Farewell to Vang Vieng
Trip Start Apr 19, 2010
25Trip End Ongoing
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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)