night, irrelevant of whether the sun is up or down. The food in Laos has been pretty good, very similar to Thai, we went for something different last night, in the shape of a Korean BBQ, which was really good. It's a do-it-yourself job with a BBQ in the middle, over a pot of coals, sloping down to the sides which holds a soup round the rim, like an upturned saucer. Was really tasty.
Today we are making the long trip to the Thai border on an overnight bus, which we're both dreading, and hopefully going to end up in Chang Rai by tomorrow at some point. We'll both be pretty sad to leave Laos, as the country is so beautiful and the people are so friendly. Almost without fail everyone that you pass says Sabai dee - "hello". We're both looking forward to getting some Thai food when we get back over the border though.