Monday, July 25, 2011

Vientiane & Vang Vieng

So we arrived in Laos, the first stop was the main capital Vientiane. In the evening of our arrival we headed out for diner and a beer. Laos is famous for their national beverage ‘Beerlao’, something we immediately had to try out of course. Well, it’s definitely accepted, as is the Lao food.

The next morning we decided to check out the Vientiane cycling tour of the Lonely Planet, first stop was a bakery for breakfast. Laos is a former French colony and therefore there is a lot of French food and influences to be found around the countries cities. After breakfast we rented a bike and biked around the city centre. The route took us along some amazing sights, which are best shown with our pictures. In the afternoon we took a bumpy tuktuk ride to the Buddha Park, 25km outside Vientiane, this is a park with a mix of Hindu and Buddhist statues. This reminds us of Bali, who’s religion is a mix of these two religions.

Vang Vieng
The next morning we headed of with a 5-hour bus ride to Vang Vieng, a city that used to be known for its great scenery with limestone cliffs, caves and climbing. But nowadays its better known for ‘tubing’; sliding down the river in tractor inner tubes with party bars on either side of the river throwing ropes so you are able to get to their bar. The bars and restaurants inside the city are playing reruns of comedy series, especially ‘Friends’, which we loved to see after such a long time. We decided to stay for 3 nights and 2 full days, so we could do one-day nature and adventure and one-day tubing. In our nice and ridiculously cheap (€3,50 per night) guesthouse we booked a trip for the next day. The trip included: mountain biking, several caves, a lunch and a 20km kayak ride and this all for €16 per person :-). We were picked up from our guesthouse and soon sat on our mountain bikes. Our private tour guide brought us to the first cave in a one hour and 15 minutes ride half on paved pad and half on unpaved pads, which was quite challenging at times, since its rainy season. The cave was a water cave, so we had to go in with tubes, which was a very nice and fun experience. The cave looked very unreal and we both had never seen something like this before, we were very impressed. We also crawled and walked around were the water was lower it was a fascinating experience. After a lunch outside the cave we hoped on our mountain bikes again and followed the road to 3 other caves. On the way over to one of the caves Iris fell of her bike into the barbed wires, which was a less pleasant experience.

The bigger caves were used by the people in Laos to hide from the US bombs during the Vietnam War, Laos is the most bombed country in history. The caves are therefore very important for the people in Laos, they brought many Buddha statues into the caves, which is quite impressive. One of the caves was more than 2km long and therefore called the long cave, a tourist who went in the cave once without a guide was lost for 2 days before the locals found him. The smallest cave was called ‘the elephant cave’, because of a small statue of an elephant inside, which is an act of nature according to the people of Laos. The 20km kayak trip was very nice, quiet and beautiful. The quietness was over when we reached the area where the tubing starts, with the loud music and drunken people. After a whole day in the wild we didn’t feel very familiar with these partyscene.

But the next day we still decided to tube, since we wanted to experience that as well and… it was fun, wild and crazy. Rino promised himself no more hangovers so he was happy that we accidently didn’t bring that much money ;-). In our guesthouse we met James and Max, who joined us on the river and along the way we got to meet a lot of other people as well. The bars try to spice thinks up with zip lines, river jumps and even a slide, unfortunately a lot of these fun attractions were closed, since more and more drunk people hurt themselves or even die in the river. Luckily the slide (also called the ‘deathslide’, since a girl died there) was still open and one river jump. Since we were not that drunk it was absolutely harmless and we enjoyed these attractions a lot. All together it was a lot of fun and we enjoyed it more than we had thought we would. But tip nr 1: Don’t get too drunk while tubing!

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