Vang Vieng between Luang Prabang and the Capital is not only party central Laos, but one of the most popular party destinations on the planet. Raves are meant to go on all night, a rarity in Laos due to the country wide midnight curfew. It was never part of our original plan, but as we are now being driven directly south by the weather, it would be rude not to stop for a bop! Lets hope it takes me back to the early nighties, so I can show the KP my crazy shapes from back in the day.
It maybe party central but it’s not all fun loving frolics, the town has been tinged with more than a fair amount of tragedy. Many tourists each year have sadly lost their lives in the Nam Song river. In 2011 there were 27 deaths alone, the number of injuries countless each year. Usually this has been due to a lack of safety and bad judgement being made whilst under the influence as most deaths have occurred whilst jumping into the river from various swings and zip lines and mis-judging it hitting rocks not water, but also from drug overdoses.
Well we both need to have our wits about us and not be too daft, so we are very excited to be going. We’ve not let off that much steam party-wise for the duration of the trip, so we might just tear it up right royally! Or maybe not – a spanner is put in the works just as we are departing, delivered by the guy we booked the bus with – “The party’s over, they’ve finally stopped it all! No dancing after 11:30, been like it for the last two weeks!” Well that’s fucked that then hasn’t it! Plans for a Bop Kyboshed! Boo-Hoo !
We get dropped off from a packed Tuk-Tuk to the bus station, two of the party are the Israelites we met in Paksong. “You’ll enjoy it there, cool town” he said, hope is restored as they only left a few days ago. Following an initial mix up with buses and the moving of bags for many, us included & we’re away, heading into the hills in our double decker VIP bus for the six or so hour journey. Now I’m not very often impressed with mountains, as we got plenty at home all around us. Almaty in Kazakhstan has some very impressive hills, the Tien-Shen mountain range where the peak is at a staggering 6,995m. Also I was recently in the french Alps with a good friend, the hills too were very nice but as it turned out I was lucky to escape that one. The slopes & shampoo don’t go so well together, it was more human torpedo than skiing.
Well these on the way to Vang Vieng are very impressive – some of the best I’ve seen actually, going way off into the distance, with a multitude of vegetation blending into the limestone rocks. The view is incredible and photos would be awesome, but the windows of the bus are too dirty, plus the KP is nestled there shielding from the sun rays with the curtain. Before we rose into the hills, there’s was a toilet stop where we grab a sandwich, lunch is included as part of the deal but that will be later – I’m wondering where and when we will stop the photo opportunities are not to be missed! We continue onwards and the mountains, especially the drops become more impressive. Vertical drop offs right alongside the road, it must have been a bit nerve wracking sat up front, we are also upstairs but a few rows back. The sharp curves on the narrow road makes me think of the Italian job when the bus is hanging over the cliff! What would really happen if the brakes did go?? There’s a very impressive huge mountain rock, taller than all others, like it’s just been stuck there in the middle of everything. We are getting closer and closer, when we finally get as close as possible. I spot our restaurant, where we must be stopping – Excellent! I’ll need to get to the rucksack get the tripod out. But NO – we haven’t stopped WTF!! It was perfect. Now we start to descend but the curves and bends don’t let up. It’s far from an easy drive or journey for that matter constantly needing to brace yourself to remain in your seat, a bit like a slow roller coaster. Soon we are flattening out and checking the time we should be there soon 🙂 Then we stop. Huh – you must be fucking kidding me? We stop for a meal here? Surely we must be less than an hour from our destination? But stop we do, obviously it’s a better deal here for lunch, or more likely a place ran by a family friend, wankers. There is nothing of interest to shoot. I console myself with a few beers whilst KP samples the grub which she doesn’t enjoy. I was right, they were wankers, my estimation being correct. We depart after whole ONE hour stop and 40mins later we arrive in Vang Vieng, great planning for the seven hour trip. So we got no photos, not fucking one, but we’re glad to have arrived safe n sound. I quell my displeasure with the thought that It’s always nice to have a reason to go back somewhere, and so we shall, someday!
The hotel doesn’t have our booking, but do then locate it apologise and suggest we try another hotel for the first night. Not keen and by now drinking beer so we leave it with them to sort out, without a care. Beer is always good to help your mood, Beer Laos just does it better 🙂 We suggest to cancel the booking but then they’ve managed to fix up a room for us, quite nice it is too.
I think you understand already but the fact I was not able to take shots of some of the best scenery I’ve yet to witness really fucking bothered me. I was wound right up, but I let it get to me more than I should’ve. Maybe I need anger management classes or attendance at a course entitled ‘how to suffer idiots’ but instead I’m putting it down to the general photo bother we’ve been experiencing for the last 3-4 weeks. It’s boring, brace yourselves, here it is in straight hit – First the SD card slot packed in on the mac, then the usb card reader started playing funny buggers, resulting in photo transfer from camera to puter taking ages. Finally it gave up the ghost just before LP. A camera lead purchased there was not a viable solution as the internet has been way too slow to download the required software. We’ve got a new reader now and back in the game. It was located at the computer shop we took the micro SD card from the action cam to. The videos we’ve made of monkeys on the beach and more significantly at the zip lining cannot be found anymore! Our fears confirmed when the IT guru also cannot recover them, fucking nightmare with bells on!! He couldn’t do it as the card was made of Chinese wank. Most probably fucking camera is a copy n all. Then on top of that bag of technical shit the cherished K7 goes tits up, now this is a major problem, as it seems serious! Most likely its due to water damage, the top screen is cracked and we got caught in that storm, oblivious of the damage being caused. The display has been playing up a bit. Now tho’ the camera has a mind of its own, changing the aperture or the shutter speed, even the ISO all by itself. The technical term for this problem is “fucking fucked”, for those that have not bothered with the glossary that’s what fatty’s leg was, fucking fucked. Now the K7 is also like fatty’s leg, it’s pot luck as to what settings are selected when shots are fired. It seems to be working okayish again now but it’s definitely not right. My current lens I’m not happy as the shots lack crispness. It’s an all round lense. I’m thinking to replace it with the new Pentax that been getting good reviews, but they are about $450, plus where will I get one? Bangkok for sure but we are not planning on being there anytime soon. Maybe Vientiane the Laos capital but now It’s looking like I might need a new camera body also which would be too costly. The woes of the modern world! Hopefully the K7 will come good, but she’s about 4 years old now, maybe I can justify the outlay? Put the KP on water n rice for a month 🙂 But what body to get? Not even sure what Pentax got available, fuck jumping ship, I’m a proud Pentaxian and shall remain so!
The first night we are most happy it’s a bit warmer, still cool but no longer shivering cold, we have a brief gander about town, many restaurants look the same, we have simple but tasty rice dishes. It’s clear the town has been developed with the backpacker in mind. The streets an array of cheap eats, bars, travel shops & pancake stalls. We have a few drinks around town in typical backpacker type bars. There seems little evidence of the drugs that were freely available, apart from the glow paint scribbles adorning many establishments. Prior to the clean up bars were meant to advertise Opium, Magic Mushrooms and Ganga on the menu. Maybe it has finally been cleaned up or perhaps it’s just not so much on show?
The view from the hotel in the morning is awesome, limestone cliffs striking out through the skyline, imposing themselves over the town. We take a daytime gander, mountains aside there’s nothing of note, all the shops restaurants and guesthouses look similar only the hotels stand out. We head to the river and the cliffs where they’ll be the most impressive. The town is not only famous for partying but also rock climbing, the first bolts were fitted in 2002 by a french guy, now there are over 200 routes and is meant to be one of the worlds top destinations. The trekking will no doubt be great, mountain biking also available along with quad bikes and off-road scramblers for rental. The ankle is not quite up to any of that at the moment, but in all honesty we are lethargic, lazy or maybe the truth is just happy to be boozing or are we just travel fatigued? The original local activity should suit us then, tubing. Gliding down the river in an inflated truck inner tube stoping at the various bars on the way getting tanked up, it’s what Vang Vieng is meant to be all about, or what it became anyways. Tho’ the bamboo dance platforms have long been removed, demolished in 2012. Another change is life jackets are a necessary safety measure imposed by the government, following pressure from overseas. Regardless, it should still be fun.
We find a hotel that has a bar and swimming pool with decking right onto the river. The view is breath taking with the mountains so prominent. Needing another hotel as ours is fully booked for tomorrow night which is New Year’s Eve, we enquire but it’s fully booked. Besides it would most probably have been over budget? Yes the budget which has taken a back seat of late is still there, it’s just been taking care of itself with $15 rooms and $1 beers. Cambodia was cheap as chips, Laos also until we hit Luang Prabang where the budget took a bit of a battering, now it needs to be paid more attention for sure. This town by Laos standards is a bit grubby but still relatively tidy and would put many places in Cambo and Thailand to shame. We try a fondue BBQ but this time it’s not as good, the soup is bland. Maybe we should give the lapp one more try then? We find the busiest bar and it’s packed with mainly Aussies in their twenties, the music is shite but we do get very drunk on Long Islands and White Russians. Enjoying the company of an English expat who’s mum and sister is over for a xmas break. He confirms the mental parties have been stopped for now :-(.
The next day we want to do the tubing and hopefully not get killed whilst trying, or indeed fuck the ankle again which is still quite tender. First we need to find digs and with the internet still playing up, we do it on foot. Most hotels are fully booked but by the fifth time of asking we get a suitable room for 100,000, basic but with all you need even if it’s a tad grubby. Too late for tubing and we need a feed, the restaurants don’t only just look the same, the menu is the same. Identical actually, designed for tourists, namely backpackers, its all tasty tho’ so we’re not complaining. The KP spots some hot air balloons and fancies it, let’s do that then is it! If we continue this current theme of doing fuck all we might as well just go home!
It’s New Year’s Eve but there ain’t no raves, well not that we know of but we are hardly in the click. We celebrate it in an Irish bar across the road from the busy place with an English couple who are travelling for 18 months! King size party poppers and face masks and many shorts mark the occasion, mine and the KP’s second together. Inevitably drunk but we hardly tear the hole out of the night, we must be in bed by three. At least the music didn’t stop at 11:30 :-).
We wake too late for tubing so wander around town, there are numerous bars all showing fucking friends again. The non friends ones we stop for beer, a few bars later we enquire about the hot air balloons, the only availability is at 6 in the morning plus it’s $80 a pop, relatively a bit steep. When the beer is about a dollar and the room twelve, we give it a miss, so once again achieving to do sweet FA but booze.
So instead of flying high, we relax with a top notch massage and then actually a bit of movie watching in the room, no it’s not friends. But how far are we away from that? We need our mojo back, our strut, whatever you want to call it, it’s lacking. Hopefully the capital will come to the rescue. I need it to, this blog was a bloody tough one!!