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Ruth's Travel Blog

Rivers: tubes, elephants and waterfalls.

LAOS | Tuesday, 12 November 2013 | Views [1560]

From Vientiane, I travelled on an EXTREMELY packed full minivan up to Vang Vieng.

Now, it's really only famous in the backpacker scene for one thing. Tubing. Along the river. Between bars. Actually, it used to be completely crazy with about 48 bars in the 4km route between drop off and town. There used to be rope swings and zip lines and all sorts of mushroom shakes and "herbal" pizzas etc and tens of people died each year. NOW is a different story... No drugs, no zip lines, no swings... And only three bars. I really enjoyed the floating along the river!! But I met loads of people in the bars which really great. Of course it wasn't as busy, but actually relaxing having a drink, then floating some more. And having more drinks, and then some more. Then floating some more. Fun fun, the bruises are still fading!

I spent another day there, recovering from the hangover and enjoying the scenery!
The landscape there is like something from some made up movie. HUGE limestone karts with blue rivers running between. I hired a bike and tried to cycle to "the blue lagoon" but it was hot, I was tired, and my bike was NOT suitable for the very bumpy track. I had a walk among some paddy fields and headed back.

The next morning I took the bus to Luang Prabang. It's only 100 and something kilometres, but it took six and half hours because of the road. Each bend was near on a u-turn... Up, up, up, up, down, down, down, down, and up again. And down again. The scenery was incredible. Unfortunately the man behind me kept vomiting... The first ever journey I haven't felt travel sick and I have the noise and scent of vomit around me!

I arrived at Luang Prabang and in the hostel I checked into was a mum and daughter pair from Inverness who I had first met in Vientiane. The daughter is my age and was booked to do a half day with the elephants the next day, so in the morning I booked on the same one.
It was magnificent. I genuinely don't have words for it. We walked with the elephants, on their backs for maybe forty minutes, and then... We rode them into the water and gave them a good scrub. My elephant LOVED it!!! She was sooking water up her trunk and scooshing it backwards over me! I don't think I stopped smiling the entire time... My face was aching by the time we left for the town!

I was going to go back for the two day mahout (elephant keeper) training the next day, but decided not to spoil the amazing memory that I already had, and save my money for Vietnam.

The next day a few of us from the hostel headed to Khuangsi Waterfall about an hour from Luang Prabang. I have seen hundreds of waterfalls on my travels, but I think this one takes the biscuit.
Picture, in your head. Turquoise water running over white rocks. The water and rocks are those colours, I think, because of silt or minerals in the water. Anyway I will get round to adding pictures one day for you! We had a good long swim, jumped in from the rope swing, walked up through the jungle and chilled on some rocks in the middle of a pool.
Yet another paradise that I've found!!

In the evening, I climbed the hill back in town, to Phu Si temple to watch the sunset. It was a bit of a disappointment having climbed up all that way, it was cloudy and there weren't many colours, it just got dark. We climbed down the hill and got food. I tried Laap. A traditional Lao dish of minced meat, mint, lime juice, chilli and coriander. I went for chicken. You eat it with sticky rice and pick the Laap up with the sticky rice with your hands. Delicious.
After our meal we found a herbal sauna, and spent the evening there. It was random. A shed in some backyard of a massage shop. Really good though. You get given this loop of cloth that you step into, and a cloth for wiping your face. It was very cheap at 12,000 kip each. Not quite £1. The next day I saw the same on offer in a touristy place for 130,000 kip. We did the right thing!!

I'm sure you have all heard about the typhoon causing disaster in the poor Philippines. It was heading north through Vietnam, and I was getting pretty worried that it would arrive in Hanoi the same time as I did.

I kept a close eye on BBC news and Hanoi weather stations for the last couple of days in Luang Prabang.

 

Tags: elephants, khuangsi waterfall, luang prabang, tubing, vang vieng, waterfall

 

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