What’s up Vang Vieng?!

island

I’ve been hearing and reading about the Vang Vieng party dying.

The party that’s still vivid in my memory. The party that never seemed to end.
After reading this article, I decided to find out for myself.

Alas, hopping on a plane to actually go see for myself is not in the cards just yet.
My friend See, one of the boys from Easy Go hostel, would have to give the answer. This is what he wrote:
see vang vieng

Yeah, the government has closed the bars on the riverside and the island.
VV is not a crazy party like before, but still has many people visiting just the same.
I hear the government does have a plan to let bars open again, but they have to take time to improve contracting first. Then they will let bars open again, slowly. Go step by step, following their plan.
At the moment we still have bars open in town.
Don’t worry, I think VV will be back to what it was, but it will need time.

His place is still doing well though, and the pictures of him being a bigshot DJ come down the facebook timeline well regularly.
In the Travelfish article we read tubing is still happening, just on a much more decent level.

I guess I’m happy to have widnessed old times. And I’m very curious to see what will come of new times. Next year I’ll tell and show you all about what I find!

In a way I’m happy that crazy crazy party party exploitation has been put to a stop.
Yet at the same time I feel a stinge that what I widenssed, where I was, what found a place in my heart, is gone for good.
I’m glad tourism hasn’t suddenly died and I would still encourage everyone to go there and support my local heroes at Easy Go. There’s still plenty to see and do!
Another thing Vang Vieng is famous for, for example, is rockclimbing, something I’m defenitely going to explore next time around!
surrounding vv

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 =)

I’m doing it, right now

Next destination:
Vientiane, capital of Laos, population: ± 754.000

Day XXIV – April 11

I survived Vang Vieng, and am about to find my way back to the real world. water
No more free buckets, or whiskey shots forced down my throat, no more “What is the aim of the game?! TO GET FUCKED UP!” No more Friends or Family Guy, no more dry-season tubing, or supertasty but wet with grease sandwiches.
Those 2 UK’s we met the last day in Luang Prabang; they got jobs here, they’re going to get stuck for months…

And as we make our way down out of the wonderous limestone landscape, the busride once again zones me out to a place in mind where I plan my homecoming – or rather: my next trip, where I will see all those hits I’ve heard so many good things about, but can’t fit in this time.

Sabaidii!! You just cannot say without smiling. No way this will be my last 24 hours in Laos!

Some bumpy roads and I’m flipping cards on future destinations.
I am suddenly having doubts about where to go next. Do as I planned: Hanoi, Da Nang, Hoi An; or, no more Vietnam, but more Laos and stay out my visa: Kong Lo cave, Pakse, 4000 Islands? Hard to choose so last minute…
So I’ll just get on that plane tomorrow as booked, and see where it takes me.

Vientiane, laid out over flatlands around the Mekong, the capital with a much more western feel, where the western translation of the street names start with ‘rue’ and where the Mediterranean spiced barbecue smells finish it off, as the ice-cream man rides around with his little cart and creepy tunes.
Stray booked me in a horrible hotel and took me out for an expensive dinner – I had to pay for myself of course. That’s worse than your date going Dutch on you.
vientiane
Strayed out
And tomorrow will take my adventure to a next level. Tomorrow will throw me out in the deep, as I deliver my visa approval letter at the Vietnam costums, and thereby my last planned piece of paper, until the voluntering in Cambodia starts 10 days later.
I’ve been told to do north: Sapa, Halong Bay. Halfway: Hoi An, Dalat. Downsouth: the Mekong river delta. To buy a motorbike: I’ve met several people who did so, and that does really sound like an amazing way to travel, getting much more in touch with local life.
Either way, I have no idea how to fit it all, especially since I’ll probably take longer now planning and booking as I go.

But for now I have to day goodbye to lovely Laos. It was an absolute pleasure, and I’ll be dreaming of the day I come back, until I do!

First hand horror stories in Laos:
It wasn’t all moonlight and roses. There have been a few unpleasant incounters.
Like the time when Leila nearly got robbed, on that crossroad in Luang Prabang. In the middle of the night while we’re all standing there, discussing on going to bowling alley or not. Some guys on a scooter drove by and tried to rip off her purse. She screamed and they drove of empty handed.
Or the time Kevin was picked up by the Vang Vieng police, pretty much at random. They claimed he’d broken a glass door. He surely had an alibi and everything, and had no idea what they were talking about. But they kept hitting him, saying he had to admit; otherwise, they gave him the option, it’d be 30 days in jail. So he countered he wanted to speak with the embassy. They ended up just taking his passport; he could pick it up the next day, for 4 million kip(!)
Dave however did break a glass to get into his room he’d lost the key from in Vang Vieng. He ended up climbing his neighbours’ balcony to get to his own and opened the door through that window he broke. He did not get into trouble after explaining and apoligising to the hotel owner.
Other common things seen: cuts and bruses, bad ones, most of them caused by motorbike crashes, often combined with alcohol. Especially in Vang Vieng. Hard knock life on the road, people, be carefull and sht.

It seems today, that all you see, is sex-drugs-rock’n’roll and friends on tv

Day XXIII – April 10
blue lagoon
Today brings the final goodbye with Levi, very mellow and quite impersonal… “Bye, have fun, have a good life.” My first on-the-road crush and I skrewed it up by not undertaking any action.
phatok caveAnd here I thought I’d figured out by now one of my lessons was to follow things through, where I used to throw in the towel because I think I can’t do it or it might be too dangerous or scary, but live like there’s literally no tomorrow.

I make another trip to Blue Lagoon, by tuktuk this time, with Dave, David and Kevin, the two Germans we met here in the hostel. And besides swinging and splashing in that lovely pond, we go up to the cave and take the big walk around, wandering into the dark.
Dave has a sort of torch and it’s a lot easier, this one. But still a nice little adventure with lots of clambering over rocks, discovering new holes, and again some really nice views.

When we come back, we sit down at a diner for a good meal and some Family Guy. We try to leave, but before we’re done paying a new episode has started. Near the end I’m contemplating on having icecream for desert, but decide against it so we can finally leave, after just sitting for over 2 hours.

It’s this thing here: everywhere you see screens playing reruns of Friends, Family Guy and the occasional Southpark, and travellers captured by the moving images. It’s easy to get stuck waisting time like that.

family guy
We skip the river and just have a quiet evening at the island. It’s a Buddhist holiday, so there isn’t allowed to be any loud music.
Again heavy rain and thunder pour down this evening. It’s getting closer to the rainy season, or it’s coming sooner this year. But we’re safe in our little cabana.
I get a Kate Hudson (in How To Loose A Guy) from Kevin.
It’s another common thing: comparing people you meet anew to celebrities.
David lights my potential last cigarette, [that lasted for 4 days… Sorry David,] and we have interesting conversations, until he gets drunk – for the second time in his life he claims. That’s what Vang Vieng does to you…

Did I mention how over time your standards of hygiene adapt?
At first I used a wipey ceveral times a day, cleaning my face, hands, feet… Now just washing with water every once in a while is fine for my hands, and the daily shower will do for the rest.
I still want my toilet paper, but don’t mind if it’s a squatter.
My feet get real dirty, but that just suits the local belief that they are not just physically but also spiritually the lowest part of the body.
I used to ask for ‘no ice’, now I hardly check if it was purified. The whole in the middle of the cube should tell you it is.
You extend the amount of time it’s OK for clothes to be worn.
And make up: I bother to do it once every so many days now. It’s too much hassle to sit down every day and spend 10 minutes staring into a mirror.
Mosquitospray; I started out applying it several times a day. But still, especially those first days, my legs and feet were covered with bites. Over time I applied less, only at dusk, until I left it all together. Now I just use that Columbian after-product my brother gave me after his trip there, to stop the bites from itching and me from scratching. I mean, it’s not like I’ll get bitten any more now; less actually. New bites every day, of course, but still.

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.

The walk of shame

Day XXII – April 9

And on the third day he swung his hammer at me once more to deliver the final punch that threw me down absolutely.

For the second time in my life ever, I wake up completely disorientated. A few seconds and some looks around later I realize: I’m at Shannon’s, the Canadian I met last night at a river bar, and ran into again at Bucket bar, where we flirted scandalously. Eventually I let him show me to his room.
It was a little disappointing though. He’s sexy, sure, but could not really live up to his promise of being that amazing black lover.
And when I was out on his balcony to have a cigarette, who do I see walking the bridge back from party island but Levi, and I feel my heart drop to my feet.

So this morning I walked the walk of shame. In Vang Vieng. Barefoot – my flip-flops constantly fell apart yesterday, so at some point I decided shoes are for whimps. And without shades to hide behind.

Here’s a first attempt at solid food: yoghurt. After about three steady hours, just now my body decided to reject everything again; water, coke, all of it. Long enough for the imodium and the ORS to kick in I hope.
Wait – I see a patern. It’s the guys. Men; they make me sick, literally…
My tummy started acting up again in a bad way, with a constant cramp today.
But by now I’m starting to get hungry and I’ve never been this thirsty in my life. So I guess that’s a good sign.
And of course it hit twice as hard today, after all those vile free buckets the bars try to seduce you with, and the addition of X beers and no real dinner to speak of…
Oh the joy of simply cooled drinking water! Those sweet boys! The ones that run the hostel, they’ve been keeping an eye on me all day, poking their heads around the dorm door every now and then to ask if I’m still OK or need anything, or if they should call the healing lady. At some point I asked if they had a fridge I could cool my water in, but they don’t. So they went out and got me some cubes to put my bottle in.

Lesson learned: I only learned later that (especially cold) water is a bad idea when suffering a foodpoisoning.
Medicin student Loes told me lying on your right side should help to lessen the stomach cramps. It may not feel comfortable, but it’s not more uncomfortable than anything else.

I just walked out the rest to dinner, all in a rather drunken state.
I’d like to join the fun after a whole day in bed, but the smell of the sandwichcarts outside still makes me too nauseous, so I guess I’d better stay home and stick with just yogurt for now, so I at least can get my malarone (malariapills) in…
I notices some vision blubs today, might be them now; it’s one of the possible side effects. There’s a long list, varying from slight nausea to head on paranoia.
[Another reason to avoid taking those unnecessary medications]

A little more about Easy Go Hostel. It looks like they build it themselves, not too long ago. And they keep working on it all the time.
The night before I came here, there was a huge storm that collapsed one of the rooms, so that asked for more work.
But the guys running this place all seem so very motivated!
And I already told you about how nice they are, taking care of me. Of all their guests. This is definitly a place to support!

So sweet how approving they were when I walked out today with a traditional sarong around my waist: “Yes! How Laos wear it!”