What can I tell you about Vang Vieng? This little town on half way between Vientiane and Luang Prabang turned the last years into a backpacker place. It really looks like there isn’t anything else here to get a job then in the “backpacking industry”. The main street is full of restaurants, bars, guesthouses, internet cafes or tour agencies. The reason why most of the young travellers come here are the huge outdoor activities offered in the area around Vang Vieng. And the scenery is really beautifull with the limestone hills all around.
It was just logical that we booked a tour as well, our new American friend Cherry decided to join us.
The tour we booked was supposed to bring us to one of the local villages with some buddhistic place inside of a hill, we were supposed to climb down into a cave, to do tubing in another partly flooted cave and to do some canoeing and tubing on a river. We got all this after some bargaining for some 12 dollars per person. The truth is that we got used to the low prices in Laos very quickly and when somebody asked a higher price later we became grumpy, haha. The only thing we could decide about was if we should do either tubing or canoeing. After some discussion the result was: 2 people will be canoeing and 3 tubing. Me and Pavel would change afterwards so we could try both variants.
I just love dogs.
It was around 10am when we were supposed to meet in front of the tour agency. We weren’t the only ones here.
As usually in Laos the organizers wanted the minibus to get as full as possible, didn’t matter if we were all taking the same tour. Just around 20 minutes after the official departure time our guides asked us to get in the minibus. Few words to our guides. They were quite nice, spoke more or less English, but…they looked like small teenagers. Christine meant they were adults for sure, but I had my doubts, haha. At least they knew how to drive. The first who got out the minibus was a group of young Swiss boys, they booked a hiking tour. We were the next ones. Couple of minutes later our minibus arrived at the bank of a river where we were asked to get off. Few meters ahead was a small bridge which brought us to a lovely Lao village. Everything looked pretty simple and traditional here and the mountains all around made the scenery complete. Probably the locals were asked to keep everything more or less clean so they could bring tourists in, I don’t know.
Small village close to Vang Vien!
We passed some kids playing in the river, wooden house standing on stilts above the ground and some locals hanging out outside. In front of us appeared a cave inside of a mountain with some not so old looking Buddha statues. The skin of the statues was painted in pink and their lips were red. It really didn’t look old at all. Every time we asked one of the guides what the poses of the different buddhas meant the answer was “meditating, concentrating”. They said it in such a funny way that we had to laugh and integrated these expressions in our official “trip vocabulary” we would use while we’re in Laos.
Sergej with our guide. I know he looks like 14, but he is an adult, haha.
The next program point of our tour was supposed to be a visit of a cave not far away where we would climb in. Before entering we all recieved little lamps we fixed on our hands.
The enclosed batteries had to be carried as well so the lamps would light up. We climbed first a slippery and stony pass direction the cave entrance and got then carefully in. When we suddenly arrived in the main part of the cave where we could stand freely Christine shouted out loudly. Her battery had a lack and the acid teared on her shirt leaving little holes and irritated skin. Can imagine that it was pretty painful. She could continue, but not for long. The wounds had to be cleaned up. The cave was interesting, but we were afraid of Christine so we didn’t mind to get out again. The cleaning with water helped and soon she was OK. It was time for our lunch anyway. Sitting outside by a wooden table we received all rice with some vegetables packed into a banana leaf and one peace of French baguette. This is one of the heritages left from the former French colonial times. At least a food one, haha, the bread was delicious.
In a small village close to Van Vieng.
After a good lunch we proceed our way to a little calm stream disappearing in a cave which was half flooded.
There was a rope on the walls leading inside the cave. We put on our bathing clothes and fooled around a bit while our guides brought the tubing tires. Each of us got one and then we entered the cold water, brrrr. Lamp on the head again, sitting down on the tire and trying not to fall into the water and ready we were. Well, we still had to move somehow to get the rope, but we all got it suddenly and pulling us forward we followed our guide into the cave. Interesting experience, I’ve never done this before. We got pretty far and suddenly to a point where we had to get of the tires and stand up. The rest we did walking until no human being could pass further. And then the same way back of course, haha.
The best part of the program was still waiting for us. Back by the river our guides took from the minibus the canoes.
At this point me and Pavel wanted to do canoeing instead of tubing. Every canoe had a place for 2 people and actually in each canoe was supposed to be one of our Lao guides, but we managed to convince them that we can handle it by ourselves. Me and Pavel took one canoe and Christine who changed her mind as well took one with Sergej. The only one of us tubing was suddenly Sherry. Well…and the two guides, haha. They didn’t seem to be very happy about the result though. While floating and canoeing downriver there were several places to stop, mostly small family owned bars with some sort of “attraction” for all the backpackers we were meeting on the way. Very popular was a 10 meter high swing they brought you like Tarzan to the middle of the river and then you jumped into the water. Sergej loved it so much that he went up at least some 10 times, hahaha.
At one bigger place with a couple of bars next to each other there was even a playground for playing volleyball, quite muddy though.
There we some foreigners playing and Sergej convinced me that we two should join them as well. The truth is that we didn’t play volleyball much because 2-3 minutes after we entered the game the people started to do some mud catchfighting…of course just for fun…but they didn’t care whom they attacted, everybody was a potential victim who was on the playgroung. I have to admit that it was fun though and I didn’t get hurt thanks god, haha. But I looked like a mud monster afterwards, hahaha.
What a day, was really fun and I realized one thing. I really liked this country with its beautiful landscapes no matter which political system ruled here (communist by the way). The people were nice and friendly and smiled often no matter how harsh their lives surely were.
That evening Mit arrived with a friend by car and we went for a great dinner all together.
This time we had two Lao friends who could recommend us really delicious Lao dishes. As we didn’t want Mit and his friend to pay for accommodation extra we asked the hostel owners if we could get 2 extra matrasses for them so they could stay in our room. After some convincing and for 2 dollars extra this problem was solved. Our 2nd day in Laos was approaching its end leaving by us lots of positive feelings and impressions. What would come next? We would see.