Tuesday, September 1, 2009

SE Asia Trip, Part 9 - Vang Vieng

13/03/09 - 15/03/09

Leaving Luang Prabang in the morning was a bit of rush because I hadn't packed the night before... Hence I managed to forget a few things in the hotel room, like my NZ SIM card, the silver charm I'd bought, the silk I'd dyed... Oops. Oh well, it wasn't anything major, but it was annoying. I also had way too many bags because of all the stuff I'd bought at the Night Market...

The journey to Vang Vieng was absolutely awful - remember I had done half of it before, but doing it again it was even worse. The reason being is because I'd opted to go by minibus, and somehow I got stuck in the front seat between the driver and another passenger. The seat I had was not even a real seat! There was no seat belt and barely any legroom. Every time we went around a corner - which was very frequently - I had to brace myself against the ceiling. I really wished I'd just taken the normal bus.

My bad luck didn't stop there. Finally arriving in Vang Vieng, I got into a tuktuk to take me to a Guesthouse in town. Only when I went to get out of the tuktuk, my foot slipped and I fell through the grate on the back of the vehicle. My leg got stuck to about mid calf! I managed to pull myself out but I ended up with some massive bruising and pain. Forgot it was Friday the Thirteenth!

When I'd recovered from my journey, I had a hobble around the town, and across the bamboo bridge to the island. It seemed pretty quiet, but I guess it was because all the drunk Brits and Aussies hadn't managed to stumble back to town from tubing yet! They came later...

The bamboo bridge area at dusk.

The next day I went on a day trip involving some kayaking, tubing and caving. I'd opted for one without too much trekking, as my leg was still pretty banged up. There were about 13 of us on the trip, so much less personal than the previous organised things I'd done, but I did get chatting to a couple of Irish girls.

First stop was the Water Cave, a short 1km walk from the sawngthaew through some dried up rice paddies. A lot of tour groups came here so we had to wait a while to go in. This was because to see this cave, you had to go in by inner tube!

Entering the Water Cave!

Tubing along the cave was pretty hard work when we were going upstream, luckily I occasionally got to tag onto one of the guides and be towed along! The cave had some interesting rock formations but I couldn't take any photos as my camera was in my dry bag and not waterproof. Should look into getting some kind of waterproof pouch for these occasions.

Afterwards we had a relaxing picnic lunch by the river and had fun watching the best kept dog I've seen in Laos trying to cross the river to get to our food. It wasn't a deep river but the dog was obviously scared of the water. He made it in the end though!

Walking back to the sawngthaew, we stopped at the Elephant Cave, so named for it's elephant like rock formation.

Can you see the elephant?

I bet you can see the snake though!

Next up was kayaking! We drove to a point 10km above Vang Vieng so we could kayak down river back to town.

The scenery around Vang Vieng is nice, although overall I preferred Nong Kiaow.

Kayaking down the Nam Song.

Kayaking was pretty hard work too, particularly when we got caught in the rapids. I got overturned once, when the kayak in front of us got stuck and went over the rapids sideways. Lost one of my jandals! Luckily I got to change partners and I didn't get overturned again, although we had to get out of the kayak because we got stuck and I got washed down the river a bit. I wasn't hugely impressed with the guides, there was a long stretch of the trip where I didn't even see them anywhere, good thing we didn't drown!

We took a break at the 'Bucket Bars' at about the 5km mark. This was where all the tourists came to get drunk and tube down the river. My first taste of the 'real' tourist trap that is Vang Vieng, and I really did not like it.

The notorious Bucket Bars.

The rope swings where drunken people jump into the water... hmm, safe...

Kayaking into the sunset!

The second half of the trip was a little frustrating as we had to keep dodging tubers, but at least there were less rapids to fall over! Unfortunately I'd lost my jandals, so I had to walk back to the guesthouse barefoot, which elicited a few comments from the locals!

It was a fairly tough day physically for me, but I think that was because of my sore leg and I wasn't feeling too great - by the evening I had a fever yet I felt freezing cold - I went to dinner in a full set of thermals, clearly there was something wrong with me!

Vang Vieng is quite surreal at night, the Friends Bars that line the streets blaring out Friends episodes must be unique, and not really in a good way! It is really odd. But when you're feeling as ill as I was, it was quite comforting to curl up on some cushions, eat sandwiches and watch mindless TV. So I admit I did succumb to the Vang Vieng backpacker trap a little...

Luckily my fever broke overnight and I felt a lot better the next day. I wasn't well enough to do anything too active with my morning, but I did have a nice walk around town before getting ready to catch the bus back to Vientiane. Only one more night left in Laos! Oh no!

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