Vang Vieng and Vientiane, Laos

Trip Start Jan 16, 2009
Trip End Apr 04, 2009

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Where I stayed
Hotel Beau Rivage Mekong

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Sunday, February 1, 2009

27 Jan - Our last breakfast at Lotus villa and we caught the 0900 'VIP' bus to Vang Vieng. At 0930 we stopped for a small welding repair at a roadside blacksmith and an hour or so later the fan belt broke! We had one quick stop for lunch and finally arrived at 1600, only 2 hours late!
In Vang Vieng we spent 3 nights at Thavisouk Resort - a grand title for a cluster of rustic 'chalets' on stilts by the Nam Song river. The location was brilliant but the staff were disinterested and the whole place run down. However it was only 20 USD per chalet per night, we had a balcony and lots of hot water, so we could hardly complain. Vang Vieng is noted for two main things: it has outstanding limestone karst scenery, hundreds of pinnacle-like limestone mountains, often with trees growing on their sheer sides and the other is that it is a back-packer haven. There is lots of cheap accommodation from 5 USD per room per night. There are several Aussie bars and an Irish bar!!. On the river one of the popular activities is to 'tube' down the river ie sit in a big tyre inner tube and float 5 km down the river, a bar at each end!!
28 Jan - From our 'chalet' the dozens of karsts are just across the river. Inside them are many large caves, most of which have swimming areas. We hired bikes and cycled 7 km on a bumpy track to Poukham Cave - a very large cave, stalagtites and stalagmites, a statue of Buddha and outside a 'blue lagoon'. It was a welcome place for a swim and by the time we left car loads and tuk-tuk loads of people started arriving. We had spied a small restaurant built on stilts over another 'lagoon' and we went there for lunch and we spent a pleasant couple of hours. In the evening we had Phat Thai and Koi Pa, the later a mistake as it was so overloaded with chillies as to render it inedible and for the first time we had to drink 2 bottles of Beerlao, despite leaving most of the dish! This was the only dish we did not really enjoy in all the time we were in Laos.
29 Jan - Cycled 4 km to an Organic farm where they make the Mulberry Leaf tea we had been drinking and we had a leisurely day. We decided to eat elsewhere and both breakfast and dinner we had at a very small restaurant run by a cheerful mother and daughter. We had river fish with basil sauce which was 'meaty' fish and delicious.
30 Jan - We caught the 1000 'Express' bus from Vang Vieng to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, 170 km to the south. The journey took 3.5 hours. As capitals go it is very laid back and once again we were alongside the Mekong. This time though it was Thailand on the other side. Our hotel was a gem, The Beau Rivage Mekong is a 'Boutique' hotel and we had a room overlooking the Mekong. Accessed by a dusty track it is in a really quiet location. The rooms were tastefully decorated and had full length windows opening onto a balcony. From the bath and shower we had a clear fantastic view across to Thailand. We had a short walk and dinner at a small local restaurant.
In Laos it is usual to order 1 Beerlao and 2 glasses, even, apparently, when you are by yourself. As I do not normally drink beer I was pleasantly surprised. A Beerlao (750 ml) cost around 10,000 kip, about 90 pence.
31 Jan - Walked for an hour or so but just preferred to linger in our lovely room. We caught a mini-van to the Friendship Bridge and the International border with Thailand. At Nong Khai, Thailand, we had a couple of hours to kill before catching the 1820 overnight sleeper to Bangkok. In Nong Khai there was a Tesco's and a Boots!!!. The sleeper train departed at 1820 and cost 1150 baht, 23 pounds for the upper bunk and 1350 baht, 27 pounds, for the lower bunk in the First Class Sleeper. We definitely thought it worth it for the 13 hour journey. (A second class reclining chair would only be about 350 baht, 7 pounds.)
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