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

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!”

What happened?

[A little ode to Sublime is in order to get you in the Vang Vieng state of mind]

Day XXI – April 8

A bright sun pokes through the cracks of our little bamboo shack.
Why am I up before 7am? I went home early, but that was after midnight still, wasn’t it?
I’m afraid turning over isn’t going to do the trick either…

Recapturing last night: I rode a tuktuk back to town with the same girls around 9 o’clock. Good thing too.
Finally took that shower. Then Dave made me a drink some tea on the porch.
We went out for dinner but I didn’t feel like a whole plate, so didn’t order any. Rob and Ramsey [another Scottish] fed me, as we discussed, what, a threesome? (Nothing serious of course) Another guy gave me a very good massage while Dave ordered a big bottle of water and shoved it my way. He also ordered a bucket though, to reverse the effect.
And another one when we got to the island, which I ended up basically drinking all by myself.
But that was it, wasn’t it? I left for bed first of us all I think.

Couldn’t find my toothbrush or anything in the mess of my net, and still have to locate my bikini top – no no, I took it off when I went to take that shower and just threw it in the general direction my bed somewhere, is all – but other than that I think I’m good.
Got a few new bruises of course, but that happens every day out here, the way we live outside and play rough.

This girl in the next room just woke up and didn’t realize you hear every single thing through these walls. She went on and on about how drunk she still was, and then we all heard her barfing.
So, this is Vang Vieng. And that is falang.

Before, I though that the most disgusting place I’d peed was in the freeshow/ladyboy-bar in Chiang Mai, where I got my feet wet with all the dirt on the floor.
But a new champion has arisen! It is right here, where all the drunk westerners have to squat. It got so slippery at some point that I fell. EEW! Luckily I was already on my way out and they were just cleaning so they could hose me down with some fresh river water.
Those who have been to Vang Vieng know the water itself is disgusting and full of diseases and what not, but hey, we all drank from it at some point or another… I mean, you know how the buckets are cleaned right? You didn’t? Well now you do. Cheers!

So, a day in Vang Vieng is spent getting up and over a hangover. When you’ve done so, well after noon, making your way up the river to the first bar about 3 km out of town, playing (drinking)games, getting drunk (again) trying to get a few bars further than yesterday.
At last, going back to town for a change, maybe preceded by a sober-up-shower, a late dinner and heading out to the islands in the middle of town, where all the clubs are; Bucket bar, Reggae-Reggae bar, Smiley bar etc, going crazy all night long, and hopefully finding your way back to your own bed in one piece.

The other night I heard of a girl who had been here for eight months already. I couldn’t do it if they paid me – and that’s apparently what people that end up here do; they work. The pro’s of working here, or so I hear, are that you get your accommodation, free drinks and drugs, and about 70.000k paid per day.
But for now, I am having fun.

Lesson learned: If you have dixiefobia… well, you’d better get over it quick and get used to squatting, no seats, no toiletpaper and flushing with a bucket.

(All photo-credits for this post go to Dave Misrack, thanks buddy!)

On the road again

Next destination:
Vang Vieng, tubing capital

Day XX – April 7

Grandma was a sweetheart, making me breakfast ready to go at 6.30am.
On the way to the Stray meeting point I run into Patrick and the chick he scored last night walking him off. “Oh, she’s Dutch also,” he introduces us, like that’s supposed to create some sort of bond. We say an awkward sort of ‘Hi’.
At 7am we’re all back the bus again, and the road takes us through stunning limestone scenery. We stop in the middle, high up in the mountains and it gets pretty cold up here – though Luang Prabang cooled down quite a bit after last night’s heavy pouring; when the French and I walked back from Utopia, just after that first cloud had cleared, we had to take of our flipflops because otherwise we would have lost them in the violent river that the streets had turned into.

The view up here is breathtaking, comes right out of that famous romantic painting by Caspar David Friedrich – Wanderer above the sea of fog, with clouds creeping through the grim peaks of the Laos highlands.

Two hours later we enter the valley of Vang Vieng, the valley of falang, the valley of tubing and party-party, the fullmoon beach of Laos.
Two Australians have died already this year while tubing.
I believe I read it was in 1996 that a tourist first discovered tubing with his kids. They took the inner tire of a truck and floated down the river in it. More tourists came by and picked up on this fun passtime. Eventually swings were built and more and more people came. More and more backpackers came. And backpackers like a drink, thus bars were built alongside the river, each with a free, nay, manditory shot of laolao at entering. The buckets, I guess, came over from the southern Thai islands, like the partypackers must’ve.
James warns us to be very careful with ourselves because there isn’t a hospital in this town or the next, so when you do get injured you’re royally f’cked.

The local guide on the bus points me the way to the hostel I should find my friends at. He tells me he knows the place and is certain of the direction.
After walking that way until the end of town I start asking around again, and when two locals don’t know, so tell me “yes” and point further along the road, but three tell me to go back, I guess I’d better head the other way again, my 13k backpack starting to weigh a bit.

Sidenote: In Asia, it’s considered a disgrace if you don’t know the awnser to a question, of, say, directions. Rather lie and possibly send someone the wrong way. So when you are asking where to go and it looks like the person you asked isn’t confident, ask the next person, and a few more to make sure.

That’s where, in a little alley behind the Temple, I find it: Easy Go Hostel. An adorable little bamboo house, open front, pooltable right in the entance, a reception with someone asleep behind it and a board telling me the names of those checked in, with my friends amongst them.
I write my name, passportnumber, occupation and approximate departure date in their book and am shown to one of the downstairs rooms.

No one is there so I get ready to take a shower. But before I do Leila, Caitlin and Annie burst in, on their way to tubing. “Isn’t it too late for that now?” I ask, as I’ve heard you have to turn in your tube before 6pm to avoid the 60.000k fine. “No, but you don’t rent a tube anyway; that’s lame!”
So I jump on a tuktuk with them and we’re out. “Get ready for a party!”

We’re dropped off 15 minutes later, cross a wobbly bridge and are offered that first shot -which I sneakily pass- and get the bracelet that marks how many bars you’ve visited, worn as a sort of achievement.
The music is loud and obscene and wins it by far from all the places I’ve been before. Ah well, just roll with it.
We get a vodkabucket to share amongst us four to begin with.
Everywhere on the planking people are dancing and acting crazy and playing beerpong. We start a new hit: flip the cup, a sort of chucking-relay race. In no time we have more players than the table can fit and the buckets and beers come and go by the minute. But we’re having heaps of fun and I feel my head growing hazy…