Claire bums bikes.

Trip Start Jun 25, 2011
Trip End Dec 24, 2011

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Sunday, October 9, 2011


Aiming for the 10am bus from Phonsavan we find ourselves, on arriving at the bus station, ushered onto a bus leaving at 9.15 instead. Its says VIP on the side and front but we don't know what VIP stans for in Lao. Maybe big? as the bus is a 45 seater as opposed to the mini buses we have been travelling on. The only falang aboard we scrunch into the last 2 seats on the back row of the bus, clambering over sacks of rice and wheat and a bunch of plastic chairs to reach them. 

The high way to Vang Vieng is nearly entirely at the top of a mountain and the huge bus crawls around the tight bends for the first 3 hours of the journey, leaning precariously to one side due to the additional luggage that has been strapped to the bus's roof. When we stop for a breif break there are no toilets so we hop about clenching our bladders and looking on jealously at men with their willy's and old ladies in their sarongs who simply squat at the side of the road (does this mean they are not wearing any underwear...?). 

Finally we begin to descend from the mountain toward Vang Vieng we're relieved and elated to see that in Kasi, where we stop for lunch, there are is a row of lovely squat toilets that are free of charge. After leaving Kasi we work out that we can only be a few hours from Vang Vieng, but that neither of us know what we're looking for and that the bus continues onto Vientiane potentially driving us right past our stop. With a bit of looking at the map, and spotting the huge disused airstrip that runs alongside the town, we do manage to stop in the right place. We are the only ones to get off the bus.

Now, all we know about Vang Vieng to this point is that its the only place in Laos to go tubing; to get drunk and high and take your clothes off in front of monks and throw yourself off rope swings and down uneven slides made of dodgey kitchen tiles and sometimes even kill yourself in the process. It therefore goes without saying that we were surprised to see how beautiful it was, surrounded by mountains on every side. Pleasantly surprised we were.    

Due to the masses of competition and the fact that its still low season, we get a really nice room off the main drag for 40,000 kip (about $4). Unfortunately the first thing we eat in Vang Vieng tastes like turd and has the same effect on Jo's stomach as if she had eaten a turd. The rest of the day we wander around the town, never straying far from the room and more importantly, the toilet in the room, and then films put onto Jo's iphone to watch in bed. This is what we watch... Brokedown Palace - strangely its more entertaining considering our setting.

Vang Vieng may be beautiful but there is enough even in low season to show it living up to its reputation as Laos' party destination; on a brief walk around town we see 2 drunks westerners shouting at the tube renting man about the loss of their tubes, another large group of falang rock a tuk tuk up and down as it drives down the street with them aboard and dozen of tourists on crutches or nursing broken bones and sore heads.The day finishes excellently around midnight with our neighbour coming loudly into his room and vomitting loudly for the next 10 minutes.


Jo is still feeling rough so the morning slips away from us a bit but we anage to salvage the afternoon by renting motorcylces again. This time though Cliare decides she will give it a bloody go and rents an automatic. Within 10 minutes of riding it she's forgotten all about Jo and is in love with her new toy. 

We take the bikes north out of the town to see a nearby waterfall and the road conditions are far worse than in Phonsavan. Nevertheless (and Claire will cite this as destiny) Claire manouvres the bike skillfully through puddles and around potholes. When Jo demands that they get off the bikes and walk around to view the nature, Claire is dissapointed and strokes the bike before leaving it. We stay as long as Claire can bare to be parted and then head south of the town toward nearby lagoons, but are forced back into town by excessive mud. For the rest of the day Claire talks about motorcycles and stares at them as they go by, which in a country with more bikes than people, doesn't do much for conversation.

By this time Jo has begun not to feel like poo so in the evening we pass the dozens (and dozens) of bars showing episodes of Family Guy or Freinds on repeat, to one that is showing nothing at all (novel for Vang Vieng) to have a drink and play cards. Whilst here, minding our own business, an unatractive young Australian man with a small hilter-esque patch of bum fluff under his nose slumps down with his equally unpleasant freinds next to us and begins to ask stupidly transparent questions like; 'Excuse me, do you think that facial hair makes a man attractive?' and 'Do you think that people with aceents diffrent to your are more or less attractive than those who don't?'. Thse guys are 4 of 27 on a katiki tour of south east Asia and are seeing only 3 places in Laos (many of the group only wanted to come to Laos to tube). Their guide is another Australian guy, more drunk than any of his group, wandering around the bar with a child's toy phone asking people to answer it. The cultural insensitivites come flying thick and fast, and when they have a good laugh about having passed monks washing their robes in the river, whilst they were half cut floating downstream covered in writing and shouting, the deal is sealed. We're not going tubing. 


Claire takes the fact that Jo has booked a morning of rock climbing as a good opportunity to relax around town (and buy Jo a present of course... right Claire? right!?). Jo in the meantime has a morning of sweating. She is the only person to book that morning so is lucky to have a private guide. They take a motorbike 10 minutes to the path that leads up to the mountain they'll be climbing. From her its about another 15 minutes of walking and clambering over rocks. By the time Jo makes it to where they are supposed to actually begin, she is drenched. The views are stunning but the activity is not as easy as it looks. On the final of the 3 climbs the height at the vry top is 18m from the starting plateau. Jo makes it about 3m from the finish before her arms cramp up an she asks to be let down. Without warning the instructor assumes she has panicked and lets her drop about 10m down in about 3 seconds. Fun times.

In the afternoon we rent bikes again and give the mud another go, this time with more success. The road to The Blue Lagoon is lined with signs to other swimming spots that are also sign posted as 'The Blue Lagoon'. This works out for the best in the end as we pull up to one spot that is completely deserted and go for a peaceful swim by ourselves, before heading on to the far busier (although still beautiful) real Blue Lagoon.

For dinner we manage to find a really quiet place with amazing views of the river below where we see two young Lao boys practising their own tubing with their flip flops in hand as paddles. One of the best features of this restuarant is the music. One popular western tune after another interpretted by a Laos lounge act into slow sultry tunes to accompany any cusine. The peak of this brilliance is the lounge version of YMCA. 

After dinner we go and watch a bloody epsiode of Friends.

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sophie on

I'm actually not surprised you didn't go tubing. I got the equivalent to whiplash on my whole body when i went and if they had anything like tubing in Sri Lanka I would personally start a campaign to stop it. All of the males we met .
whilst in Luang Prabang were utter twats.

My favourite part of Laos was Luang PRABANG and watching the sunset, then wandering down to the night market and eating really really tasty street food.

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