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Vang Vieng

it was touristy but fun!!

semi-overcast 29 °C

Written on May 15...

Back in Vientiane from Vang Vieng. The borders to this province of Laos have only been opened to falangs 3-4 yrs ago. There is apparently only a small small portion of Laos that is available to falangs for tourism, the rest remains completely off limits. I don't even know if Laos people can travel freely throughout the country (it is true that the vast majority is composed of dense vegetation - over %70 of the country- and therefore very remote and difficult to access.)

Since there was not much in the small town of Vang Vieng (except for the absolutely absolutely gorgerous scenery), the locals came up with the idea of offering tubing down a river while stopping at bars built every 300m where people can have a drink, jump down tarzan roaps, and just plain socialize and burn in the sun. Soft drugs are, like everywhere else here, unofficially widely available, but you're on your own if you get caught by the policemen's highly sensitive noses (hefty $500US fine, payable on the spot...)

Although clearly not authentic, this was actually quite a lot of fun. It didn't feel as bad as Si Phan Don (4000 islands) as the sole purpose of this attraction is to bring people to the town (as opposed to 4000 islands that were "discovered" by falangs, the word spread and more and more kept on showing up so the town had to adapt).

The town is known for it's tubing (of course) but also for the many caves that surround it. We decided to book a tour that brought us to 2 caves in the morning, provided lunch and then the infamous tubing in the afternoon. Overall, it was well worth our 120,000kips. We began at the Tham Nam cave. The only way to visit is it to sit on a tube and paddle our way through. We reach the end is approx 20 mins and then have to paddle back. It was very very nice inside, with the ceiling not reaching more than 2 meters high.

Unfortunately, I didn't take any pics as everything was wet and I'm a chicken with my camera (it's always kept it it's protective case, inside a ziploc bag, inside my purse = often too far for many impromptu pics I'd like to take...and in this case, on top of it, my purse was inside a water-proof bag = very very far!!!). Anyway, here's the entrance to the cave.

We then came out to find our lunch made of delicious fried rice served in a fancy banana leaf, and "made on the spot" skewers (we had veggie, but there was meat) cooked on an open fire. It was sooooo good!!!

We then visited a cave called "Elephant cave", where natural rock formations look like elephant heads, before heading off to the much anticipated by Aliya (and I) tubing/drinking! yay!

This is Aliya in front of the 2nd bar. To the very left you can see the platform that people jump on a tarzan rope from. We both did it at the first bar (5m high), but this 12m high one, along with the crowd looking and commenting was a deterrent. Better to just drink and take it easy!



Cute kids. The kids are soooo cute in Laos. Everywhere we go (specially places that are not too touristy) kids wave frantically at us and shout Sabaidee!!! Sabaidee!! (hello hello). These kids were waving from the side of the river to us falangs drifting down, but stopped just as I took the pic!!! still: too cute!

Now, THIS is where our $12 tour came especially handy (vs$4 for the tubing only), as after we passed the bars (we only stopped at 3, but there are 5-6), there is still at least an hour of floating down the river (fact that was unknown to most people) to reach the town. Our guides took us in tow and we didn't have to paddle (soundly lazy I know, and it actually is, but by that point, we'd each had 3-4 big BeerLao and were happy to be lazy) + it started to rain and everyone else seemed miserable. We got off the water early and were wisked back to town. Most "unguided" people ended-up paddling alone, scared and cold in the complete dark! weee!
Good day overall!

To change the topic, here are the two main methods of transportation around Laos.
This is called a jumbo (by Lonely planet) and is litterally everywhere. It's either a lawnmower or tractor motor pulling a wooden platform. People had that instead, or as a completement to their motorbike.

This is a tuk tuk. They are used as taxis and/or bus. These ones are pulled by a motorbike, but there a bigger/more powerful version available on a pick-up. We spend several hours on these getting from place to place (i.e. from Ban Na Hin to the Konglor cave - the road was do dusty I blew brown (from my nose) for a couple of days!3-Vang_Vieng_-_taxis.jpg

Changing topic for the last time today:
I must have mentionned the poor spelling throughout Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. It is caused by the fact that they spell phonetically in their own languages, and therefore bring that to english as well. Many words don't make sense until you read them outloud, in context, with a local accent! hehehe
Here are a couple of examples:
This is found on a mass produced water bottle distributed throughout the country!
Restaurant menus are the best! countless examples, but I particularly liked the "Babicu" and Aliya liked the "stream" rice.
I also saw a tour adversising a visit to the "wasserfall",
and the board plaque for a "kindergarden and "premary" school" (it starts very wrong very early!!!). hehehe


Posted by Mistrale 00:34 Archived in Laos

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