Thursday, 18 August 2011

Wacky Vang Viang

After a harrowing 7 hour bus ride, we arrived in possibly the oddest town in Vang Viang.  It's a *very* popular tourist destination due to its location between Luang Prabang and Vientienne (the capital of Laos), and also because of the magnificent limestone karsts which surround the town.  We were a bit hesitant to stop here, but a stay here nicely broke up the bus ride to Vientiane, so we booked a 2 night stay.

The most popular activity in Vang Viang is tubing down the river while ingesting ridiculous amounts of Lao whiskey (aka moonshine) and beer.  The drunk tourists roaming the town every night were quite a sight.  Fortunately, there are other awesome adventures to be had around the town, so we decided to do those instead of tubing.

The town itself is a very strange place.  There is virtually no Lao culture there, and the whole town caters to the inebriated tubers.  Every establishment on the main street is either a hostel, restaurant/bar playing reruns of Friends on a constant loop, or a store selling "Tubing on the Vang Viang" t-shirts and tank tops (ridiculously popular).  After an unfortunate first dinner of greasy pad thai, we managed to find some decent food in town, including a tasty Indian restaurant.

Our first full day, we rented mountain bikes and headed off to a cave outside of town.  There had been a lot of rain recently, and so the dirt roads were absolutely riddled with mud puddles.  We ended up getting quite filthy by the end of the day!  We rode through some absolutely gorgeous countryside though, with huge limestone cliffs rising out of fields of bright green rice paddies.
Some of the gorgeous scenery: rice paddies and limestone karsts.

We had to share the road with lots of cows, and the occasional motorbike.
More mountains and rice paddies.

When we arrived at the cave, we paid our admission fee, and were asked if we'd like to hire a guide to take us around.  Sure, we thought, why not, it was only $6 CAD split between 4 people.  Well, the guides all looked pretty comfortable lounging around playing cards, and their ability to speak English seemed quite doubtful, so no guide for us!  After a slippery steep climb up the rocks, we found the cave entrance.  It was quite a large cave, and we were able to explore it for a good distance before deciding to turn around.  

Inside the cave, looking out towards the entrance.  It is very difficult to take good photographs in a pitch black cave.

Aren't we quite the dirty, sweaty sight?

Snack outside the cave.  I bought what I thought was a bag of ketchup chips, but instead turned out to be a bag of crispy "french fries" and ketchup packets.  It was actually quite tasty... why do we not have these in Canada?

One of the reasons we decided to visit this cave and not one of the many others in the area was presence of a swimming hole called the "blue lagoon."  We were more than mildly disappointed to find out that it was instead a brown, muddly, trickling river.  

Worst "blue lagoon" EVER


Local form of transportation. I don't even know what to call this thing.  It's like the front of a lawn mower connected to a wagon.  Bizarre.

Since we were having a great time with Tim and Asher, and because the scenery was so gorgeous, we decided to stay an extra day and do some kayaking!  We also had time to visit an organic mulberry farm with goats!  I got some good ideas for our goat farm, and their goat cheese was incredible.  We also tried sun-dried bananas (not very good), crispy mulberry leaves (odd) and mulberry tea (delicious).  

Cute (stinky) piggy at the goat farm!

Cluster bomb left over from the Vietnam war.  Laos is actually the most heavily bombed country in the world, and there's still lots of work to be done to de-mine it.

That afternoon, we went kayaking.  We were given a 2 person kayak that you sit up on (not inside).  After a 2 minute lesson on paddle strokes and steering, we were heaved into the river by our guides.  Greg insisted that he would be great at steering, and then promptly guided our kayak into a giant clump of bushes in the middle of the river and capsized us.  Ooh, I was mad!  We had literally been on the river for less than a minute before we were swimming.  After that, Greg was relegated to the front of the boat and had all his steering privileges revoked.  I must admit that it was quite nice to be wet for the rest of the trip, as it cooled us down quite a bit.

More gorgeous scenery.

Love the clouds!  Wish I had a picture of us swimming, but I was more concerned about staying alive than recording the moment.  

As part of the kayaking trip, we visited a cave on the river.  We had to swim into the cave, which was a bit creepy.  The cave was called "Sleeping Cave" because Laotians used to sleep in this cave for safety during the Vietnam war, to escape from the air raids.  It was quite disturbing to imagine sleeping in such a dark, dank, creepy place.  Shudder.

Asher and I about to head into the cave.

On our last night with Tim and Asher, we went for a nice dinner and enjoyed our last Beer Lao together.  We were heading off for Vientienne the next morning, while Tim and Asher were staying behind in Vang Vieng as they still had a week until they flew back to Thailand.

Greg and his Beer Lao having a quiet moment together.

I think my vodka watermelon shake was quite strong, as I started to get goofy with the camera settings.
 

5 comments:

  1. The cave looks like the ending to army of darkness

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  2. Good times! I actually like cold, old french fries so I'm sure those "chips" would be right up my alley! xo

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  3. Ha ha!! I love the kayak story! I thought Greg was never allowed to navigate? Steering is close enough to navigating that you should have known better.

    Also "blue lagoon" = awesome. That would be sincerely disappointing I'm sure!

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  4. I like that Greg and Beer lao are having some quality time together.

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  5. Freya, you're right, I should have known better. But he just seemed so keen to try it I couldn't say no.
    And Joce, Greg and Beer Lao had a great deal of quality time together. I'm pretty sure he shed a tear or two when we crossed the border and left Beer Lao behind. Ooh, and Emily Dickinson got adopted!! I'm so sad and happy at the same time...

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