Chilling out in Vang Vieng

Trip Start Jan 23, 2006
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I'm so relaxed I can barely type this latest update. We've had a few relaxing days in Vang Vieng - a town which cannot be described as picturesque at the best of times and was apparently having its entire sewer system replaced during our visit. However VV does have the advantage of being situated alongside the Nam Song River under the shadow of a series of gigantic limestone karsts. Life for travellers in VV centers around enjoying watersports on the river and flaking out in one of the many bars and restaurants decked out with recliners and floor cushions. And this is exactly what we did.

Our day of watersports consisted of the ancient Laos practice of 'tubing' (I joke of course, I believe this was invented by Club 18-30 and not the Khun Lo dynasty). This involves being dropped off upstream with a giant inner tube, and then floating back down into Vang Vieng in said tube, stopping off at some or all of the many bars along the way for a bottle of Beer Laos. As well as beer the bars provide floaters with the opportunity to throw themselves off high platforms on rope swings, trapezes and zip-lines. Sound like fun? Well its not... We stopped at one busy bar with a particularly impressive trapeze style swing, as I am a wimp (and a good friend) I thought I'd let Rachel and Rhiannon have a go first. They each took their turn and gracefully flew through the air before casually dropping themselves into the water. Okay, I thought, if they can do this (even Rhi with her floppy arm), then so can I. I was wrong.

So I climb up to the 30ft platform, heart pounding, get to the front of the queue, grab the trapeze, and let myself go... I'm not sure how it happened, but the next thing I remember is hearing a gasp from the crowd (must have been at least 100 people watching this) as I hit the water with all of the force that can be expected if one lets go of the swing at full height with full momentum behind them. To make matters worse, I hit the water head first but have managed to escape a black eye (I just have a sore face), although the thighs that hit the water next are a different story. I don't know whether the pain or the embarrassment was worse - I can't say I've really enjoyed being stopped in the street by strangers asking me why I let go of the bar over the last few days.

After a trauma like that, some serious relaxing was needed (yeah, right, like we need an excuse!). A random meeting in the street with a familiar face meant that we had a new lounging buddy in the shape of Ian, a lad who had been in our year at Oxford doing the same course as me and Rhiannon. It was just like the good old days. In theory our accommodation should have provided the idyllic backdrop to our (in)activities. However, I found the whole thing less than relaxing. We stayed in some bamboo huts called 'The Other Side' (as they were on the opposite side of the river to the main town) which were what can only be described as 'rustic', by which a mean full of holes through which giant, unidentifiable insects creep to scare entomophobes like me. Fortunately, we are now en route to Bangkok which, as far as I remember, is a fairly insect free destination...
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