Archive for the ‘ laos ’ Category

tubing (pron. tyoobing) – to float down the nam song, in a tube

to be totally honest, if you’re not into friends/simpsons/movies (there are movie bars everywhere with people sitting inside all day drinking and staring at the tv) and you spend more than one day in vangvieng, after seeing the countryside on the first day, you’re going to have to go tubing.

you start about 3km upstream from the town, you get a large rubbing ring, presumably from a tractor as there are plenty around here and then they let you float off back to the town. how interesting is that?! you might ask. well dotted along the river bank are numerous bars all of which have some sort of life-expectancy-shortening, injury-inevitable, high-as-can-be rope swing or platform to leap from. i know my mum’s going to gasp at the idea of me hurling myself into a river after a few drinks in the sun, i’ll put the cherry on top by saying we were taught how to backflip from the end of the swing, the highest being about 40ft from the water 🙂

but that’s all done with now, no injuries, not even a hangover. i’m now in viantiene, the laos capital i’m i’m not staying any longer than it takes to get a bus ride to cambodia. there’s mot really anything here. there’s no amazing scenery,no incredible cultural significance, just a way to get to another country for me. 5pm today i’ll be on a bus to bangkok and then straight on another to siem riep in cambodia, the home of ankor wat. my current travelling buddies are off to vietnam, something i really want to do but have no time before the diving and jen’s visit so i shall have to say farewell to them today and maybe catch up with them in a few weeks.

the internet is a little patchy here sometimes hence no recent photos. i will have some time in bangkok so another post from there and some pics then more from cambodia when i’m there.

smile :) bar bungalows

luang phrabang was beautiful; the french influence, the great food and the relaxed atmosphere were just what the doctor ordered. but then it was time to get on yet another bus and go somewhere else…i’m not in vangvieng

the bus ride was not so bad, abot 6 hours in total including a few stops along the way to get more water and take on some food. the first of these stops wasn;t so great. as soon as we’d all bought food it was like the flood gates had been opened: about 20 young children swarmed aroung us begging for food. we all felt obliged to give them what we had and then had to go back and get some more for ourselves. but these kids were proper poor, or so they seemed (na this is laos, not thailand, i’m sure these were genuinely very poor). but we made it to  vangvieng as i said

it’s a strange place. it’s in the middle of nowhere and all it really has going for it apart from the incredible scenery is the river on which you can go ‘tubing’. more about than in a moment, i’ve not done it yet, we’re all going tomorrow. so aside from the many young tourist who come for the tubing, there’s a large handfull of older gnarlier hippies who must have come here, discovered the opium on sale at the bars and just got lost here. you see people walking down the middle of the road wearing sheets playing recorders totally oblivious to all around them. look another direction and there’s a group of young europeans with great suntans wearing prada swimming shorts.

on the plus side, and a major plus at that, i’m staying in a bamboo hut right by the river and the best and most chilled out bar in town and it’s only costing $2 a night! i had the best night’s sleep here last night, feel totally refreshed today. i got out on a motorbike today to see the coutryside around the town, saw some caves, went swimming in a fresh water lagoon after launching myself from the rope swing some 30 feet into the water. going to go now and do the same from the bar by my room. more about the tubing tomorrow. 🙂

…and now two days sat in a boat

but i’m not complaining, not one bit. the two day trip from chiang khong to luang phrabang via pat beng is just stunning. i didn;t realise that there was an over night stay half way down the river, i should have guessed it tho, 472km in one day is far too much…and they don’t call it a slow boat for nothing.

first off was getting up and out of bed in time for the boat of the river to the border control in loas. in the bleary-eyed haze that is my normal wake up i managed, after using it as an alarmclock, to leave my mobile under the pillow in the guest house. of course i realise this after i’ve made the border crossing and have set off in the boat. no luck in this story folks, the guest house can’t find my phone. i have a new one, no idea what the dialing code is but the number is 5547 950. use it wisely. oh, and i can’t receive txt either :s

anyway. the scenery was almost prehistoric; endless miles of unspoilt jungle covered mountains dotted occasionally by collections of huts or parties of fishermen along the bank. every few hours we would stop either to let people off to wander seemingly straight into wild jungle or to pick up children selling food, drinks and woven bracelets and cloth. it was a very uncomfortable trip tho. the benches, barely big enough for two people were over crowded and there was very little room to stand up and stretch legs.

when we finally got to pat beng there had been a problem, the guest house was over booked and there was nowhere in town for us to stay as a new hotel had opened (more places to stay surely) and they were having a party with many, many people invited from all over norther laos. ok. no problem.

as it turned out it wasn’t a problem at all. the owner of the guest house we’d all booked in at also had a restaurant with a stunning view over the river. in about 20 mins we’d moved tables and erected mozzie nets and turned his humble but comfortable dining area into our very own dorm. and a great night’s sleep i had too. to wake up fresh as a daisy at 6:30am as the sun is coming jup over the hillside (check the photos) is a superb start. may have to get into the habit more often (hmm, yeah, right)

the second day on the river was much the same as the first. got chatting to a fair few people, mostly french travellers visiting one of their former colonies and within 7 hours we were at the very modest town of luang phrabang.

the french influence in the place is everywhere. for starters the architecture is more like a sleepy village in the south of france than a town in south east asia. some of the food is very european, the coffee is great (they don’t use nescafe :)) and it’s altogether more modest than thailand. i prefer it wholeheartedly. i’ve never felt like someone’s trying to get money from me, something that always seems to be a point of conversation with people in thailand. it’s cleaner, more traditional and strangely more sophisticated than it’s more affluent neighbor. i like it here. i’m going to visit vang vieng and vientiane. from there i think (although it changes regularly) south to do ‘the loop’ by bike and then on to cambodia. but now as it’s getting late, i’m going to wander about the night market, pick up a few gifts and take a few more photos and have an easy night of it.