The real side to Vang Vieng!
22.10.2011 - 25.10.2011 28 °C
The real side to Vang Vien
This is an infamous party town, known for its tubing along the river, wild bars and “happy” shakes, whiskey buckets and drug concoctions of your choice are available in every bar lining the street. Friends and family guy is blaring from all the TV’s in most of the bars and all I can think of is this is a typical paradise for the stereotypical “brit abroad”. Its shocking to realize that this town welcomed its first car just 8 years ago and now its tourist mecha – what a transformation…
I was some what hesitant to make the VV stop on my travels, I was still on detox and for those of you who know me well you will know the drug scene isn’t anything im interested in and im not that interested in being with people who are into that scene.. however something was drawing me to the place and I had heard the scenery around was spectacular so I went for it and I am pleased I did!
New European Friends
After a sad goodbye to Kate I was really excited about meeting cool new people and I didn’t have to wait long! Alex a lovely girl from Switzerland was sitting next to me on the mini bus journey, we got on very well and talked all the way south around 4 hours. We both had the same idea about skipping the partys and had different recommendations for where to stay, we ended up agreeing on staying in town for the first night and did a deal on a triple room in Pans place – a very nice place to stay I would recommend it for the budget traveler! I also met a lovely girl from Belgium, Natalie on the tuk tuk into VV and so we quickly became the 3 amigos! It’s bizarre how well we get on, we all weren’t sure about coming and have a similar mind set about why we are there.. The 3 amigos trying to escape the “brits abroad” crowd
On our first day we headed out for brunch to a lovely place down by the river, Banana bar – this quickly became our local – the fruit shakes and food were amazing! All of the seating is on cushions on the floor, super comfy and relaxing atmosphere. We could hear different episodes of friends from the bar but thankfully they didn’t play it – must be the only bar in town that doesn’t. After brunch we hired bikes and headed out to an organic farm that I had been recommended. The farm was lovely but unfortunately the farm is right on the river next to the pumping bars, which were just getting going when we arrived, you seriously can’t hear yourself think over the noise its mind numbing! Call me old but this is not a place I could stay for an hour let alone a week! I would guess, judging by the spiders, that the farm hasn’t had anyone staying for a while.. such a shame as its such a nice idea and a nice spot by the river.
We next head in search of the blue lagoon, Nats our navigator and she does a great job! We pass a Wat which turns out to be a crazy psychedelic temple very different to any of the one I have seen before
We cycle up and down rough cobbly roads in the searing heat, we go past quaint villages still stuck back in time, rice paddys with people working in them in triangular hats – this is the real Asia, and bamboo houses with children playing outside, families of cows including day old calves walk past us unfased by us being there – so nice to see them roaming!
The road then suddenly becomes a mud bath.. the only way forward is through the middle of the mud! So flip flops off we walk our bikes through the mud it comes half way up our calfes and now makes riding in flip flops almost impossible, each time we push the peddles our feet go sliding around! We finally see a sign for blue lagoon, as we turn in we are greeted with a sight that makes all the effort worth it! Stunning! Nobody other than the water buffalo, geese and a small Loas lady in the local “restaurant” is there, we have the place to ourselves! There is a water buffalo and a few geese bathing in the stream that runs next to the lagoon almost like gate keepers to the beautiful lagoon! I quickly cross the bridge right next to the water buffalo trying not to make eye contact with it – still nervous after my close encounters in Kenya with buffalo!
The lagoon is amazing and the water is so blue and refreshing after our ride! The view from the lagoon is also spectacular After a long dip I get out just in time to see 8 buffalo walk out of the forest some to join the other bathing in the water and some to graze in the field behind us. All too soon it is time to go as the sun is setting and we are a long way from home! We are all braver on the way back and cycle through the mud and flood, we all get totally covered in mud hahaha!
Day 2 brings a different mode of transport we decide to hire a scooter and head to an amazing waterfall we have heard about – apparently it is 25m high, the landlord of our guest house challenges us to stand under it apparently the water pressure is intense underneath! It turned out to be quite a challenge, but we both managed it, the waterfalls were in an amazing forest one massive one and lots of smaller ones. We headed straight for the tall waterfall both of us up for completing our challenge! I went first, the water pressure even at the side was unbelievable I managed to pull myself under the main part of the fall using the rocks and stood there for a while with the water hammering down from above! Challenge complete
We spent the rest of the afternoon there watching the butterfly birds and taking in the amazing scenery. On the way back was the most amazing spectacular sunset under dragon shaped pink clouds. I also tried my hand at riding the scooter, something I hadn’t done before so I was super proud of myself getting the hang of it and I took us both all the way home – almost incident free – (turning is not my forte!)
Our last day we spend at a cave, in order to get there you have to climb this huge staircase but the view at the top is amazing!
We spend our last night in the bar next to banana drinking yummy fruit shakes, eating curry and painting our nails proper girls night.
I ended up spending 4 lovely nights in VV it was super nice to put my bag down and not move it for a few days and lovely to meet such nice people and share an amazing place with them, I am convinced we have seen a very different side to VV from the typical tourist and I have enjoyed very minute of it!
Chris, the lovely guest house owner, had told me the budget way to get to Bangkok which involves 2 buses, 2 tuk tuk’s, 1 border crossing and one overnight train! We all decide t leave together – we started out early, our bus was due to leave at 7am. We crossed the old airfield – used by the US army during their “secret” bombing of Laos back in the 80’s during the Vietnam war.
As we arrived there was an old bus waiting on the road, wow flash back to the Tanzanian busses The bus driver was just stopping to get.. wait for it… a beer! Eeek! I hadn’t noticed but Nat pointed it out as we boarded the bus. We al look at each other with slight panic, but then I reason with them im sure this bus driver knows these roads better than anyone.. right?! So I smile confidently and do my best to clamber over a huge package – that Alex reckons a body! – taking up the whole of the aisle in the middle of the bus making it impossible to pass… The seats at the back of the bus are pretty bashed up – most of them are missing actual seats and are just the iron frames… We set off along a dusty road bumping over every pot hole! I am working on re-threading my bikini – an impossible task it turns out and Alex and Nat are now relaxing into the journey. We stop off a number of times and then thud the sound of us driving over something and then the unmistakable sound of a flat tire!!! I then recalled a note in the guide book warning to bring extra snacks on local busses as it will inevitably break down at least once! We stop briefly to check out the damage and then we start again limping on for miles with the sound of the metal scarping the ground and the smell of burning rubber – surely we can’t go all the way to Vientiene like this?!?! We eventually stop at a tire repair place there seems to be a few on route and Alex darts out for a pee break and I go in hunt of snacks. I find some char grilled green bananas which are lovely and a perfect healthy snack for us all. The rest of the journey is uneventful and we make good time to Vientiene. Once there I bid another regretful goodbye to my good European friends, realizing that one quick planned night in the centre of VV turned into 4 fun filled days with wonderful ladies! I do a quick money exchange with Alex to pay for the tuk tuk and begin the next chapter of my adventure on my own in search of the international bus back across the friendship bridge to Thailand.
Back to Thailand
I board the bus after spending my last few kip and make it across the boarder with ease and back into Nong Khai – with only a 15 day visa in hand.. apparently Thailand have changed their visa policies for foreigners blah.. I will now need to sort this out fast as I want to stay in Thailand for another 3 months,
My first stop in Thailand is the train station, because of all the flooding I am hoping that the train back to Bangkok is still possible – turns out im in luck and I book onto the sleeper train for that night, I get a top bunk its cheaper and I prefer it.. hopefully there will be no falling out! I then head over to immigration which is a short walk. I thought it is possible to get a visa extension there but turns out I should have got it in Laos.. eek! Note for self research up to date visa information BEFORE entering a country!
I do a quick revisit of Nong Khai and pick up a spicy salad take away from our favorite family restaurant which proceeds to drain every where – why do I always have that kind of thing happen?! I board the train excited to be doing my first Asian sleeper train experience! The trin is pretty quiet, I am sure this is because of the disastrous flooding in Bangkok I can imagine no one wants to be heading that way of they can help it… Before I know it the chairs are being turned into beds – I very efficient service, I eat my sticky salad and bid goodnight to my fellow travelers eager to get some sleep before an early wake up call in Bangkok!