Vang Vieng recommended

Another town you can’t miss when backpacking Laos. Be prepared though, party hardy is nothing compared to the way they roll over here.
vanviengvalley
Another warning:
With all the crazy partying and getting fucked up, keep in mind there is no hospital, not in this town, or in the next. And when you do reach a hospital, doctors aren’t as motivated to save your life as they might be in the Chigago or Seattle ER, besides lacking knowledge. 2011 counted 27 deaths, not to speak of all the injuries.
The booze flows faster than the Nam Song, and the many swings and ziplines invite the drunken crowd to get crazy around this sometimes deceitful shallow, sometimes strong flowing river.
Then there is the infested water; no doubt you’ll catch something, ranging from an eye infection to a bad poisoning.
The many temping mushroom shakes or happy pizzas aren’t without risk. You might have a fun few hours, if you do well on drugs. You might also get set up by the bartender who sold you the stuff, and then sold you out to a cop, out to bust your high balls and throw you in jail for who knows how long, or fine you with a sum you could never pay.

So much for scaring you into sanity.

Vang Vieng, tubing capital, where the fun never ends

– Transportation:
You’ll walk the distance of this town in 20 minutes, with your backpack on, this is.
To get out to the river you take a tuktuk at 25.000 kip per per person.
To go to Blue Lagoon or just to explore the beautiful landscape, rent a bicycle.

Think twice before renting a bike: you’ll get yourself injured or damage the vehicle, and that’ll cost you!
It’s a well known scam put on tourist: to damage or steal the vehicle they just rented out to you, and demand a raging high compensation.
Or to just say those scratches that were already there, are new. Take pictues of those before you agree to the rent.

– Tubing:
You could rent a tire for 60.000 kip, take it to the river in a tuktuk and float down until you have to return it at 6pm, or otherwise have to pay that 50.000 kip late-fine.
I was there in dry season, I didn’t bother. I swam the river that one time when I wanted to cross it to go as far as bar 3. I saw about 5 tubes going by the whole time I was there.

– Do:
Just go to the river, have drinks, play games, dance, and have fun. Like everybody else does, all day, every day.

Do, absolutely, rent a bicycle to drive the 7 kilometers to the beautiful waters of Blue Lagoon.
And take the detour across the fields to that little hill.
The cave up at Blue Lagoon is a good adventure on it’s own.

Climb the little hill with the yellow flag atop it. The climb is so worth the view!
vv map

If you’re into serious climbing, there should be numerous rock-climbing options around here.

– Eat:
There are countless joints where you can sit down in your own little heightened cube cross legged around a low table, enjoying the many tasty local dishes.

– Drink:
Easy: river at day, island at night.

– Sleep:
Easy Go Hostel is ran by the friendliest of local dudes, hosts many cute rooms in their bamboo house, supporting you you with complementairy coffee, tea and bananas every day for just 30.000 kip a night.

Spicy Laos Hostel is right next to it, and should make for a good second and pleanty of compny. Also 30.000 kip a night.

 

I personally wouldn’t spend more than a few days here; too little local culture and too much party to stand for any longer.
But good fun for the time being! Just let go off all your mum taught you and enjoy =)

But that’s not all

I’m totally skipping over the good part!

Yesterday was the best. Day. Ever! I’m saying it again.

After a lazy wake up on the backporch, sipping complementary coffee and snacking complementary bananas, and gazing over all the green surrounding this town of party and crazy, we decided to do something.
Levi and Makyla [CAN] were also up for taking a bicycle out to Blue Lagoon – the rest of them went by tuktuk.

Cool thing about taking bikes was that we could take a little detour that passed by a little hill –compared to the rest of them- with a really cool viewpoint and that yellow flag on top of it.
So we left our bikes in the care of the man we just paid to go up, and were on our way.

A little way up there was a cave. Pretty small, but cool. Cooler even, because there was a hole; a hole into the mountain, a hole of pitch black. Big enough to crawl through though. Too bad we didn’t have any torches with us.
Luckily Makyla had her camera, and you have the focuslight that turns on for 2 seconds or something; long enough to see where you put your next foot. So slowly we made our way in, slipping and sliding, crawling and climbing.
It’s funny how, when you’re in an entirely pitchblack space, your eyes do this thing where they make you believe that you do see something, which of course you can’t. Nature is so fascinating that way.
And when Makyla flashed that light for a moment, the 3d drawings that make up the walls of this cave were so… astonishing! Once again I’m left wordless to describe this wonder of nature to you. The inside of the mountain, a secret kept from the world.
We carefully took another turn, into a next hall, and almost stepped into a big gap. Then we found a little window somewhere and peered down a long and narrow shaft that looked to the sky, but was too small to be a way out. So we turned around, took two steps and were covered in pitchblack again.
We debated for a moment, about which way to go, but took the right one back to that hall we first fell into. Still it was pitchblack, with no sign of that hole we came through. For a second my heart raced and I don’t think the others can deny theirs did too. But sure enough as I’m writing this, I took another step, and around a corner I saw the light.
Levi found another entrance into a next hall, but I’m secretly glad we just went up and out again. Don’t tell anyone I was.

So up and up we went, a nice climb!
Too bad I was still walking around on those fliflops that kept breaking all the time. I could do part of it on bare feet, scrabbleing over mosty leafs. But higher up the climb went over very pointy rocks. And I had too little grip to actually make it atop of the highest point. We hung out up there anyway for a bit, watching out over the valley.

This tiny hill we were on: just a little bump in a big patch of extremely flat ground, surrounded by these mountains that go straight up to form high walls to shelter this little world of crazy in such a vast majestic landscape.
Up here we could still make out the sounds of the never-ending party, quite clearly even. But like a very far away, little and puny sound. Such bliss, sun and wind brushing past our faces.
Then we clambered back down, got back on our bikes and had half an hour of slightly sloping road to race down and up over, friendly faces to smile at, happy kids to yell ‘hello’ at and amazing mountains to awe at.

And then: Blue Lagoon, more of that the turqoisest water, and so nice and cool! The pool was a lot smaller than I thought it would be, much smaller than Kuang Si for example.
But it was a very nice and calm place. Not giving room to all those people in town, enough for just a few of the fun ones, playing on the swings and swimming with the fish.
There was a cave up there as well, but we decided the three of us had done enough of that already.

Back to town, eventually, and it was around 6pm when we got on that tuktuk out to the river, the tubing bars.

A new record this evening: I made it as far as bar 3. Which means a swim across the river. Most of it walking, but at the end it get’s just a bit too deep – for everyone, not just little old me. And there’s a current so strong that there’s a lifeguard throwing out a bottle on a rope you have to grab, or otherwise people start shouting at you. We all made it to the other side safe and had another plenty of dances before we stuffed a tuktuk back home.

I believe officially they’ll take no more than 6 persons. We insisted on going with 10. Our driver agreed, as long as we all still paid 25,000k.
When we were all seated and on our way Liam [CAN] had an announcement: “This bucket I got for all of us to share! It’s the tukbucket!” And the crowd went wild. We passed it down it all the way into town, laughing, singing, shouting, handing beers to passing bikes.

Where our driver stopped too soon; some people wanted to grab dinner and he’d stop only once so the rest of us had to walk the rest.
Well no way José! There was another tuktuk right behind, with the rest of us, so I ran straight for that one as I got off the first.
At my first attempt, of course, I didn’t make it, and bumped my leg foully against the grate. But I wasn’t going to give in there, so tried again and got my free 200-meter ride home.

All in all a day perfectly spend.
And after, evidently, came facking bucket island, and you know the rest.

It’s insane how popular shrooms etc are here. And I’m surprised at how many friends are totally digging that stuff. At Bucketbar I see Noah chatting to a lapricorn he just met while Chuck is fighting a monster to the death… Just to clarify: it wasn’t I who was taking the drugs.

Oh and here’s the place I lost track of my budget, which I’d been neatly keeping scores of, as I have so little to spend all together. Stuck pretty okay to under 200,000 per day though, so I should be able to make it till the end.

Payday

Day XVII – April 4

I just dragged myself out of bed as late as 11am, but I think I’ll try to catch a few more in the hammock; there’s something wrong with my head.

So yesterday I had a big stroll around town. I just ment for it to be a morning walk, but wandered all the way until 3 o’clock, getting lost every now and then in LPB’s cozy streets.
I guess this was my first all alone adventure, and a very comfortable one at that. I mentioned this town’s sweetness. It’s inhabitants are just as friendly. I felt in no way scared to be leaving all my posessions at Spicy, or to be walking around in strange surroundings with noone to guard me and my 600-euro camera, or to loose my way.

When I came back I just hung out at the Spicy balcony, reading my book, chatting with some new friends, until we left for the market to have dinner.
People had been talking about this ’10.000k to fill your plate’ deal, and Dave [27, USA] showed me to this alley where you’ve got lots of different tables -or stalles- to choose between. Each table is run by a lady and her –guessing- daughter, and is laden with all sorts of super tasty looking goods; fresh, steamed, cooked or fried vegetables, noodles, rices, meats and fruits. And all smelling like a million!
You pick one of these tables, take the plate she persistently hands you and start piling. When you’re done she’ll charge you 10.000k for the plate -extra for meat- and another 10.000 should get you a large beer, or 8.000k for cans.
Then each ‘shop’ has their own set of picknick tables, 4 or so, on which you have to find a seat, and sitting with another is not allowed. So some are rather empty, and others are completely stacked. Cramming in next to a stranger gives another opportunity to hear more of the world.
I Love this alley and I’m definitely going back tonight!

After stuffing our bellies we walked down the market, a little further down the street and sort of got lost, when we found a bridge crossing the river and leading to a very adequate beach. We sat for a while, talking, concluding place this needed a beer and a spliff.
A few hours later we found ourselves outside of Utopia again after closing time.

Sidenote on closing time: it’s at 11.30pm. Laos law dictates a curfew, so staff has to get hom before midnight. It doesn’t apply to tourists though…
Just outside of Luang Prabang there is a bowling alley that stays open until late; staff ‘lives’ there. I haven’t been there yet so I can’t tell you much about it. And I guess the tuktuk drivers who make their money off drunken tourists that do go, take the money in with the risk.
Anyway, they’re not shy at taking risk; the rest of their money they make by selling all kinds of drugs, which are highly forbidden in Buddhist countries. The ambush of drivers outside of the bars, all go: “Boling alley? Marihuana? Opium? Cocaine?”

A few of the guys got it in their heads they want to buy a tuktuk, so they engage most of the drivers. But Dave and I start our own negotiations with one of them.
I pose as the grass-expert-Dutch and tell him his askingprice is way too high for this sht, and we talk him down to 50.000k, doing the whole “no nevermind, we’re not taking it” walking away and back again haggling dance.
No tuktuk was bought, but back at Spicy the nightguard lowered the balconyblinds so to allow us smoking all the stacks that were laid out on the table. Most of it sht, except for the quite supreme weed Dave got. I rolled a small one for the two of us with no more in quantity than I’d put in a hash joint; the haze-like smell warned me it might be strong stuff. And no doubt 20 minutes later we were both high as a kite.
The perfect state to be in when watching Junglebook. Another night in the movieroom but with a much more fun bunch this time.

So I assume today’s payday…
Time to treat myself on an expensive breakfast at Joma’s Bakery. Although my stomach doesn’t seem to agree at the sight of the counter. I’ll go for safe and just order some oat cookies and a chocolate muffin, and make my way back to crash on the balcony and just listen to the sounds of the hostel.
I had plans to go to the waterfall, but I don’t think I have the strength in me today…