Vang Vieng - Vientiane

Vientiane Travel Blog

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At the fish market of Ban Tha Huea.

"Let the current carry me, far away,
Let the current carry me away."

The Current - Blue Men Group

After yesterday's tubing it was time for some more fun on the water. Today we'd be travelling to the capital of Laos, Vientiane. Part of the 160 km would be done by kayak. After breakfast we packed out stuff, dropped in the the van of the driver that had been with us since Luang Prabang (and who - although he hardly spoke any English - was seriously beginning to loosen up). At half past nine Meng, the guide of Green Discoveries, joined us and we left Vang Vieng southwards.

We made a short stop at the village of Ban Tha Huea, which is located at the most northern point of the artificial Ang Nam Ngum reservoir.

At the fish market of Ban Tha Huea.
As such the stalls lining the main street sell all sorts of fish that are caught in that lake. After one and a half hours we arrived at Hin Hoep, where a bridge crossed the Nam Lik river. Here we got out of the van, donned our life jackets and helmets and got in the kayaks. Paul and I shared a Kajak while Mieke and Ad each shared one with a guide (Meng and Eng - no joke). Meng told us that we would kayak for an hour, passing two rapids before we'd take a break. I'm not sure if it was the anticipation of the first rapid but in the first real curve of the river Paul and I capsized. I couldn't stop laughing about it and seeing the hilarious attempts of Meng trying to get Paul back in our Kajak only made it worse.

When we got to the first rapid I got a lot more serious.

This was a grade 2 rapid, which seemingly is kids stuff, but in a wobbly Kajak the world really looks different. All our attempts were to no avail and we ended up in the water again. We recovered quickly while Eng helped us back in our Kajak. Ad and Meng didn't have any luck either and being thrown in the swirling water that pulled him under caused a bit of a panic attack with Ad. Fortunately Meng was there to help him and before long we were continuing our way, laughing about it. The second rapid, fortunately, proved to be vary manageable.

After an hour we stopped at a flat formation in the rocks and our guides made an improvised barbecue and made us a lunch of bread, rice in banana leafs, grilled beef and vegetables and an absolutely delicious BBQ sauce. While they were cooking more groups appeared and before long the rocks were covered with tourists that clearly were all recovering from the first rapid.

Kayaking on the Nam Lik river.
While waiting for the food I had taken a couple of dives in the river, but I had promised Meng to join him for some more daring stuff afterwards. He took me climbing up the rocks to one that was several meters high. Baw pen nyang (no problem). The second one however must have been about 10 meters high, which is really high if you're standing up there. Having made the effort to climb up here I didn't dare to chicken our and seconds later I went soaring to the river. What an incredible rush !

And away we went for the last hour of kayaking, this time on peaceful parts of the Nam Lik. Arriving at the village of Ban Vang Mon our driver was already waiting and after we changed into dry clothes we headed for Vientiane shortly after three o'clock, making a short stop for a much needed (and deserved) Beerlao in Phon Hong.

Lunch at the Nam Lik river.

When we entered Vientiane it became immediately clear that we were in another world. After having spend almost two weeks in areas with small hill tribe villages and towns of only a few tens of thousands of people Vientiane was definitely much more like other Asian capitals like Ho Chi Minh City of Phnom Penh. Lots of cars, lots of branded stores and food chains (none of them Western brands though), street prostitution and hordes of tourists. Like in Vang Vieng I questioned myself where the real Laos had gone. It even almost seemed like we had ended up in France by some kind of weird ultra-dimensional gateway. The area surrounding our hotel was full of French restaurants and even the menu's were in French !

After a snack of spring rolls we decided that there was something we really needed after todays kayaking: another massage.

meng making lunch.
One of the massage parlours recommended by the Lonely Planet (White Lotus) was located right across the street from our hotel, how convenient! We booked an appointment for Lao massage at seven and were in for surprise. In Luang Prabang we'd had an oil massage, but this one was based on reflexology. We had to change into thin shirts and shorts and masseuse started to mould the living daylights out of us. At times she pushed my limbs in such crazy angles that I feared they would never snap back again. The most amazing moment must have been the bit where she actually walked on me ! Although slightly painful at times when she would hit a tense muscle, it was good, utterly decent and we even got a cup of tea afterwards. All for the price of 5000 kip (4 Euro).

We headed back for the Khop Chai Deu restaurant where we'd had a snack earlier on, but the location at the edge of the Nam Pho square and fountain made it a really windy spot on this already chilly evening.

Lunch at the Nam Lik river.
The portions of food we'd ordered weren't really big and some of them (e.g. the Pad Thai) were not prepared very well. After this rare disappointing meal we took a short stroll along the Mekong boulevard but all of the action had already died out since it was getting close to curfew. We did fill the remaining space in our stomachs with one of those delicious banana and chocolate pancakes that the food stalls prepare though. ;-)

bartgijtenbeek says:
Hi Ed,

A nice trip it is, isn't it. Must be the nicest trip you'll ever make. as people don't like travelling with you. :-)

of ben ik gewoon jaloers

ciao budy, enjoy!
Posted on: Nov 24, 2009
edsander says:
I realised that after 2 days in Vientiane. But the shock was quite substantial after 2 weeks in the 'real Laos'. 80% of the people in Laos live in villages !
Posted on: Nov 23, 2009
Biedjee says:
"like other capitals like Ho Chi Minh City"??? It is obvious you have only been in small villages recently, Viantiane is nothing like cities in the surrounding countries. Compared to HCM or even Pnom Penh it is little more than a town. Nice town, nonetheless :-)
Posted on: Nov 22, 2009
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At the fish market of Ban Tha Huea.
At the fish market of Ban Tha Huea.
At the fish market of Ban Tha Huea.
At the fish market of Ban Tha Huea.
Kayaking on the Nam Lik river.
Kayaking on the Nam Lik river.
Lunch at the Nam Lik river.
Lunch at the Nam Lik river.
meng making lunch.
meng making lunch.
Lunch at the Nam Lik river.
Lunch at the Nam Lik river.
Lunch at the Nam Lik river.
Lunch at the Nam Lik river.
Diving into the Nam Lik.
Diving into the Nam Lik.
At the White Lotus massage parlour.
At the White Lotus massage parlour.
Vientiane Hotels & Accommodations review
Good location and nice patio
Regardless of the reception staff that sometimes seemed rather indifferent, this was a very nice place to stay at. Rooms were avarege but there was a … read entire review
Vientiane
photo by: skydiver