Just a little (long) update on our recent adventure in Lao People’s Democratic Republic aka Laos Please Don’t Rush! I would say Laos is the most beautiful place we have visited so far & it definitely lives up to it’s reputation of being super chilled – no one is ever in a rush, literally. We very nearly skipped Laos as a £20 flight from Hanoi to Chiang Mai almost won us over but I am so glad we didn’t miss out!
So…after our relatively pleasant journey on the 20 hour sleeper bus we arrived in Vientiane. This was another capital city that didn’t feel at all like a capital. We only chose to spend a day here as there wasn’t too much to do. We watched an aerobics class at the river front which was highly amusing & then had sunset Beerlaos looking over the Mekong river.
Later that night we met up with our new bus friends Nosh, David & Nicola for some big BeerLaos, chicken wings & cheesy fries. The conversation went very quickly from general chit chat getting to know each other to how the 5 of us (two Germans, us and an Italian) could create world peace! It all got very heated & was a pretty deep conversation to have with people we’d only met 24 hours previously..but it was a lot of fun! It was one of those nights were no one was keeping track of how much alcohol was consumed. We definitely paid for that… Jonny ended up trying to sleep on the bathroom floor & then boked in the bath (what sort of hostel has a bath?!); and I woke up with what I thought was extreme heartburn! Result!!!
Thankfully we only had a wee short 4 hour bus to endure to Vang Vieng. We looked & felt like death. Unfortunately this bus was full of very loud, annoying Americans passing a bottle of straight Captain Morgan’s & downing beers. This really didn’t help our hangovers! The drive to Vang Vieng was one of the most beautiful drives I have ever been on & this was the first taster of how amazing Laos really is.
The next day we had our first tubing experience. For those who don’t know, tubing is were you get in a massive rubber ring & float down the Nam Song river. The catch is that there are 5/6 bars along the way so it is basically a bar crawl in a rubber ring down a river…recipe for disaster?! In 2011 there were 27 reported people killed following tubing accidents – these were people who were blind drunk or off their faces on opium/ mushroom shakes. Many deaths were caused by people jumping/ swinging from trees and landing on rocks; or drowning. Around 11 more people died in the first few months of 2012 when the Laos government decided it had had enough and put an end to the craziness. Nowadays tubing is only as mad as you make it but can be a very relaxing day out
Our first tubing experience: the first day we did it we only went to two of the bars to see what all the fuss was was about. It was pretty tame (thankfully!) I wasn’t drinking a thing due to the “heartburn”. In one bar there was a crazy Japanese man who was providing people with fancy dress costumes & face paint. I took a few pictures for him & it wasn’t long before he attacked me with facepaint and had Pikachu ears on my head…
Then on we went back floating down the river. The scenery in Vang Vieng is beautiful so I recommend tubing to everyone just so you can experience how amazing VV is. It’s so relaxing once you get past the short strip of bars
That night we spent listening to live acoustic music in Gary’s Irish bar – this was my favourite spot in VV! The guy Simon who performs is from NI and he was amazing live! It was a little taste of home in Laos, something I wasn’t expecting! The vegetable soup was just what the Dr ordered for me 😍
On day two we got a tuk tuk along some crazy roads to the Blue Lagoon. Another example of Lao’s beauty! Although the place was taken over by a massive group of Koreans swinging into the water & screaming loudly as they did!! The water at the Blue Lagoon was freezing!!! I wasn’t brave enough to jump into the water from the massive tree (I’m going to blame the ongoing heartburn for that…) but Jonny made it look easy!
On day 3 we had both had enough of me being in pain. My pharmacist (Jonny) had been medicating me but all the Gaviscon & omeprazole in the world wasn’t easing the pain. I finally manned up & paid the hospital a visit. Hospitals smell exactly the same on the other side of the world 😦 After a quick check over I was diagnosed with a suspected peptic ulcer & given more omeprazole and some meds to stop the spasms in my gut. Oh & the Dr translated to me that the nurse thought I was beautiful 😂 the super white skin strikes again! You don’t get that sort of service at home! We chilled the rest of the day planning the rest of our time in SE Asia – we can’t believe we’re half way through already!
Then it was on to Sakura bar to meet up with our German friends. The whole time we’ve been in Asia every backpacker has been wearing a Sakura bar top & we always wondered why literally every person had one. We soon found out the reason is that if you buy 2 vodkas (if you can call it vodka…tasted more like paint stripper!) you get a free top! We feel like we’ve finally earned our backpacker stripes, ha!! Sakura bar is crazy – everyone goes straight there after tubing. There’s a curfew at 11.30pm in Laos so they can’t miss a moment of drinking time!
I found the other backpackers in VV so weird (obviously not all of them..just a lot of them!). It’s like VV has put them into a zombie trance & the locals hate them! I’ll probably sound like a total Granny here but they are a ridiculous breed of people. Their favourite past time is “shotgunning” or “goosin'” beers from a can (this is where you put a hole in the bottom of your beer can then pull the ring pull & down it as fast as you can). Those who are champion “shotgunners” then earn the right to wear a necklace made out of the beer can ring pulls. We found out from a 35 yr old man that “they’re not really allowed to take them off ever”…now I am totally up for a bit of craic but this just made me cringe! Oh and they say some prayer before they do it. Fair enough if these people were 18 but they’re my age and older 🙈 If this is your thing you can join their group on Facebook ‘Goosin’ the Globe’… 👍 maybe I’m just not cool enough???
Day 4 we met up with Nosh, David & three of their friends from their hostel. Then it was on to our second tubing experience! This one was much more pleasant as I was feeling a teeny bit better.
There was a lethal bit of mud on the ground in one of the bars – Jonny sunk right down into it & almost lost his flip flop 😂 it was pretty funny watching drunk people go flying on their bums! Of course it turned into a mud fight later in the day. We were stinking! Time definitely runs away from you when you’re having fun. We never managed to finish the whole river due to it getting dark by the time we got 2km from the end 👎
Then it was another bus journey (just 4 hours again) to Luang Prabang. Again, another stunning drive! LP has a totally different vibe than VV – thankfully the goosers don’t make it out of the Nam Song River or Sakura bar!
Jonny made me do the most horrible thing ever our first day – he made me get up at 5am to go watch the monks collect their morning alms. Ehh..does he not know I’m on my holidays?! It was pretty cool to see so many monks walking down the street but out of respect I was too scared to get close to take any good photos!
The highlight of our stay in LP was a visit to the Kuang Si waterfalls. They were unbelievable! The water was as cold as the Blue Lagoon but it was a really really hot day so it was very much appreciated!
I even braved the big jump from a tree this time – go me!
Oh & Jonny saved a Chinese girl from drowning at the waterfalls. And I mean she was properly drowning! His lifeguard training was finally put into action. You wouldn’t have thought that she was someone who had just been saved after it…she didn’t even acknowledge Jonny never mind thank him (not that he did it for the thanks..but you know what I mean!) We’ll have to put that one down to cultural differences?! 😕
We also visited the UXO (unexploded ordnance) centre in LP. This was another eye opener for us. We learnt that Laos is the most bombed country in the whole world (three guesses who did the majority of the bombing 😒) and more than 12,000 people have been affected by UXO in rural areas with the majority being children. This centre is working to clear all UXO from Laos but they still have a lot of work to do before this will be possible.
There was also a spot of 10 pin bowling done in LP! All the practice I got at birthday parties as a child & on the Wii did not help me one bit. They don’t have bumpers in Laos 😦 HOW DO YOU BOWL WITHOUT BUMPERS?! The first game I managed a huge score of 49 (notice all the goes where I didn’t knock down a single pin!) & came 5th out of 6.
Once I got my technique sorted there was a little bit of improvement – 73 woop woop!! Got myself right up into 4th place! Not that I was being competitive… Note Jonny won both games! A secret hobby perhaps?!
The final activity of our time in LP was a visit to the loveliest night market I have experienced in my time in SE Asia. Even Jonny liked it! Every other market you’re greeted with “hello lady you buy sumting!” which is never a question, always a demand! It’s very intimidating. In Laos however, there is none of that so it was a really pleasant experience. Plus, all the stuff is actually lovely & not the usual tat you find at Asian markets. We picked up a few bargains here!
We then booked to take the slow boat from Laos to Northern Thailand & had an early last night. Well, that was the plan… at the start of my travels I had been told “you will get sick in Laos” so I was super careful about everything I ate & drank. Anyone who knows me will know that my biggest phobia is vomiting 😷 so it was a very traumatic experience when I started boking at 11.30pm the night before we were due to get a 9 hour boat. I spent the remainder of the night with V&D 😥 it was so horrible & I hope not to experience it again anytime soon! We were due to get picked up at 7.30am the next day but there wasn’t a chance I was getting on a boat. It was a rather horrible morning for me trying to find someone to help us change the boat – of course the travel company we had went with was the only one not open before 8am!!! There were tears on my part. We eventually got sorted though and only had to pay an extra £7 to change the ticket – totally worth it in my opinion! I spent the day sleeping 😴 and was feeling a good bit better to get the boat the next day!
I will update you on the 2 day slow boat experience in my next post! Unfortunately on the last night of the slow boat adventure Jonny caught the bug that I had & he didn’t handle it too well at all…he made me look like a pro at tummy bugs 😂