Brisbane2Bristol

On our great adventure

Vientiane to Vang Vieng…………….

Archive for the 1/3/2013.

New friends, Buddha’s and bakeries…

It felt good to Ride across the Friendship Bridge towards Vientiane, we had wanted to do this on our own bike for years….finally it was a reality (Vientiane is situated on a bend of the Mekong river, which forms the border with Thailand at this point)

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Clive and I have both been big fans of Laos since our first trip here about 5 years ago.

As the WIFI was crap at our hotel in Undon Tandi it meant we couldn’t book ahead for accommodation, and that will mean me traipsing around the streets…GRRR
So while we were at MacDonald’s for breakfast I managed to look up a few hotel rooms on Agoda that were available.

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We rode the bike to the hotel addresses I had…
The first guest house was full, second closed due to emergency, third one we couldn’t even find, so i gave up….

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No health and safety here……

In the end Clive parked the bike and we decided it would be best if I walked around some of the streets and have a look for a vacant hotel…
Feeling hot and frustrated I returned to find Clive talking to a couple on push bikes…

To cut a long story short we followed them back to where they were staying and as luck would have it there was a vacancy…
If we hadn’t been shown where it was we would never have found it, as the guest house was tucked away down an alley.

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Before we did the usual check in, shower and fresh clothes.
We arranged to meet our new friends Jacques and Mandy for a drink later in the afternoon.
After freshening up we headed out into the streets of Vientiane to see how much had changed since our last trip a couple of years ago…
Not much really except for the riverfront by the Mekong…
When we came here on our first trip, the road that ran next to the Mekong river was a small park area that a few stall holders would sell the usual tourist stuff plus there were a few bars/restaurant’s etc, down one end of the street, the buildings overhung the Mekong banks…which was very pleasant except that all the rubbish and empty bottles that came from the bars etc, got thrown over the edge and in to the river!

The second time we were here there was lots of major renovations to the park and river banks going on, so now most of the bars were gone to make way for the new park that would go the whole length of the Riverfront.

This trip the new park was finished, beautiful lawns, lush young plants, young trees and a play area for the youngsters… once all the young trees have matured the park will have an abundance amount of shade, but at the moment there’s hardly any! so you can’t really enjoy the park unless the sun has gone down… Do we think its an improvement…yes, and from what I can gather the locals seem to like the new area as well…

We later walked the streets and met our old mate Thierry from ‘Jules Classic Motor bike Hire’, not only does Thierry own a bike rental place he also has a mini international supermarket and an amazing coffee shop with some amazing cakes…so I hear!!!!

Later we met up with Jacques and Mandy to crack open a few beers (I must admit I’m getting a bit of a taste for beer Lao).
Jacques and Mandy have been touring around SE Asia on push bikes and are just about to go into China.
We then all headed out for dinner…
Indian was the choice for tonight-pretty dam good it was.
We seem to have a lot in common with our new friends and they are great company that we planned to meet up again in Europe for a bit when they pick up their motorbike …

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In the morning after another breakfast of eggs and baguette’s we headed off to the Buddha Park which is also known as Xieng Khuan, its a sculpture park located 25 km southeast from Vientiane, for about 20km’s the road surface was fine, but the last 5 or so km’s, the road was horrendous, potholes galore, and there was no way to avoid them!

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P.S I forgot to mention the dust, tons of it up your nose, in your eyes where ever…do the people who live along side these roads complain? Who knows? i hope they don’t suffer with asthma!

Anyway back to the park….it was started in 1958,using all the left over cement from the construction of the airport, so it’s not very old at all and houses over 200 Hindu and Buddhist statues, which appear to be centuries old!

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Once we had payed to entrance fee (sorry can’t remember how much it was, not a lot that’s all I remember!!!)

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Clive went off and took a few photos,we already had loads from are previous visit a couple of years ago.

I sat up against a statue and ‘took in’ the serenity of this beautiful place…its good to be back-despite the dust and crap roads, its sure worth a visit.

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On the way back into Vientiane the bumpy road must have woken up the ‘worms’ as we were feeling a little peckish and didn’t have a ‘penguin’ (you have to be British to get that!)
Even though it was hot we were gasping for a decent cup of coffee…we decided to try ’Joma’ Coffee shop, the air-con was welcome and made drinking coffee even better…
The coffee went down a treat and so did the Apple pie and ice-cream….
feeling rather full from our ‘treat’ we headed back to the guest house for an afternoon nap…
Waking up just in time to go out to dinner with Jacques and Mandy…
We are both on a budget so we decide that local food would be the way to go tonight…

We found an ‘open air’ restaurant on the pavement….
well half on the pavement as the other half was broken up pieces of concrete…lol…

Sitting at our small table which was definitely not big enough for 4 people! It also had the wobbles due to the broken concrete that the table legs were sitting on…
While our feast was being prepared a table that was on the flat part of the pavement became available…
you have never seen 4 people move so fast all at the same time…lol
The poor waiter didn’t know what was happening…..
Unfortunately our dinner, even though it was delicious it came out in dribs and drabs, so that by the time Jacques and Mandy got there dinner we had finished ours!
Then out of the blue…well black sky really!

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It started raining…..
We have never seen rain in Laos before, it was quite exciting, but not for Jacques and Mandy…
They had to get their food put into takeaway containers and take it back to the guest house, so they could eat it with out getting wet, but by the time we got ‘home’ the rain had stopped!
We did hardly any ‘touristy’ things in Vientiane this trip, as it was more of a stop over for us.
To find out more though just click on the link:
http://www.visit-mekong.com/laos/vientiane/attractions.htm
The next morning we left for the small town of Vang Vieng…

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Which is located about 150KM from Vientiane, its a beautiful small town which is surrounded by limestone mountains and rivers.

The ride to Vang Vieng was very hot…but who cares ‘We’re in Laos’ The Land of a Million Elephants!

Here’s a little bit about the beautiful town of Vang Vieng….

Less than a year ago this town was a favorite with backpackers, they had turned it into a party village and was known as the party capital of SE Asia, with restaurants that had all day beds and played reruns of ‘friends and family guy’ if the backpackers weren’t doing that then they would usually spend the day‘tubing’ the Nam Song River… you get taken to a drop off area along the river banks, get a black tube, and your set, enter the river and stop (if you want) at one of the many bars that were housed on the banks of the river and drink yourself stupid while tubing, there were also ropes high in the trees that hung over the river that you could, swing from…they have all now been removed!
When the river was low, it meant the rocks at the bottom of the river could be ‘touched’ much easier! Thus meaning that a lot of youngsters got serious injuries from this activity when swinging off the ropes…sadly quiet a few lost their lives…20 lives lost in 2011 ☹, so the bars were closed down, locals lost their jobs… now the town has lost a lot of tourism from the backpackers, but hopefully tourism will pick up from other age groups…. you can still go tubing, but just can’t get plastered along the way…alcohol,water and rocks don’t mix….

Now back to us!
We quickly found our hotel…’Laoshaven Hotel and Spa’ a few streets back from the river…the place is run by a father and son from Singapore, yet again just like our entire trip so far we were made to feel so welcome, and from our window we had a spectacular view of the many limestone cliffs that make this town so special, they are stunning…

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Our room was modern, spacious and spotlessly clean…but that soon changed when we took our dusty bags into the room!
As the WIFI was so fast we decided to make the most of it and catch up on the blog and talk to our kids, plus we wanted to avoid the heat of the day.
The hunger pangs soon came back so we walked the hundred or so metres into the town centre…
Oh my, our favourite bakery is still here :)…
We enjoyed a massive Tuna roll…(nothing comes in small sizes here!) as we were just about to walk out of the bakery we spied some homemade chocolate cookies half dipped in chocolate…gotta try those, but now we were full! So we bought them to take back to the guest house!
The streets are eerily quiet due to the lack of tourists!
You can also actually walk on the footpaths now as previously the shops had their ‘merchandise’ sprawled across them…not any more.
The locals may not have approved of the riverside boorish behavior by the backpackers, but visitor numbers have now taken a big hit since the authorities stepped in.
Many businesses are clearly struggling.
While walking back to the guest house, we decided to book a kayak trip…
We booked for the following morning at 9am.
The following morning we were up early and had our breakfast, now we were ready for our ‘Nam Song’ adventure…
We were picked up from our guest house, as so did some other people who were doing the full day, we were all driven about half an hour out of town and as we were doing the half day trip so we got off the truck first…
It was just Clive, me and our guide…

The kayaks had to be taken off the roof of the truck, which was amusing to watch, our guide had a single Kayak while ours was a double.

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The river was surprisingly warm……

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I really expected it to be icy cold…

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I was in the front of the Kayak, which meant I was to paddle and Clive was in the back for steering…
Gliding down the crystal clear river was peaceful everything that I thought it would be, passing farms and children playing in the river.

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locals fishing…what more could you ask for…
oh yeah maybe some help paddling…Clive!

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We started getting further and further away from our guide, not that we minded really, but we were supposed to stay with him, so I had to remind Clive that he was also given a paddle…lol

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A young boy that was swimming near us, swam up to our Kayak, climbed on board, he was stark naked and then he dived off, the kids have so much fun here…

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The scenery was outstanding, limestone cliffs all lined up next to each other, showing their beauty with a back drop of clear blue skies…this is what life is all about…
Well we think so anyway, half way through the trip we stopped for a water break and a quick swim…so refreshing!
We were sorry that we didn’t do the whole day kayak trip…never mind, next time 😉

We arrived back in town in the early afternoon, wet and tired we walked back to the guest house for a shower, then out for a late lunch or was it an early dinner! Which ever it was, as per usual the food was great.
We asked our Kayaking guide what he thought of the bars being closed down…his reply was he was pleased, as he didn’t like the behaviour that went on, but on the other side of the coin he said he was sad that so many locals have lost their jobs and businesses, that was much the same response we got from the owner of our Hotel.

After a good nights sleep we woke up to a strange sound…

Rain was hammering down, thank goodness we did the kayaking the day before plus it was now freezing cold…..

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Mandy and Jacques had hired a motorbike from Vientiane and stopped by our Guesthouse to say a quick hello and good-bye, as they were on the way to Luang Prabang…definitely not a good day to head out on a long journey.

The rain certainly looked like it was set in for the day, so it was a good chance for us to catch up on mail, blogs, watch a movie, etc, we did however go out was for a stroll across the bamboo bridge and along the river and admire the spectacular scenery…

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These are lying around everywhere, a constant reminder from the Vietnam war that Laos suffered for….

Then off to buy some rolls and cheese for lunch…i even got to use my new travel umbrella…our rain jackets were crap, we got soaked, but at least our heads were dry!

The following day we were due to leave Vang Viang for Luang Prabang,
But it was still raining, we were really in two minds on whether to stay in Vang Viang for one more day hoping the rain would clear up or just go for it…

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Clive checked the forecast, and the rain was set to stay for at least another two days, so we thought we might as well go for it!, so we packed up and rode off down the wet, muddy roads towards Luang Phrabang…

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Still the scenery was fantastic through the rain….

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Off to work we go…..

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Typical Laos roadside house….

To be continued…..

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