89-93 Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang

See trip index here, Laos index here, and more photos from Laos here

Vang Vieng is pretty much a nowhere place – its entire existence seems to be a travellers way point and has little Laos character, but the scenery and activities more than make up for it.  To be fair, its clean, easy to get around, and you are spoilt with many food choices and styles, and bars more like lounges where you can chill with a beer and watching funny TV.  The nightlife is very much how you’d expect a backpacker town to be, with lots of young people behaving like its their first time away from home.  Riding on roofs of tuktuks, being very drunk by 6pm, and wearing pretty much nothing.  Its not all bad!

The main attraction is the warm river and scenery with one of the main activities being tubing.  Here, you get taken in a tuk tuk 5km or so up the river and you go down it floating on an inner tube. Nothing special, but along the way there are many cool music bars to grab a drink and chill and pretty much its a party from the start.  Some bars have swings, zip-lines and some even death slides.  I use that term literally as two people a month dies whilst tubing, though mostly its due to too much drink or drugs.  It really has to be experienced, but it really is a good laugh from the start.  Sadly Mels shoulder still isn’t healed so she got out of the swings.

Our second day was spent playing on the river a bit more, a bit of tubing inside a cave (fun, but not as spectacular as Thailand), and then a long kayak trip down the river taking in some of the stunning scenery and, of course, popping into a tubing bar on the way down.  Some lovely natural views of people working the river, and even water buffalo bathing!  Our kayak had a hole in and thus almost sank a few times…

Kayaking probably wasn’t a great idea as the following day I did a day rock climbing, and with an aching upper body (and of course no natural ability) it was tough going.  Managed to do about half of the climbs attempted, mainly 5b/5c but failed on the 6’s.  Not enough stamina to make some of the moves 🙁  The limestone rocks were also pretty rough on the body so left there with a few more scratches than when I started.  Excellent fun, and again the scenery is superb.

We could easily spend more time in Vang Vieng playing and having fun but decided to move on as we have many more places to see before we get back – and with under 4 weeks left the end is getting closer.  So we say goodbye to the adult-less party town and head on an 8 hour bus ride north to Luang Prabang…. 

The journey is renowned to be awful – of the 8 hours about 6 are on very windy mountain passes with no crash barriers, and just about wide enough for 2 vehicles.  We opted for the bigger coach rather than the mini bus, but even so we both felt a little rough towards the end.  Not helped by seeing a baby bear in a jar at one of the stops…  The road was not the sort of place you want to have a tyre blow out lest you end up like the bus at the end of the Italian Job!

But yes, we got a tyre blow out! 

Fortunately our driver was very smooth and slow, not a madman.  Also the bus had twin rear wheels and we were going round a left hand bend when the left tyre went bang in style.  Could’ve been a lot worse as really it was without drama and only cost us some time as the drivers changed the wheel.  The spare tyre though looked in a really bad treadles way, but it is fortunately dry and it held out.

On arrival at Luang Prabang we got the usual necessary tuk-tuk vulture cartel and had to pay to get transferred into town to our pre booked hotel which is rather smart, and we look forward to exploring what is described as “The most charming city in SE Asia” in the morning…

See next installment here

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