Vang Vieng

6 Feb

We arrived in Vang Vieng at about 5pm and walked from the bus station to a guesthouse that was recommended in the guide book for its lovely garden

The view from our bungalow

This was a 5km walk in the mud because it had rained for hours before we got there – my feet are completely wrecked now as I only had flip flops on and the roads are terrible around here. I now have blisters between my toes and mozzie bites on my feet as we’re very close to the river Song.

The feel of the place is mixed because on the one hand, you’re surrounded by the most beautiful sights

and the other hand, you’ve got tourists off their faces, wearing very little (you don’t often see a Lao woman with her knees or shoulders exposed, even when showering they wear sarongs) and sitting in the hundreds of TV bars watching endless repeats of Friends or Family Guy. So a mixture of Paradise and Faliraki – Palariki? Faladise? But having said that, they all have internet (unlike our bungalow) so it’s nice for me to be able to update this and catch up with emails etc at a normal download speed as it’s been very slow elsewhere. Besides, we’re over the other side of the river, away from all of that where it is more peaceful.

Our bungalow also didn’t have an ensuite so we had to use a shared one. Luckily it wasn’t that busy as food poisoning struck again…this time it was Craig’s turn due to an undercooked burger so he was up all night going to and from the toilet and I am still not well so it’s been a romantic few days.

Our bungalow also has a veranda so as we were not feeling up to much, we sat outside in the shade watching the butterflies and listening to the crickets, frogs and windchime cowbells, and reading. I finished my book between the train to London and the plane to Singapore so I’ve been desperate for something to read, but Laos doesn’t have the thousands of copied books for sale like Vietnam but I finally managed to get a couple here. Each bungalow comes with a free ginger kitten as they like to sit on you whilst you read :) Despite the accommodation being basic, it is easily the most tranquil and beautiful place we’ve stayed so far and less than half the price of our guesthouse in Luang prebang.

The day after we tentatively tried a bit of food so it was me who was up all night this time. We spoke to the owner (a complete eccentric straight out of Fawlty Towers who has a knack of making things breaktakingly awkward instantly) who said that a bungalow with a bathroom had become free so we have moved into that one. The view isn’t as nice but it’s bigger and has a toilet, a shower and a fan so a bit luxurious compared to our old one. And with it, comes a new cat; a brown and ginger tabby who sleeps on the table on our veranda. It also has quite the spider collection – 6 inches long and black and yellow. One of them seems quite content to sit in his web waiting patiently for something to land in it, but the other is a tricksy little (big) thing that shifts from place to place. We immediately put our mosquito net over the bed :I

We went for a walk to reach Blue Lagoon caves, a natural pool outside where you can swim. The guesthouse owner said it was about a 6km walk from his place but we thought maybe the exercise would do us good. Bit of a false start in the blazing sun as we took a wrong turn and ended up at a different cave which was tiny (you had to take your bag off to make sure you could squeeze through all the tunnels), very hot and cramped and although the sign said “crystal waters, swimming” etc, the pool was inside the cave and was more of a muddle puddle with a rubber ring in it. No thanks. When we got back out, the boys running it wanted a 50,000 kip (£4) tip for the five minutes of showing us into the cave, after we had paid 20,000 to get in there. We told them were to go and warned the other people coming up the track that it wasn’t worth visiting.

Even though it was very hot, we decided to persevere and continued walking along the main road. We got to a little bar after about 3.5km and sat there for a drink, nearly on fire. The old man that ran it was a Thai who had spent four years in the forest as a monk and had lived in Europe for 29 years so had quite a few stories to tell. He also taught us which plants he used for cooking, and which he used for medicine. We tried some leaf tea cooked by his wife which is meant to be very good for stomachs…then his wife told us about the time she cut down all his marajuana plants and boiled up the stems to make him some coffee. Ours was fine, if ineffective for me but Craig thinks it helped him. The other things the man told us was that 14 people died in Vang Vieng last year tubing and that the first, wrong, cave we visited was very dangerous and that nine years ago, someone fell through one of the ladders and their body is still there. Eeeep.

The Thai man told us how to get to the correct cave so we went off again and carried on walking the other 3.5km. We beat the guys who had stopped at his cafe and left before us on bicycles but the pay-off for this was that we were blisteringly hot by the time we reached the lagoon. Stripped off and jumped right in and it was blissfully cold

We also climbed up rock stairs to visit the cave there to see the reclining Buddha

and then walked back (it was a good idea to go in with some clothes on as it meant we weren’t as furnace-like on the way back).

We met Andy from our Halong Bay trip in the evening for a meal and a few beers and decided to go kayaking down the Song the next morning. It was very beautiful

but the guide was an idiot. He kept splashing me (just me) and getting me soaked, washing off all my suncream, and we still had an hour to go so my arms and neck are quite red. He was also quite keen for us to go at breakneck speed, meaning I didn’t have much time to take many photographs. After I made him stop to take a couple of pictures of the view, he did slow down a bit but I feel like it was more workout than meandering. We did see waterbuffalo taking a bath though :)

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