A motorbike and two rubber rings!

Trip Start May 01, 2010
1
57
90
Trip End Apr 30, 2011


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Where I stayed
Maylin Guesthouse

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Viangchan,
Friday, December 3, 2010

From Luang Prabang we took a six hour bus journey south through a sea of endless green ridges and folds to Vang Vieng, a town set in an area of unbelievable natural beauty alongside the Nam Song river with a backdrop of dramatic limestone cliffs rearing out of rice paddies. Unfortunately what must once have been a quiet little village has transformed into the booze and drug fuelled party capital for backpackers in Laos. While there are still wild stretches of the Nam Song, where the only sound is birdsong, parts of the riverside have been turned into bars/amusement parks belting out loud music full of pissed-up travellers. And in town, TV bars play endless reruns of Friends to a horizontal audience stretched out on cushions and spaced out on various pharmacological substances such as ‘happy pizza’ or ‘ecstatic shake’!

Luckily, just walking a short distance from town brings you back into rural Laos where the only sounds are cockerels crowing and children playing. We are staying at Maylin’s guesthouse, which consists of several bamboo bungalows laid out in beautiful flower and butterfly filled gardens backing onto a small river with a resident kingfisher. Across the river are fields full of cows grazing under the lofty limestone cliffs above. 

On our first morning here, we decided to join Maxime and Laureline and another French couple and hire a moped for the day. Tom had never driven a moped before and this one was a manual so it took some getting used to. To make things more difficult, the ‘road’ was a bumpy, rocky track that really required an off-road bike. Nevertheless, Tom climbed the steep learning curve quickly and after a while was getting the hang of it while I slowly loosened my grip on the back! We were biking the West Vang Vieng loop, a 33km ride through the heart of the karst country. We stopped off at a couple of places en-route, first at Pha Ngeun, a limestone pinnacle which we climbed for great views of the area. Then we continued on to Tham Phu Kham, also known as the Blue Lagoon, where we swam in a deep turquoise coloured pool. Later in the day the road improved a bit and we could get a bit more speed up. It felt good whizzing along through such stunning surroundings in the golden glow of the late afternoon sun. A few kilometres from Vang Vieng, our bike ran out of petrol! Luckily, there was a small roadside shack a few hundred metres away where a kid about eight years old refilled our tank.

The next day, we had a go at tubing, one of Vang Vieng’s most famous attractions. This involved taking a tuk-tuk up river and then floating back down on a big rubber ring. Compared to the tubing we did in Santa Fe, Panama, there were fewer and much smaller rapids, although it was possibly more dangerous here as the water level was very low in places with jagged rocks just below the surface. We decided to avoid the lager crowds and do the tubing first thing. The decision paid off and we had the whole river to ourselves as we floated back to Vang Vieng for three tranquil hours with only dragonflies for company.

The next morning, we said a sad farewell to Maxime and Laureline who were moving on. We have been with them for nearly two weeks and shared many experiences together. Hopefully we shall meet them next summer when they return from their travels a couple of months after us.

Next stop, Vientiane...

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