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Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008


Try saying that a few times. Our one week in Luang Prabang was fantastic, we ate at great restaurants, hiked to waterfalls and did a great mountain bike ride to some of the remote villages in the area. Luang Prabang is small enough where you see the same people day in and day out. We have made some friends since we’ve been in Laos and they would keep popping up in different places during our stay here. One of them was, Mark and Gerre from Connecticut. We met them on the boat coming down the Mekong river. We shared some great food together at a really nice French restaurant one night. In Luang Prabang, you get 5 star eating at one star prices so we were loving it. During the evenings we would stroll the town, usually run into Mark and Gerre and then spend the rest of the evening drinking wine at some cool little wine bars. Luang Prabang also has a magical night market selling all kinds of handmade items in a very laid back atmosphere. The Lao are just plain nice people and don’t know how to be aggressive(lets hope that doesn’t change as more and more tourists come into Laos)

Our next stop would be Vang Vieng, the outdoor capital of Laos along with the reputation as the backpacker’s main party spot. We weren’t too interested in the party scene as it’s mainly a younger affair (I admit it, I am an old geezer compared to most of these backpackers) but we were interested in the outdoor opportunities. We lucked out and were able to rent a really nice bungalow right on the river and away from the party noise of town (think trance music and stoned backpackers). Our first day Vang Vieng we wore ourselves out with a 50km mountain bike ride to some amazing caves and villages.  At one particular cave, we were able to hike into it for 2 miles and then went for a swim in a lagoon that was inside the cave with just the light of our flashlights to see!  I said to Chrsity “Here we are, 2 miles inside a cave, in a lagoon in the middle of Laos, now we’re gettin’ somewhere.”  It’s easy to take it all for granted when you’ve been traveling for as long as we have.

Since we seemed to be traveling in the same direction, our friends Mark and Jerre arrived in Vang Vieng a couple days after us, so we all decided to do a hike/mountain trek the following day together.  We hiked to some small Laos villages and eventually to a beautiful waterfall.  No one was around.  It was so beautiful and peaceful.  Along the way, our guide (local Laos teen) pointed out different trees and plants, etc.  It’s very surreal when your hiking and the guide shows you a hole in the ground that was caused by a U.S. bomb.  It’s hard to believe that this was the most heavily bombed country in the world and it sucks that the U.S. was dropping those bombs-sometimes just to unload them.  But, that’s another story for another day.  We had a great day hiking with our friends and we got to see some of the more remote parts of Vang Vieng most backpackers don’t take the time to see.

The party scene in this town is a very weird one.  On the main street, there are several restaurants, all with big screen TVs that are showing episodes of either Friends or the Simpsons all day long, over and over and over.  Each place was packed with people just vegged out like they were in a coma watching for hours on end!!!  Not sure why you would come half way around the world to watch countless episodes of Friends, but hey, to each his own.

Our next and final stop in Laos would be Vientiane.  Rather than take the four hour boring bus ride, we hooked up with an adventure travel agency that offered a guided kayak trip  from Vang Vieng to Vientiane.  Neither Christy or I had really river kayaked, mostly only ocean, so this was going to be a real experience.  The kayaks were tandem and at the start the river was fairly calm.  However, we quickly came upon one section that had some pretty serious white water and the guide told us, “don’t go on right side.  Bad.   Don’t go on left side.  Bad.  Go in middle, not so bad.”  So we translated that to, paddle like hell down the middle and hope for the best.  It was an absolute thrill and we were one of the only kayaks in our group to make it without tipping over.  After our whitewater section we paddled over to a rock to have lunch and there was an opportunity to jump off a “cliff” into the water.  Of course, the cliff was huge and Christy said “Sweetie, go jump off it and I’ll take a picture.”  She loves to watch me do really stupid things.  There were about 14 people in our group and about 4 other people elected to hike over to jump off.  The guide said it was 30ft which is high enough to scare the daylights out of you.  After some psyching up, I jumped and boy was it scary.  I screamed some profanity on the way down which gave everyone a good laugh.

We finished our day in Vientiane, finally finding a guest house after having to go to about 10 that were booked, and took a well deserved hot shower.