Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang
Trip Start Jan 2003
200Trip End Dec 2003
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A second day with the same people (the Happy Bus crew) but this time a bit more was accomplished. We started with a tuk-tuk ride followed by a bit of a hike. This initially took us to a pool of water surrounded by rocks and a cave. While the water from the outside did not seem too appetising, when viewed from inside the cave, it glistened a magical turquoise colour reflecting the un-abbating sun from outside. Another short hike through the most picturesque scenery I've ever seen (I'm giving up trying to explain it but rest assued it was truly stunning)and we explored another couple of caves - both guarded by Buddhas. Lunch included as much Lao Lao whiskey as we wanted (which wasn't much as it's the most vile substance I've ever tasted - it did however come in handy later to sterilise a cut on my head suatained in a cave).
The last part of the day was surreal but also very enjoyable - we sat in huge inner tubes and floated back to Vang Vieng. The surreal part (and obviously it's just for the westerners) concerned the mythical Beer Lao island. Basically we'd heard about a Beer Lao island which I imagined to be just an island with a bar on it. It turns out to be much more of a Bear Lao archipelago but the islands were man-made platforms. They basically drag you in and sell you beer, crisps and other bar snacks while you're sat in your inner tube. You then drink and eat your way along the river until you near VV and someone wades along the river collecting your empties.
Leaving two of our party behind (the appeal of another trip along the Beer Lao archipelago was too strong for them to resist), Rob (one of the Brits), Kirsty and I took the bus to Luang Prabang. this was not so much the happy bus (everyone a bit concerned about the soldiers lining the road with AK47's and grenade launchers) as the look-alike bus. Two people I know from home, a more than passable Thierry Lacroix and a Brad Pitt doppelganger - he must have had a hard life! The driver quickly took offence at the fact another bus overtook him and spent the next few hours driving at breakneck speed round hairpins and through the roadblocks. he was also infuriating at times by persisting on driving up steep hills at 10mph in fifth. Still it took our mind of the Kalashnikov carring kids supposedly looking out for us. I would be a complete liar if I said I wasn't relieved for more than one reason when we finally arrived in Luang Prabang. Despite the trauma, we did arrive safely and I'm looking forward to a relaxing day tomorrow - travelling really takes it out of you!
While in Laos, we've come across a couple of interesting food stuffs. First, in the market in Vang Vieng, there were various forms of rat - steam-rollered rat jerky and raw skinned rat (which the vendors kept on nibbling at). The menu here in Luang Prabang offers Morning Glory Soup - turns out to be a chinese greens soup rather than what I would have imagined it to be while I was at school. I'm embarrassed to say though that I haven't had the stomach for either.