Underrated scenery, overrated tubing!

Trip Start Aug 14, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Bountang Hotel
What I did
Blue Lagoon

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Sunday, October 14, 2012

On the journey from Vientiane we got chatting to a couple from Liverpool, Shane was pleased he had found a fellow Liverpool fan to talk football! After four hours on a bumpy road but with a/c, we arrived in the dusty town of Vang Vieng. We found a brand new hotel with a view of the incredible scenery and all for the incredible price of just 6 a night! For those of you who have been or heard of Vang Vieng, tubing probably springs to mind (tubing involves floating down a river on the inflated inner tube of a tyre and in Vang Vieng, it also includes stopping off at lots of bars on route). However due to twenty five deaths last year, all the bars along the river were shut in August so the government could introduce regulations to stop bars selling buckets of meth based drinks/drugs. We weren't that keen on going until we heard this western drunken mentality had ceased with the bar closures. Therefore the town which had grown up on tourism and tubing over the last ten years, was rather ghostly! We thought the scenery was stunning and initially felt sorry for the locals, whose businesses were suffering without the tourist trade. However after speaking to them, we found they were pleased that things were going to be done properly and legally.

The next day we met with the Liverpudlian couple, Matt and Emma, and hired bicycles to go on a 7km ride to the "Blue Lagoon". On the way we met four Lao boys, only one had a bike, so we gave the remaining three backies to their destination. This involved going up a slightly sloped but long hill. Embarrassingly the exertion, midday heat, humidity and lack of fitness took it's toll on Kate, who felt sick and faint! We stopped at a lady's garden bar for a drink so we could all cool down a bit. After twenty minutes, we told Matt and Emma to ride on while Kate recovered. Bananas were the only food on offer - something Kate had never, ever liked! At this point though, she was willing to try anything and twenty minutes after eating her first ever banana (which she actually liked and has not stopped eating since) she was fine for the rest of the day. We caught up to the others at the blue lagoon, which was not quite how we had imagined it. There was no blue lagoon in the cave, which Lonely Planet suggests! The cave was another 200metre near vertical hike, tiring after the bike ride. The opening to cave was huge, slippery and dark in places. Shane went off to go and have a look at the actual pitch black cave, but once he had reached the edge of the darkness, he got scared and returned to the sanctuary of the light!  Afterwards we went swimming in the lagoon, and Shane leapt in from a high branch with other crazy fools, to prove that he still was a man despite the cave incident! We spent time swimming there; the water was so cold and refreshing after the intense heat. At 4:30pm we left for the cycle ride back and stopped off in a small village on the way for a drink. Again it was in somebody's garden, where no English was spoken but it was nice to be in "real" Lao. The woman of the house served us our drinks and then proceeded to shower with a sarong on at their outdoor tap, which is where the whole family obviously washed, only a few metres away from where we were sat. The young grandson was pushed our way to charm us for some free sprite and play High-5.  We cycled home, showered, ate and had an early night.

The next day we decided to hire a moped. We lost our moped virginity successfully, without falling off on the dirt track roads. We went to a nearby waterfall which isn't in the lonely planet but should be. It was very quiet and we enjoyed swimming in the refreshing pools.  The food options were limited to: papaya salad, a whole roast chicken (including head and guts), a whole fish, a whole wild rat (including tail and head) and baby chicks cooked in their eggs (all Lao delicacies)! We went for the papaya salad. We made it back to Vang Vieng on the moped before the night set in.

The next day we decided to do the infamous tubing, which cost us more than the previous two days because of its popularity! It was ok.  It took about an hour and a half but with nowhere to stop for a drink and some shade, Kate got a sunburnt face. Shane grazed his back when the waters were shallow but the scenery was good. To sum it all up, it was not worth the price but it would've been nice if a couple of bars were open to get a couple of drinks and some shade. We spent the rest of the day in a bar playing cards as it was starting to rain. The next day we were leaving for Luang Prabang.
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