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life's adventures This is the story of my wanderings through Asia

Same same but Louder

LAOS | Monday, 1 November 2010 | Views [592] | Comments [2]

We are now in Vang Viene. It’s a wee bit sticky at 6 in the evening, and there’s large winged insects annoying us. The room is simple and we are relaxing on the veranda watching the sky turn colors, when we first got here under an hour ago the day sky was thick liquid blue, and the sun too intense to look at. Now with the mountains silhouetted against a coppery grey blue haze, we prepare for a quiet night before some fun (guaranteed) tomorrow on the NamSong river.

We started yesterday watching the line of monks make their way slowly down the main street in Luang Prabang, collecting alms (breakfast) from locals. They offered stickey rice and other simple cooked vegetables, and the monks accepted their food modestly, moving along, their line a blur of orange bright in the morning dim, gaps closing as an hour or so passed. We had a hazelnutty warm lao coffee for our walk back to the guesthouse.

I had wanted to explore some villages where they make a lot of the crafts sold in the huge night markets they have every evening, so we met a tour organizer and headed with a young couple from Germany, to a nearby village that had a shop selling paper crafts and silk wares. Out the back you could see the paper making process and the huge looms for the silk. It was relatively cheap but she wouldn’t barter with me, so I didn’t spend anything. On the way back to town we stopped off at a temple where we admired some colorful art depicting gore and grace in juxtapositioned panels along the walls.

We made a conscious effort to do nothing, completely chilled out for the afternoon, relaxing in the sun, wandering the markets, halfway up the hill.. twice. We enjoyed a shared Lao curry with sticky rice, and went out for a few drinks at Utopia, a guesthouse bordering the river, its very quiet and tucked away, but has a crowd of stayers and drinkers and volleyball players that makes it quite a happening place.

Sitting at a roadside table enjoying perspiring beer lao were two Ausies I had met in SaPa, they had meanwhile met a dude from the UK we had met in Luang Nam Tha, and so the beauty of common travel routes and lazy daze spent wandering around meeting people once again evolved.

~I wonder at whether travel is best for inner growth, self awareness and mental exploration, or if its to do with experience of a combined nature, the connections with a people, other travelers, cultural aspects of a country, that really lend power to the trip.~

So this morning was disastrous. It began ok, with a quick and easy breakfast a few blocks from our guesthouse, we had eaten there the day before too. The trouble started when I left Josh there to have another coffee, as I needed cash out in town so wen off to find it. I was fast walking and determined, but the ATMs don’t function in the morning here in Laos. So I rushed back to finish packing as we only had half an hour until pickup to head to the bus for VangViene. Josh was nowhere to be seen. I anxiously waited, and asked repeatedly for a spare key for our room. Eventually I got one and finished packing. Lucky the tuktuk was late, as Josh rushed in and I lashed at him with a cutting tongue. He had gone the wrong way home, and we were very close to missing the bus.

~Lesson 1: no matter how rushed, always check the room once before leaving. Onto the bus, headphones on, eyes watching the passing vista of huts and villages, sweeping mountains and explosive jungle. Our lunch stop I got a baguette, and josh bought drinks. Not too long and we are back on the road. A few hours later stopping again for ice creams, and we find that Josh’s wallet is nowhere to be seen.

~Lesson 2: If having a tired and stressful day, be more aware of important belongings. Luckily we have settled here after a pretty eventful day, and tonight we will relax with our small group of travelers, before some fun tomorrow.


Today was the day for tubing in VangViene… we opted for the less common kayaking and cave tubing. It was a blue stunner of a day, starting off in a tuktuk to an elephant cave. Along the road we passed by villages, hard not to notice the relaxed style of life in rural Laos; cattle, chickens, ducks and pigs wandering freely in the road, children at school or biking home after lessons, everyone moving slowly.

On arrival to our first destination we crossed the river on a rickety home made bridge, through the bush to a small house next to chilly clear water that comes out from low caves. Headlamps on and following the rope along into the darkness we went. It was creepy but in a good way. Quite hilarious, and singing along the way, cool echoes and paddling with jandals, staring up at the odd mouth-roof like ceiling.

After a lazy lie in the dazzling sunshine, during which we were provided with a tasty lunch of fried rice, chicken and vegetable skewers and a fresh hot baguette, we continued on down the river to jump into tandem kayaks, cruising along wondering at the views and calm waters. Soon our paddles pressed toward the rows of infamous bars where people danced, covered in paint and carrying buckets of cheap liquor and cans of beer lao.

~The tubers are known for getting outrageously drunk and partying on the river, jumping off the rope swings and down slides.~ We stopped at a quiet bar with a giant slide, but I preferred to lie in the sun, jumping off the edge to get wet but then back into the warm sun slowly sinking behind the mountains. An easy ride letting the river flow and take us to the last stop, we cruised along as the sun sunk lower behind towering cliffs and mountains.

A slow trudge back to the guesthouse to get ready for another unpredictable night in the frat party touristy town of VangViene. We chilled out with a cool character (another ausie), Kai, who had returned to VangViene after Dengue fever in Thailand, to soak it all in again. The raised and cushioned sitting areas in the restaurants making for a comfortable spot for a few hours, fueled with flowing conversation and good beats, albeit clashing with next doors reggae.

The restaurants here are little more than plywood shacks, some holding pool tables, many down the other end of town home to the crazy tubers. We wandered down this end after a while, across the river onto a loud lighted island packed with tube warriors painted and stumbling into the infamous Bucket Bar where the thumping music meant instant headache. We straight away saw my two ausie friends, Tom and Crackers who had come down on their motorbikes from Luang Prabang. They informed us of free buckets for tubers, so we managed about ten communal buckets, rendering me dizzy and woozy. Our night didn’t last too much longer and we managed to rise up with another intensely blue sky today, ready for a bus ride to Vientiene, the capital.




You're painting such vivid pictures - can't wait for more

  Mum Nov 6, 2010 8:29 AM


Great! Wish I'd found this earlier. Interesting question about the real significance of travels. I look forward to more on this. Aren't ATMs wonderful when they work!

  Graeme Nov 6, 2010 9:07 PM

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