The group together on the first day.
Vientiane, Laos' capital city, is a quiet place and while almost every traveler I have talked to says they find it boring, I rather enjoyed my time there. I arrived early in the morning after traveling on perhaps the best overnight bus of my life (real, lay-all-the-way-down beds!) with a Canadian couple and three Irish guys. I didn't do anything all day, besides having to leave the internet cafe I was at due to the mass of wires outside catching on fire. Yup, really. Oh, SE Asia. That night though I stayed with Renae, a couchsurfer from Australia who's been living in Laos for the past 5 years. It was so incredibly nice to be staying in a house for once and not a hostel/hotel. And the spare room she had was huge! The next few days I borrowed her bike to tour around the city while she was at work and played with her little dog, Minnie, who is perhaps one of the cutest dogs I have ever seen.
Chris and Shampoo, the hostel owner. This place had a TAP on their front porch. Brillant.
Nothing too special of note.. met three Canadian guys and climbed some tower with them, got hit on by a bored Lao museum employee, and essentially sweated my ass of waiting in line at the Thai embassy and having to help a British guy after he fainted from heat exhaustion.
At night when Renae came home, however, she took me to a cool local bar on the water - with amazing sunset views - to watch her friends/neighbors play in their band 'ULUVUS', an apparently famous farang (foreigner) band in the city. They wear these funny matching costumes and sing all in Lao which was pretty cool to listen to even though I didn't know a word they were saying. The next night, on our way back from the club, we survived the most half-assed robbery attempt.
hahaha almost forgot about Dimitri and Bobby doing aerobics with the lady next door.
I was on the back of Renae's motorbike slowing down outside her house when I notice a guy behind us riding way too close and with his lights off. He decides to go for it anyways, despite me seeing him, and when he reaches out to grab my purse I slap his hand, he pulls away and as he tries to scooter off his bike stalls, he has to restart it and basically drives away as Renae and I laugh at him. This whole victim thing is easier than I thought.
Next stop: Vang Vieng, aka Tubing Capital of SE Asia. For weeks you hear horror stories of drunk ass people climbing 50 foot towers to swing off and land in the not-so-deep river below, only to drop at the wrong time and break their leg and/or die. Seriously. Soon after arriving I bump into the Austrian guy, Chris, from the Siemp Reap hostel.
Another beautiful sunset.
I join him and his hostel buddies for dinner where I meet a few other Americans and we decide to watch the night's World Cup game while enjoying in some "happy" shakes. Re: drug shakes. You can get everything happy here.. happy pizza, happy soup, and especially happy shakes. The guys split 3, claim they don't feel anything, then we all go home. The next day I find them on the verge of death, completely sick from the night before. No tubing with Chris that day, but a couple English girls said I could tag along with them and so Charlotte, Ali and I head down to the bar area with our tubes, meeting an American, Tim, there. It was a surprisingly low key day, nothing too crazy, a few drinks, some mud volleyball (effectively staining my bathing suit and shorts for good), and quality hammock time before lazily drifting the hour back to town.
Night market for some dinner.
This is the life. The next day Charlotte and I decided to do nothing but hang out at one of the many Friends or Family Guy restaurants. It's crazy how many there are and they just loop the seasons over and over. Kinda lame, but it was good nonetheless to watch some TV for once.
I convinced Charlotte to stay another day with me and we went kayaking (where I learned she's a horrible paddler haha) and tubing in a pitch black cave, having to wear headlamps to see. Really cool experience. That night was the infamous bucket bar night, where to be honest I don't remember a whole lot, but I did wake up covered in caked-on mud with a scraped knee and missing my flip flops, my sunglasses, and my Vietnam bracelet. Disaster.
I think Austrians were really the ones dropping all the bombs..
Must have been a good night though, since the following night I had about 10 guys who seemed to know me and want me to go out with them that night. I do remember talking to Lee, a fellow American who moved to Laos to start a bowling alley, randomly. We decided to bring back a few things: do-si-dos, chocolate milk (although I said this never went OUT of style), bubbles, and high fives (again, still around). Who's with us??
After my whole day of recovery it was time to move north to Luang Prabang. Immediately upon arriving at the Luang Prabang Backpackers hostel I see Chris and Tim again and we decide, along with yet another American, Chandra, to head out to Phonsavan to see the "famous" Plain of Jars.
..ok, maybe not.
We hired a driver and car for the 6 hour ride each way and off we were. The roads there are insanely curved and while it was almost enough to make me sick, it was a spectacularly beautiful ride. Northern Laos is absolutely breathtaking. The road was so windy, but we occassionally passed through mini villages along the way with kids, chickens, dogs, and cows blocking our way from time to time. The Plain of Jars themselves, all three sites, were a bit of a ho-hum. It was exactly as it sounds.. a plain full of thousand year old rock jars. BUT at least we got to walk through 6 inches of mud to get there! Yippie. Overall it was a let down, but a fun enough trip since the company was good.
Luang Prabang is perhaps most famous for its amazing waterfall nearby.
On the way to Phonsavan.
Tiers of cascading water greet you after passing a bear reserve. We climbed all the way to the top to a secluded pool of water overlooking the rest of the falls below.. incredible. Definitely in my top 3 moments of my trip so far. The rest of the time there was spent at an internet cafe, where the Lao guy working there was surprised to learn I was American since he thought only Dutch people had blonde hair, watching World Cup games, hanging out with the guys and Shampoo, the hostel owner, and/or getting stuck in the rain. Oh yes, I also dragged Tim and Chandra to see the "Royal Ballet" with me, aka an extremely slow performance of some traditional story. Interesting, but very dull at the same time. Also spent some time teaching Chris some American expressions, such as "sweating like a hooker in church", "going to see a man about a horse", and quizzing him on his English vocab.
Beware of landmines, yikes.
I taught him the word brick, asked him to use it in a sentence so he points to a water bottle and says "this is no brick." Haha what could I say, it was true.