Last stop in Laos
22.11.2009 25 °C
I’m sitting on my bed watching The Beach on satellite TV in a nice 2 star hotel in Vientiane. But this is all a few days after the previous post, so I’ll reverse up a bit.
Vang Vieng was where we were last. One of Anita’s friends had described it as ‘a sleepy village’, which it still is. But it is a village that is dirty and dusty and full of nothing to do. The most entertaining thing is to go ‘tubing’, in which you sit in an inner tube and float down the Nam Song. I think I talked about it before, with bars to stop at and have a drink. We didn’t do this, but we did book a tour to see four caves and then wander through a local village to the Nam Song where we got onto our canoes (Designed In New Zealand, Made In Thailand) and did an easy couple of hours paddling down a grade 1 river back to town. Along the way we passed the ‘bars’ setup for the tubing. Some of them were packed full with lots of the tubers, pumping music entertaining them. Some also had swings and slides to use to get back into the river. Looked like good hedonistic fun. For young people :o)
The trip to the caves was interesting, all of them were large and went for miles. To get into one meant sitting in a tube and floating yourself into the cave. As the day wasn’t the hottest, Anita opted out of getting into the cold river. The wuss. In fact, we have hit some rather coldish weather now – it barely gets over 25 during the day. In the evening we even have to wear jeans when we go out for dinner! Its terrible.
Since there was not that much to do in Vang Vieng, we booked ourselves a bus to Vientiane, leaving after three nights. The bus ride to Vientiane was as good as any of them were out here – windy roads in a mostly comfortable bus. This one was only 4 hours long, very do-able.
Vientiane is a small, laid back capital city – only 200,000 people according to Wikipedia. With lots of tourists and ex-pats. It took us a little bit of wandering about to find some accommodation, as most of the place s were full and the rest were more expensive than we thought they would be. It seems that Vientiane has increased its prices significantly over the past two years. The place we are staying is in our guidebook at 15USD a night. We’re paying $25. We’re staying in the middle of the city, so it’s not too far to get to anything, not that there is too much to do here. One sight is the ‘Buddha Park’, about 25km south of the city. It is full of statues of Buddha: loads of them. So we went out there today to take a look and some photos. We braved the local bus service and made our way out there and back. Very brave we are.
Yesterday we booked a flight from here to Hanoi, leaving Monday night (tomorrow) and also gave the nice lady at the travel shop our passports so we can get our Vietnam visas. That is pretty scary actually – my passport is at the moment in a drawer in here shop, waiting for Monday morning so it can be taken to the Vietnamese Embassy. We should (fingers crossed) get them back Monday afternoon, in time to dash to the airport and catch our flight.
We decided to fly to Vietnam instead of going over a land border for a number of reasons. First, all the land borders are described as dodgy – scams are abundant. Second it involves a 12 hour bus trip (that apparently takes more like 24 hours). And third because that part of Laos still has a large number of UXO – UneXploded Ordinance – left over from the Vietnam War (or Second Indochina War or American War, depending on what country you are in). Laos is the most (per capita) bombed country in the world and a third of the bombs dropped didn’t go off.
So that’s where things stand at the moment. Tomorrow we hit the next country, the penultimate one for this part of the world. Also looks like things will be getting more expensive now, due to December being a ‘High Season’ month (the room we had in Vang Vieng we paid 70,000 Kip for, in December it goes for 350,000 Kip, Ouch). I hope the budget can survive it!
That’s all for now