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THE world trip his journal is to let all those i know and care about (hello!) get a little bit more info about what im doing, and where. Also, its a gesture to calm my poor mums nerves whilst her first born child explores the big wide world. Hopefully it wont back fire

Laos; so laid back, so cool!

LAOS | Saturday, 23 June 2007 | Views [967]

As planned, we made it to the slow boat- however, the whole process of being stamped out of Thailand, getting into a boat, then getting out of the boat once across the river, being pushed into the Laos immigration office, stamped into the country, then being taken through several other checks at places that look like make shift garages before finally getting into the real slow boat on the Mekong River, was confusing to say the least. Mix it with heat, and it got pretty unbearable. Ah well, once aboard the slow boat, it was all better- well, actually not; the boat was very narrow and curved at the bottom to avoid the river rapids (What Rapids??!!was our initial panicked response) which meant as i was at the window seat i had more leg room by sitting on the window ledge. 6 Hours later, after being sat on a wooden bench with no cushion, we arrived in the very small, wood shack river village of Pak Beng, and over a very good curry i was able to put it all down to character building, or something like that. The next day the boat was near luxurious, with actual room to move your legs, AND a cushion, on the way to Luang Pra Bang.

 We spent about 4 whole days in Luang Pra Bang, as it was beautiful ( UNESCO world heritage site), with lots of temples, small french colonial streets, and a very laid back atmosphere. Also, plenty of travellers, so when the 'Hive' bar shut at 11pm ( everything in Laos shuts early) we had lots of people to go bowling with after ( bowling is allowed after 11pm, and it still serves beer. Its very strange, you just have to go with it). Reluctunately, we left Luang Pra Bang, and headed down to Vang Vieng, ( via an 'Air -Conned' V.I.P bus: read: you can open the windows) where the promise of river tubing awaited us.

In Vang Vieng we met up with some Americans, Canadians, Kiwis and an Irish Man, and spent the next few days with them. Vang Vieng is a pretty strange place; it looks like a stereotypical third world shanty town, apart from the main street is lined with cafes for travellers, playing non-stop re-runs of Friends, family guy and the simpsons. The main aim is, like i said, to go tubing. This is pretty cool! You hire a tyre inner tube, get taken 3 kms up stream from the town, and then float back down the river, getting pulled into any make shift bar you fancy! We had a brilliant day, as there are also rope swings at every bar that you can jump off! Next day, the activity continued, with most of us going to the local caves; really fun, as the caves are massive, and pretty untouched apart from the buddhist shrines that are in them. In true laid back Laos style, my head torch was on the blink, but this wasnt seen as a problem!! I begged to differ when we actually tubed through one river cave, and me and Linz both started to experience technical difficulties with illumination whilst at the back of the group! ( our torches, once we were spotted, were likened by one group member to faintly glowing cigerettes in the distance). We then had a wicked night on one of the river islands with a bar and a campfire, and then it was off to Vientiene, the Laos capital.

Currently in Vientiene. We are having to spend a total of 5 days here, as we are having to wait for a flight to Ha Noi in Vietnam. Everyone else has already gone, as Vientiene has got, I feel, an undeservedly bad reputation. We have found plenty to do, such as going to one of the big temples, spending a whole at a very posh hotels pool, and eating the wicked food at the open air food vendors on the edge of the Mekong. However, it will be quite nice to leave- the heat ( apparently 38 degrees a few days ago) has left me a big melted mess, and this continually drives us back our air-conned room avec cable TV; there is only so much soppy asian pop one can take on the music channels!

As an aside, just to show how poor this country is, our day using the pool at one of the best hotels in the city cost about 5 pound, a whole days caving, plus lunch, equipment and transport, cost about 4.50 pounds, and hiring a tube for the whole day was 2.50. Factor in that our ensuite, large air-conned room with TV costs 3 pound a night each, food at an all you can eat buffet costs 70 p, and 8 hours on a bus will set you back a fiver, and we are paying tourist prices, its crazy what people are living on here.

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