Where To? Laos
How long? 5 Days
Thoughts: Accidentally climbing mountains again…
13 WoW – Laos: Vang Vieng
The journey was stunning, just looking out of the window gave you anomalous mountain sights in their peculiarly jagged silhouettes. There was something alien about the way the forested mountains seemed to have been placed randomly onto the otherwise flat terrain.
The bus dropped me off outside one of the largest and busiest party hostels in Vang Vieng.
Staying true to my “wing it” attitude, I walked the main street comparing the prices and atmospheres of each hostel, homestay and guest house. Finally, I settled in at the Rock Backpacker Hostel.
Sharing a bare, under-decorated girl’s room of 6 beds, I was surprised at the level of dirt that the last girl had accumulated beneath my new bed. I worried about ants, and even worse, cockroaches! It didn’t help also having a leak in my backpack due to a broken bottle of sweet-smelling rice wine bought from the Whiskey Village in Luang Prabang; everything needed to be hand-washed and hung up to dry.
I can’t say I came out of the showers feeling that much cleaner but it was certainly refreshing and by the time I was out, I could hear the party goers getting rowdy.
The good thing about this hostel was that you could book tours from the front desk and sign up to group activities such as tubing (more on that later), although I’m sure I was ripped off massively price-wise. The bad thing was, well, it was one of the more rowdy hostels I’d stayed in, and why wouldn’t it be? Vang Vieng is known for being a party destination!
How can I describe this? Imagine throwing yourself onto a choppy, brown river and hoping for the best. Now imagine doing that whilst drinking, a LOT! Okay, so you have tubing – a tradition that nearly had to be banned due to the number of deaths that were occurring. Did I do it? Of course!
Now tubing started as a method of transportation for the locals of this area, and other parts of Laos, but as with all sacred and non-sacred traditions in SE Asia, it’s been taken over by monetisation and has become a tourist attraction. And what do tourists like to do? Drink!
So as you are being pulled down the dirty river waters in this tube, bars along the river side will throw you ropes in the hopes that you will grab on, pull yourself in, have a drink and carry on. This will happen all the way down the river until you reach the large “TUBING STOPS HERE” sign where you then (hopefully) catch the last line thrown your way and pull yourself in. How smooth your journey is, is determined by how drunk you get and whether or not you are me and despite not drinking, still get stuck in a bush…
Would you do it? Tell me in the comments below!
How many times in a week do you recommend accidentally climbing mountains with nothing but flip flops on your feet? If it’s less than 3 times a week, stop reading. If it’s less than 2 times in 1 day, give up on my blog completely (not really, subscribe below, it’s about to get funny).
SO… I think you get the idea. How? You may ask, does a person accidentally climb a mountain, in flip flops, twice, in one day? Well, my dear readers, it is a lot easier than you think and I am here to warn you of the dangers of not researching your tours before you embark on them!
I booked a 3 stop tour with my hostel, was totally ripped off on price but being short on time I wanted to make the most of my trip. Soon, I was picked up by a private taxi and taken on a solo tour to these 3 spots; Pha Negun, Tham Phu Kham Cave & The Blue Lagoon. “I don’t really want to hike” I had told my hostel receptionist, “I only have flip flops on”. He’d waved off my concerns and assured me that flip flops were fineee!!
Well, they were not.
I was dropped at the bottom of this (yes fairly small) mountain and the taxi driver pointed up and ushered me forward. What was I to do? I started climbing.
There were many points I questioned my existence, I felt like giving up, lost the will to live etc. But for some reason, even after my flip flops threatened to fly off my feet, and after flies swarmed me, after ants bit my ankles and after nearly falling off one or two rocks I was climbing up, I still persisted.
And. it. was. worth. it!
Tham Phu Kham cave
So I mentioned the mountain climbing thing happened not once, but twice in one day… And here’s the second time.
It took me a while to recover in the well-received air conditioned vehicle as we drove to the next destination, but I was ready for less hike and more cave-exploration. I didn’t expect to be presented with both at the same time!
Arriving at the second destination, also the location of the Blue Lagoon, I followed the signs that directed me to the cave. It began with a few steps. It carried on and the steps sort of just became a vague pathway. Then it got really steep. Then a snake showed up out of nowhere and I had no idea whether or not to be scared so I wasn’t.
To cut a long walk short, it was another mountain to climb part-way to reach the cave and I was not too pleased at the unexpected exercise.
After reaching the mouth of the cave, I read a crude sign that stated the cave would be best explored with a guide and not alone, and a powerful torch was required. Well I had my phone and google maps so I hopped in.
The cave was very dark with water running across some pathways. The darkness nearly echoed as an eerie feel submerged me, but it was exciting. Immediately inside the cave you could see a “resting Buddha” shrine set up in the only light part of the cave, but beyond that it was dark. Arrows had been painted on some rocks to give you a vague idea of what direction to head in but I was soon lost.
My phone torch wasn’t much use and the arrows weren’t around anymore, the cave was very vast and so much to explore. I heard voices echoed in the distance and I called out, shining my torch in their direction. Thankfully it was a guide, with a gentleman from New Zealand, who had retired at the age of 35 to come and live in Asia.
Needless to say, I followed them out, my lesson learned; do the same thing again, it was fun.
After all of that hiking and climbing and cave exploring, I was ready for the cool refreshing waters of the Blue Lagoon.
It didn’t take much convincing for me to join the queue of tourists climbing the overhanging tree and jumping down into the crystal waters. One girl was at the top trying to convince herself to jump but nearly crying with fear. It was actually a lot higher than I realised and I would have been more scared had I given myself enough time to think about it.
I recorded myself, my phone in a waterproof case, and just… jumped!
There was something to get my heart pumping and my body refreshed, I don’t know what shocked me more, the jump or the cold water!
I booked my travel on to Vientiane through the first party hostel that I was dropped at to save some kip. And because it was leaving at the time I wanted to set off.
But before I left that day, I was up early to enjoy a delicious Matcha Latte and Almond Pastry whilst I watched the world go by at this delightful cafe.
Vang Vieng had so many places to enjoy a Laotian nibble, but the tastiest Pho I had come across was served to me in a humble outside “restaurant” next door to the Chillao party hostel where I would soon be catching my bus.
It was just gorgeous, perfectly balanced flavours with a zesty twist to it. I still remember those satisfying first mouthfuls as I placed my chopsticks in my bowl for more. Mmm…
But saying good-bye to that, I was soon on my way to Vientiane!