Tubing and other adventures
Trip Start Dec 22, 2011
27Trip End Jul 04, 2012
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We really enjoyed Luang Prabang. Along with cruising down the Mekong, it really was a highlight. It has a great mix of tourist friendly culture, minus the tackiness of some traveller centred spots (a la Koa San Road, Bangkok). The French architectural influence is lovely, and temples dot the town. Apparently many Laotian families send their sons to the temples for an education that they could otherwise ill afford, so there are novice monks everywhere. It's really sweet to see - they do a wonderful job at remaining calm and at peace, but every now and then their boyish exuberance gets the better of them. There's no expectation that the monks remain in their vocation all of their lives, so many of the boys will continue on in the secular world and have families of their own. Anyway, as a traveller I loved having a little glimpse into their lives
From Luang Prabang we headed to Vang Vieng, and we couldn't have found a greater contrast. Sam had been there over 4 years ago and couldn't quite believe the emergence of this rather grubby backpacker mecca from what had been a one horse town in such a short time. Undoubtedly we tourists bring in huge revenue to the residents and the standard of living will have improved for many, but I just couldn't get my head around the place. It is situated in a glorious spot - limestone karsts overlook the town as the meandering river flows by - it should be so serene. In my opinion, the ugliest of Western culture dominates the place. Every shop seems to be a bar, where drunk and/or stoned tourists sit back and watch endless repeats of Friends or Family Guy.
The most popular attraction of Vang Vieng is tubing - laying back on a rubber tyre and floating down the river. Sam had loved this last time - some bars lined the river with swings out over the water and it was a very chilled way to spend a day. Well, the basics are there but again it has changed out of sight. Many visitors now focus a lot more on the new bars that have sprouted up on the banks and which were already pumping at midday. It looked like fun but we were looking for something a little more sedate so floated on by. We found that we had the river to ourselves as most get settled at the early bars and spend no time on the water at all! We stopped off at a couple of bars further down but spent most of our time floating. It really was beautiful and Sam enjoyed meeting random Brazilian girls enjoying a drink as they went.
After a bone shuddering, dust inhaling local bus ride to Vientiane, we arrived at our final destination in Laos. With unfortunately only the afternoon to explore it made less of an impact on me, but seems a lovely city. We said goodbye to a number of fellow tourers and jumped on a VERY early plane bound for Siem Reap, Cambodia.