Farewell to Vang Vieng

Trip Start Apr 19, 2010
1
17
25
Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Tuesday, June 15, 2010

We bade farewell to lovely Luang Prabang early Thursday morning. A minivan arrived at our guesthouse to collect us Having at 9am. We loaded our luggage into a minivan with 5 other tourists. We drove about 10 mins before we pulled into the offices of the minivan company. A lady came out & asked if we had left a bag back at our guesthouse.  I did a quick bag count ( we're now up to 8!). Only 7 bags present. How could this be? Well, yours truly had left the guesthouse ((with 2 shoulders bags in tow), and totally forgot to take my rucksack!! They called from the guesthouse to confirm it belonged to us & sent 2 guys over on a motorbike to return it to it's rightful owner! So sweet! We then relocated from one minivan to another. 

Yes....can you believe it? We actually had our own private vehicle!!

The (5 hour) trip however, took close to 7 hours due to the fact that our driver made frequent stops along the way to purchase fruit & vegetables from roadside stands. In addition, he pulled into 2 different restaurants to eat 2 different meals! While this journey was certainly more comfortable than previous trips, the downhill road was incredibly zig zagy & our driver chose to descend way too fast. In fact I was rather grateful for the frequent stops as it gave my stomach a chance to catch up with the rest of me!!

We were dropped at the bus depot in Vang Vieng & bargained with a tuk tuk driver (a saving of 30,000 Kip!) to drive us 2km to the town centre. While Yoni & Eden scouted for accommodation, we sat on the curb beside our mountain of luggage & people watched.

This town is really a young person's paradise. There are bars (all screening The Simpsons, Friends or Family Guy & of course the FIFA World Cup) every metre or so. Drugs are easy to come by (so I believe) & some restaurants even supply 'happy' supplements! (I guess we've been eating in the wrong places!-just kidding mum!). Next to every bar/ restaurant is a shop selling cheap summer clothing & footwear, fake brand sunnies etc. So, unless your a native Lao, you'd better be young, good-looking, loud, brash & carefree with an amazing body & tan (unless you're a pasty Pom!). So, as you can well imagine....we blended right in!!

Initially Yoni & I  didn't vibe with this town. It's a pretty soulless place with a non family friendly vibe. However, if we were back in our 20's, we would probably be in our element. The first day & a half we just chilled out, wandering around town getting the heads up from other tourists. The thing to do in Vang Vieng is 'tubing'. you hire large rubber tubes (inflatable tyres) to sit in & cruise down the Nam 

Song   River. So after brunch, this is just what we did. We walked 

over to the office, bought our tickets, & caught the next available tuk tuk.

The tuk tuk took us & 6 others (inc 2 Israeli girls) to the drop-off point to begin our adventure. As it was a stinking hot day, we chose to depart after midday when the temperature had dropped slightly. The time we actually spent in the river we were shielded from the sun by the imposing mountains & overhanging trees & shrubbery. From the minute you enter the cool, murky water, you are surrounded by bars (the pub variety)  on either side of the river. Locals beckon you over & throw you a rope (with a rubber ring or a bottle attached) to reel you ashore. Once you clamber up, tube in tow, they have amazing stuff to do: a trapeze, a flying fox, a slingshot & a massive slide- all of which land you directly into the river!

We stopped at every 2nd bar or so, not of course for the drinks, but for the various equipment. The kids were terrific, with gutsy little Eden up for everything. However, the biggest kid of all was Yoni. He was completely in his element swinging on the trapeze like a monkey! 

(maybe Darwin was right!) He couldn't get enough. While not as fearless as Eden, Noah & Keshet pretty much tried everything, while yours truly enjoyed the sun & was in charge of capturing the moments for our blog!

After a couple of hours of pub hopping  sliding & swinging, we climbed back into our tubes & headed back down the river. The current pulled us along at a pleasant pace & we enjoyed floating past the stunning surroundings of limestone karsts, jungle & rice paddies.  At some point a canoe cruised by with a local guy & an Israeli girl. Eden hitched a ride & quickly passed us on by. Yoni & Noah took the lead while Kesh & I lagged behind.

Eventually we reached a section in the river where there was  a kind of vortex & as Keshet continued down the river, I got caught up in the swirl & my bottom got stuck on some rocks. Although the water was fairly shallow, the current was strong & I found myself unable to move in any direction. I climbed out of the tube & stood up to try & get a firm footing. A little girl who was in the water saw that I was stranded & came over to try & help me. Unfortunately to no avail. My only option was to be rescued by a passing boat.

After a few minutes a boat passed by & I called out & waved my arms about. The Lao boat driver & 2 tourists naturally thought I was just being friendly & waved back as they drove on by!! Frustrated & a tad concerned at this stage, it wasn't long before another boat headed towards me. This time I was far more vocal & shook my entire body to draw their attention. I guess they responded to my pleas of "help, help me!!" as the Lao driver & his 2 Chinese passengers actually slowed down & headed towards me. He navigated the rocks & the shallow water & made it over to me. He grabbed my tube & helped me climb aboard. I was greatly relieved, as I might still be there! I was dropped off at an exit point further down the river & clambered out of the boat. I thanked them profusely as they drove off. Tube in tow, I started to walk up the slope back to the office. However, the path was paved with thick, sludgy mud & I only took 2 steps before I went for an almighty spill. As my rescuers looked on, I slid around in an embarrassed attempt to get back on my feet! (I may look into mud wrestling as a future vocation!)

My dignity took a battering, as did my left thigh (I have a lovely bruise to prove it!). Finally back at the tubing office, I joined up with Yoni & the kids & we headed back to the guesthouse. After showering, and in my case washing off layers of mud ((people pay a small fortune for similar treatments at a spa!), Kesh & I both experienced a wonderful Lao massage. My massage therapist was a tiny 19 y.o girl who, despite her small stature, really packed a punch! It was wonderful & similar toMeanwhile Eden went for a manicure & returned with a fancy floral design which she loves. we headed out for dinner.

Out on the streets, amongst the hordes of tourists, who should we bump into? None other than Gian Luca & Lisa out on their last night together. We had a brief catchup & (for what I'm sure will be the last time) said our farewells.

The next day was also awesome. After a home-made brekky (muesli, mango, yogurt) we arranged for a tuk tuk to take us to Tham Nan (water cave). This is a long spindly cave that stretches for about 7 km & at the entrance there is a crystal-clear pool which is inhabited by cute, fluffy ducks! Again we had our trusty tubes & a head lamp. It took us, with a guide, about 2 hours to explore the cavern. The opening was a little daunting as it was fairly small (if you're not a local!) & we had to bend back over the tyre in order to fit through. 

(I also had the small-no pun intended-issue of claustrophobia to contend with!)

Inside the cavern, the rock is smooth & slimy with stalagmites that have formed due to centuries of water that drips off them (very cold water I might add!). You pull yourself along a rope through the cavern & can even grab onto the 'ceiling' in order to propel yourself forward.  At times the cavern is an extremely tight fit & commando- type crawling was required! You reach a dead end & then turn around & head back. Keshet had the wonderful idea for us all to connect up with each other to form a train, with our guide at the front. Some paddling was required but Kesh laid back & took it easy while the rest of us did the work!

Once we made it out, we swam around a while with the ducks. We then headed off back through the local farms & fields of corn, over a dodgy foot-bridge to another cavern where a large bronze reclining Buddha is housed. Once we arrived at the bridge, which you take to cross over the river, Noah, Keshet & myself made it across without paying the toll ($1). Yoni & Eden thought they'd be smart & swim across. It didn't quite work out that way as the current was a little feisty. As soon as they turned back towards the bridge, the toll lady made a mad dash from the other side of the river in order to hit them with the toll. 

She made it in time & although Yoni attempted to joust her with his umbrella, he ended up paying his & Eden's way. It was a really fun day & a great way to end our visit to Vang Vieng.

Off to the capital Vientiane. Up up and away (by bus)
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Comments

elizabeth lourie on

shavuah tov//the travel updates are getting better and so interesting..definitely a great travel book..loved Eden.s newly acquired friends...all the photos tel l the story and you have captured the scene so well..Nat.s descriptive details are easy to follow and appreciated..guess the up coming shopping spree on the final run will be exciting..love from aba imaxx

andrea on

I envy you guys, it looks heavenly and you have given your girls a gift of the most incredible memories to take with them thru life. love you guys and seeing pics hurts me as natalie was one of the best friends I as of yet have ever loved so much
enjoy guys and love your updates

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