Laos: Day 21 to 25th; 8th- 12th of February 2016

8th of February 2016:

As the bus pulled up at 5:30am to a bus station, we were all dazed, confused as to what is happening. All of a sudden two local men get up and get off. No one had told us where exactly we were. After 15 minutes the bus had only a few tourists left. The mass confusion with the language barrier left Nick and I to stay on the bus. Unfortunately after numerous attempts to say is this “Vientiane” and them resulting in either a blank face or a yes and no answer in the same sentence we found out it was Vientiane and we were supposed to get off at that station. Luckily the next stop was still in Vientiane just on the other side. As we got off and grabbed our bags we ran to the ticket machine to show them our ticket so we wouldn’t miss our next bus to Vang Vieng. Unfortunately this bus station is for the locals so he had never seen this ticket, however surprisingly he calls up the company and a man, fluent in English speaks to me. He tells us to stay where we are and they will send someone over. Finally a rush of relief calms me down. So we went outside and sat and waited…. And waited… Finally after nearly two hours, a man approached us saying “Vang Vieng”. It’s a miracle! We watched 100’s of locals get on and off buses, with babies and children wandering behind, even the sunrise was beautiful beaming through the old pillars. I started to feel so ill as we hopped on the mini bus. I felt nauseous and dizzy, but it was a result of lack of sleep for two nights, not eating and stress. After only a 5 minute drive we arrived at a office. The man said “go inside”. At this point my nerves creep up again, have we missed the bus and now have to reschedule? As we walked inside the same man said, “sit”. After 10 minutes of no one even looking at us, Nick approached a lady who spoke no word of English and just pointed to someone else. The man told us it leaves at 9:00am, perfect we can run and get some food in 30 minutes before it leaves. As we race out the door and turn left we spot only one place selling breakfast. A hotel had a buffet for $30,000 kip. I was in no mind to refuse it, even if it was a little more than we would normally spend. After 20 minutes I had engulfed spicy noodles, rice and 3 pieces of toast with strawberry jam. It looked like I hadn’t eaten in months! As we check the time we run out the door with 10 minutes to spare. As we arrive at the office, a man is saying to us, “Vang Vieng” as he’s standing in front of a mini bus. That was close, we jump on and I feel so much better, after a very dramatic morning we finally made it onto the right bus to go to our final destination for the day. As our bus slowly fills up we leave Vientiane. The journey took 5 hours and the entire time I was reading my book. As for some bizarre reason I felt less nauseous reading then when I looked outside.

As we arrived at Vang Vieng we were once again left at a bus station 1 km from the city. A man in a tuk tuk told us $30,000kip to the city. This was a joke! You should pay $2,000kip per km. Even the Korean family with wheelie bags left him and started walking down the “highway”. After a few 100 metres he returned saying $5,000kip. At this point we took it, we had, had enough for the day so paying $1 Aus seemed worth it. After a 5 minute drive we got out when two young Korean girls did as we had no accommodation organised. We tried four hostels/ guest houses till we settled for $80,000kip for 2 people per night. At this point it was 3:30pm and I just lied down on the bed ready to call it a day! Unfortunately I was starving! And food always out wins sleep. So I pulled myself out of bed and got sweet and sour chicken at a restaurant that showed the t.v show Friends non stop. After this, Nick wanted to explore, so we walked around the town and crossed a rickety bridge made out of wood and bamboo. At this point we realised how beautiful Vang Vieng is where people were kayaking below us and hot air balloons drifted around as the sun was setting.

 

Vang Vieng: Laos
 
  
9th of February 2016:

What an amazing sleep in, I felt like a different person when I awoke. So refreshed and ready for the day. We finally did our laundry today as it’s the first time this trip. It’s amazing how knowing you will receive clean clothes soon makes you feel good. We went and hired a bike to explore the town. We hired a mountain bike for $25,000kip and crossed the same rickety bridge that we walked across the night before. From here we cycled across a very bumpy paddock with the mountains surrounding us. It was just beautiful. After 3km we arrived at Lucky Cave. We paid $10,000 kip to enter and received a headlight. As we walked up yet another Bamboo ladder a huge black snake that was clearly sun baking on the rock got scared by my clearly ungraceful climbing and fell down the mountain. It was terrifying! I’ve seen more snakes in Laos then I have living in Australia! Normally I would get scared as I see it then kinda be fine. However, the snake was at the entrance of the dark cave, so all I could think about for the next 10 minutes was what if I step on a snake in here, I can’t see anything and the snake was black. So many scenarios were running through my head, but once we reached further and further into the cave I knew they couldn’t possibly live in here. The dark cave was both scary and exhilarating. The Laos people have very different safety standards to Australia. For example, when in some parts the floor gave way there was a little sign saying “danger” with ribbon. This is all good and well but it’s PITCH BLACK! So unless your torch shines it up, say goodbye! Also another scenario that crossed my mind is, what if it gives way underneath us. There were so many massive holes that looked very deep. At one point there was a huge hole as big as half a tennis court and the depth was so scary. However, you had to walk only a metre next to it because that’s all the cave would let you. In the cave was us, and a Korean couple who went ahead then seemed to turn around and then walk with us. It actually made me feel better that there was someone else there. As we reached the end of where we were allowed to go we realised it was a big river system. Thankfully it was dry season but I hear in the rainy season you can swim. Another safety concern that Laos do not seem to signify as important is there are no arrows as to how to get out! You just have to remember how you got there. Only 100 metres in was an ancient finger painting on the wall. I thought this was beautiful and so sacred until the Korean guy put his hand on the floor and made a hand mark. Kinda ruined it!
Our next plan was to see another cave, unfortunately this did not exactly go as planned. Nicks map on my phone was telling him there was a path, however I begged to differ as I was telling him clearly there was no path as we bike riding through sludge and a paddock, but his map told him so. Anyways this kinda ruined the day long story short and we went to get some lunch. We sat down at a bungalow on the water next to the bridge.

 

Vang Vieng: Laos
 
 It was so peaceful! The two English girls next to us told us they had been there for a week. We were astonished what can you do here for an entire week. I ordered beef fried rice, I hadn’t thought that was a difficult meal as I even pointed on the menu next to the picture. She brought out minced chicken and rice, we then told her what we ordered and she took it away. 10 minutes later she brought out the exact same meal. At this point after 45 minutes of waiting and it was already 3:00pm I was just going to eat it. However, with what? So I went up and was simply going to ask if I could have some chop sticks. Before I said anything she clearly knew she was wrong and then told me,  what I had originally ordered. So I showed her on the menu again. I don’t understand, if she knew what I ordered before I said anything why did she not just make it in the first place? Anyways another 15 minutes later I received my meal, and thankfully it was good. We then just stayed there till 6pm when we had to return our bikes. 

10th of February 2016:

We seemed to have slept in again, at 10am we went to the post office. Although we haven’t been travelling long we were already sick of how full our bags are getting. So we sent back all the unnecessary things we packed, back to Australia. I felt so sorry for the man, as everything he did was by hand, and even had to use the fax at one point. However after 30 minutes we were all done. We had no plans for the day, apart from find someone or somewhere to give the Vietnam and Burma lonely planet books to. As we were walking around I found a chemist that said they do passport photos. Once again the standards are very different. The lady pulled out a white blanket and put it behind the chair. Then whilst still holding her baby took a photo. After 10 minutes she came back with what I hope is plausible. She seemed to have done some Photoshopping and you can tell straight away some of my hair is cut out, but fingers crossed it works. As we were walking out a guy was talking about the Chin Lo balls, which Nick loves from Burma and offered them the books. They were so thankful. 

As we were walking back we walked past the tubing place. Only $55,000 for 2 hours of tubing. So we went back to the room to get changed and ready. Nick had assured me that girls were wearing just bikinis but I just didn’t feel comfortable, but I listened and walked down the street. It was horrible! The entire time you could just feel people looking at you. As we arrived I told Nick I didn’t feel comfortable and ran back to the room. I put on one of his t-shirts and felt much better. Unfortunately as I ran back we missed the Tuk Tuk full of people so we had to sit and wait till at least two more people would come. I had my doubts but after 5 minutes a Russian girl named Olga arrived. Then 10 minutes later a couple from Korea and as we were on the Tuk Tuk about to leave another couple. It was only a 5 minute drive to what we had never expected! As we approached a bar with 50 drunk people a girl told us to go have one drink. We knew she worked there so she didn’t really care but she gave us a friendship bracelet. We thought ok just one drink. Another factor we didn’t take into account was we didn’t bring much money! We got our free whiskey shot that was very watered down and bought a strawberry daiquiri which was very strong! Then watched drunk people play musical tubes. After 40 minutes we thought it was best if we go down the river to the next bar. We met two people travelling together, the girl Elanor-Rose from America and Espen from Norway. So as we drifted down I realised I am not very good at tubing and was always so far behind! As we reached the other bar the people would throw rope with a Sprite bottle on the end to pull you in. After 4 attempts the man reached me and pulled me in. As we walked up people were dancing, sitting down talking, playing basketball and volleyball. Nick decided to set up a beer pong. Olga had never played so he attempted to tell her the rules but she got confused and her and I waited to the next game. Now the thing about me is I cannot drink beer even if my life depended on it! But we were playing with beer so I tried to drink one of them but after 2 seconds I just wanted to gag and from then on Nick drank the rest. Thankfully, they didn’t get many in and we won. After an hour we thought it was best if we head back. The sun was already behind the mountain so it was going to be cold! After awhile I lost Nick and was trying to paddle by myself when the American and Norwegian guy arrived. I tagged along with them and he paddled for us. At this point it was 5:15pm and if you don’t return your tube before 6pm you have to pay. We arrived at a bank where the time was 5:50pm so we grabbed a Tuk Tuk and told him to hurry. We made it by 5:59pm. Unfortunately Nick was not with me so I had no idea where he was. 30 seconds later he turns up. We discuss with Elanor-Rose and Espen to meet up at the bar in 30 minutes. So we raced back had a warm shower and got changed. Espen is a person who knows how to drink and a lot of it! No one could keep up, and I don’t think any of us wanted to. At 8pm we walked into the Sakura bar where we sat and chatted next to the camp fire. As the night went on we went inside and I guess you could say we danced the night away. At 12pm the bar closed and I would say I had to walk nick home but that would have put it nicely. He stumbled over pulling me to the ground with him, then I enticed him on a Nutella and banana pancake. Unfortunately he ran away as I was waiting, so when I finally found him after walking up and down the little street twice, he finally followed me back to the guesthouse, only for the pancake. Today was surprisingly amazing, after having no plans by 1pm!

11th of February 2016:

Today was death! Last night was amazing and so today we had to pay for it to say the least! We didn’t leave the bed until 3pm, where it was a struggle to walk a few metres down the street to a couch to order pizza. Wow life is hard! As we were waiting a beautiful hot air balloon came soaring past us, it looked gorgeous as the sun was setting. I wish I could tell you more about today but the mere fact is we watched a movie (Slumdog Millionaire), two episodes of Hell Cats and slept. 


12th of February 2016:

Today we were suppose to leave to go to Luang Prabang but as we looked at accommodation online there was absolutely nothing left within our budget. So we worked out it would be cheaper to stay in Vang Vieng one more night and leave the next morning. Vang Vieng is like Lotus Eater, within the Greek mythology. It’s an addictive town that portrays a sense of belongingness and ease as you lay by the river eating copious delicious foods. Normally we stay at a place for 2 to 3 nights, but Vang Vieng captured us with it’s care free life and we stayed 5 nights. As we were walking through the now familiar streets the days turned into a blur, one after another not achieving much and yet feeling as though it was an amazing adventure. I would recommend Vang Vieng to anyone, and yet it’s not a town that I would normally be attracted to. It’s very touristy, you hardly see any of the real life of Laos people and yet this tourism business shows the glitz and glamour and it enchants even the sceptical people. 

 However we did actually do something today, surprise surprise! We hired a scooter to drive to the famous Blue Lagoon. The pictures looked so amazing and untouched, just a little lake that people swim in. Unfortunately not all photos show the true side. When we turned up we paid $10,000 kip and as I looked up I was astonished to see the untouched blue lagoon to be a water park. There were 100’s and I do mean 100’s of Asians (Koreans and Chinese) splashing about and jumping off the tree. It completely ruined the atmosphere, but we grabbed some grass and just sun baked. After 5 minutes Nick was already bored so he went in the water and for me only after 30 minutes, because I was dripping in sweat! As I walked over to the water I approached a concrete step that then led to a wooden ladder. I took one step on the concrete step and slid forward pounding my shin into the wooden ladder. A Asian man was concerned but I was like “yeh I’m totally fine”, this wasn’t a lie I thought I was. However after 4 minutes treading water I started feeling a throbbing pain on my shin. As I walked out, carefully this time I walked over to my towel where I noticed it was starting to swell. Unfortunately Nick wasn’t in the mood to hear me complain so I tried to act cool, but it was really hurting. Then we walked over to the cave, they were saying we needed torches but as you had to pay we just walked past. Lesson learnt, your phone is not that good of light in a huge pitch black cave. The steps, or rocks up to the cave was a workout in itself. At the three quarter mark I wasn’t even sure if I was going to make it my shin was throbbing at every step and my calves were just killing me from having to take steps half my body height! 

 

Tham Phu Kham Cave: Laos
 
The cave had a beautiful natural light beaming through to a Buddha which was breath taking, but as our phones were not efficient enough we just walked back down the hill. Before we left Nick wanted to jump off the tree, so I got the camera ready on the bridge.
 
Blue Lagoon: Laos
 
 The line took a little longer than normal because a kid about 9 years old just freaked out and froze on top! He just walked back down after 5 minutes. Then it was my turn to jump, I actually really didn’t think it was that high, but maybe this was due to the fact that I never looked down. As I jumped I felt exhilarated, and then half way I looked down and I thought to myself “Oh F#*CK this is actually quite high!” And then all of a sudden I was in the water. Unfortunately because of my panic my mouth was open so I swallowed way too much water and my ears became blocked for two days. So my life was fantastic at this point, I was limping, and couldn’t hear anything. 
After the Blue Lagoon we went to a waterfall just past the town. The road was once again bumpy. It was only a 10 minute walk to a opening of a cliff face with a little stream of water. I guess this is the dry season version of the waterfall. Not quite as spectacular as anyone would have hoped for. It was so little that it was laughable. So we turned back and went home. At least today was eventful and we made up for our “sloth” day yesterday!

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