Loose in Laos - End of Week 2

Vientiane Travel Blog

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Boarding a matchbox-sized Lao Air plane Chiang Mai, complete with cold processed hamburgers (an attempt to accommodate the almost entirely Western population - because that is apparently what we eat) and propellers (a cause of great distress for this rather nervous plane traveller as I am fairly certain that propellers are as out of date as what passes for 'fresh' baguettes here in Laos). My nerves weren't helped by reading that my airline is notorious for refusing to reveal their safety records... suspicious much? Nevertheless, the flight to Luang Prabang in Laos was relatively uneventful. And if my heart beat a little faster when we landed at what could easily have been mistaken for a farm house rather than an airport, I think I can be forgiven.

Laos is by far my favourite place so far. The streets are free from the stress of screeching tyres, sightless sights and seven elevens. Instead, the country still embraces a simplicity and serenity that is increasingly rare to find when travelling in this crazy world of ours.

The people here are incredibly friendly. Perhaps a little too friendly judging by our first night here. We arrived at our hostel and were promptly informed that we had fifteen minutes to get ready and then we were going to a party. "What party?" we innocently asked, naively thinking that perhaps the hostel was throwing us some sort of welcome do - let's be honest, we're kind of a big deal. "A house warming party," was the matter-of-fact reply, as though it was entirely normal for a group of foreign strangers to be invited to celebrate a random Lao man's new house. I have a feeling it was all really a set up to get the boys there - a fact us ladies found highly amusing as we watched Lao men groping our rather terrified companions.

Our discomfort quickly dispersed with the introduction of free food and beer (albeit warm) to this rather random equation. The human race will put up with a lot for the sake of free alcohol. Our intended 'quiet night in' (I'm beginning to think those words are cursed) turned into an immense night consuming copious amounts of lao lao, dancing enthusiastically to Lao music in an almost entirey Westerner-free disco, contemplating the logistics of drunk bowling, and then returning to our hostel to drink tea from a bowl with a garnish of shuttlecock and eating toast and jam with a group of people who had been strangers hours earlier but who had quickly become like best friends.

With our firmly, if tentatively, established friendships, we (that is, the 21 people who later became affectionately known as 'Team Laos') decided to all travel to Vang Vieng in two mini buses.

The scenery, which was perhaps the most breathtaking I have ever witnessed, with richly, soaring mountain tops and rough, gazebo-like housing that despite their rundown state, possesses more character than a Gold Coast mansion, was somewhat tainted by several near-death experiences.

I am not entirely certain what licensing requirements exist in Laos (I would hazard a guess that the only formal requirement is that you have feet) but our driver was hardly safety-conscious. We flew through the lanes of country Laos (pot-hole laden dirt tracks do not qualify for the title of 'streets'), narrowly dodging other vehicles, cows and small children. Our driver didn't seem to place overly much value on any of these things. After a journey filled with awe, terror and perverted cockroaches, Team Laos arrived successfully in Vang Vieng, if a little shaky and with a new appreciation for life.

What followed was perhaps the most fantastic day of my life - a claim I realise I made in my last entry, but I'm afraid it has now been superceded.

Like all good little backpackers, we went tubing.

The concept is brilliant really. You take a swiftly-flowing, danger-filled river in a country without adequate medical facilities, add an intensely boisterous and drunk population of backpackers, then give them even more alcohol, flimsy trapeze swings and inflatable tyres. Genius really.

An hour long ride down the river in a tube soon takes seven, as it is absolutely essential to stop at every bar, even if disembarking via the aggressively thrown sticks, ropes and inflatable devices out of our deceptively innocent tubes often causes one to lose one's bikini top. And I must say, I have never seen boys more willing to put their own lives in jeopardy for the sake of their beers. Yet again, the opposite gender astounds me.

So Team Laos, all 21 of us, slowly and hysterically made our way down the river, no easy feat I can assure you, but one which we accomplished with a plethora of booze, boobs and bruises.

Being the rainy season, it naturally starrted raining part way through the day. Did that deter our enthusiasm? Not in the slightest. It simply meant that when someone found a wheelbarrow full of watered-down cement, we naturally had to cover our entire bodies with it, then quite obviously it became necessary for us to wrestle in a trench of mud. All whilst singing Bon Jovi at the top of our lungs.

Could there possibly be a better day?

The day was not even tainted when we locked our key in our room that night. Twice. So naturally we were forced to share one bed with three very accommodating English boys. For some reason, sleep escaped me that night...

Team Laos' time together ended the next night. After a day spent in typical hangover paradise - sleeping until 11, emerging for a cheeky omelette, returning to bed for another hour or so, only to eat again, and so it continued - we experienced a renewed wave of mild enthusiasm that caused us to decide to go out for a couple of drinks at the Bucket Bar. With that title, you would think we might have taken a hint. A couple of drinks soon turned into a couple more buckets filled with a potent mixture of vodka, whiskey and thai red bull - which we are fairly certain contains speed as it renders it impossible to sleep before 7am the next morning. Add to that the rampant drug culture of this particular bar and some intensely curious boys regarding mushroom milkshakes, and our quiet night soon became treacherous.

But fun!

Now I am sitting in a hotel room with a pitiful three members of my Team Laos, and I must say that I miss my possee already. There was Steve, my card-dancing man, who charmingly threatened to take out my underwear-model stalker; Ben - our not-so-gay-gay-guy; and Ali - the man who sees imaginary stools and runs marathons in bed. Then there's our favourite Irish couple - Anne (who treated us to a pure operatic performance and then received a dirty dance from Susanne in return) and Alex (who I pretty much hold responsible for me drinking too much lao lao and ending up in a mudhole. I hold grudges for a long time Alex...). And Sam and Damon, our little taste of home (we won't hold your hometown against you), complete with excessive swearing and vegemite cravings.

Then we had Luke - my hero for saving my bag, which happened to be floating down the river, casually taking away our cameras, money and passports; Will - our cool-hatted friend; Matt - who maliciously stole our room key; and Pat - who probably would have single-handedly drank Vang Vieng out of alcohol. Ritchie is probably the nicest guy we have met on our trip so far and didn't complain once when we invaded his bed - very big of you Ritchie :-) Sam spent most of our time together calling me Miss Winter (very inappropriate) and completely warping my sleeping patterns, though it was worth it. And baby-faced Jake (wish I knew he was 18 before our drunken dancing the first night...) who spent most of this trip counting his visits to the toilet. And let's not forget Kate, deceptively classy and beautiful, but with an evil streak as she maliciously stalked two helpless English boys with a monstrous insect, a devillish glint in her eye and a foreboding cackle escaping from her lips. Add the fabulous trio of Mel, Susanne and myself and we have completed the ecclectic bunch that was Team Laos.

You are all incredible people and I am grateful for meeting you fuckers :-)

Off to Cambodia now for the next chapter...
Mofra says:
"The concept is brilliant really. You take a swiftly-flowing, danger-filled river in a country without adequate medical facilities, add an intensely boisterous and drunk population of backpackers, then give them even more alcohol, flimsy trapeze swings and inflatable tyres. Genius really."

Sounds awesome
Posted on: Jul 18, 2011
wanderingluster says:
such language... i was under the impression you were a lady.
Posted on: Sep 06, 2008
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