Tubing in Vang Vieng & relaxing in Vientiane. Khawp jai lai lai Laos!

Nov 28, 2010

Hey from Vientiane; the capital city of Laos! We arrived here on Wednesday 24th November and it’s our final night in Laos :(

Since our last update, we’ve been moving South through Laos. On our last full day in Luang Prabang we visited the Royal Palace Museum which used to be where the Royal family lived. The palace became a museum in 1975 after the royal family were exiled to live in caves after the Laos People’s Democratic Revolution! The museum was spectacular (especially the grand mosaic throne room) and some of the rooms were still as they had been when the Royal family lived there. There were also loads of amazing treasures gifted from other countries (including a fleet of vehicles from the USA) - we couldn’t take any photos as cameras were not allowed. The following morning we got up at 5.30am so we could see food being given to the monks: every morning at 6am the monks walk down the main street and the locals (and some tourists) give each of them a chunk of sticky rice which is all the monks are allowed to eat! Later that morning we started our seven hour bus journey to Vang Vieng.

The bus journey was very bumpy and we spent the first six hours winding around the extremely narrow (and treacherous) roads through the mountains. The views were fantastic but we thought we might end up over the edge of the cliff a few times! During the journey an ambulance flew past us and we caught up with it later on to find that a car had gone over the edge (it looked like every one was okay!). We arrived in Vang Vieng in the late afternoon, found a nice guest house and then went to explore the town. Vang Vieng was very different to Luang Prabang! Whereas Luang Prabang is a beautiful ancient city with loads of history, Vang Vieng is like the Malaga of Laos. There were drunk Westerners everywhere: chasing each other down the streets firing fireworks at one another, playing drinking games in the middle of the road and generally being rude to the locals. We decided straight away that we would only stay for two nights. The following day we went tubing, Vang Vieng’s biggest attraction. You basically get taken 3km upriver in a tuk-tuk and then get dropped off with a tube and you drift back in to town down the Nam Song river. It was amazing and it totally made the trip to Vang Vieng worth it! The scenery was awesome and it took us over four hours to get back in town. There were loads of bars by the river for the first kilometre (and we stopped at a few as we went past them) but for the final 2km it was just me, Jimmy, the odd water buffalo and the beautiful surroundings. Unfortunately the river was too low for us to go on any of the rope swings or slides at the bars but we still really enjoyed the experience. We ended up getting a few scrapes and bruises from the occasional sharp rock in the rapids. The next day we left for Vientiane.

So today is our fifth night in Vientiane and it’s a lovely city. We’d heard mixed things about it before we arrived but we’ve really enjoyed our time here. When we arrived it was pretty stressful as we couldn’t find a nice Guest House so on our second night we ended up treating ourselves to a hotel which is a bit expensive ($32 per night) but it’s got a swimming pool and we’ve got our own balcony which overlooks the Mekong (the sun sets over it each night!). We’ve been doing a lot of relaxing in Vientiane. We’ve spent a couple of days sunbathing by the pool (it’s 35 degrees and cloudless most days), we’ve mooched about the city (regularly stopping for iced coffees and treats), we went for a traditional Laos massage (Jimmy loved his but mine was an hour of agony) and we’ve visited some of the sights. We went to Xieng Khuan yesterday which is also known as the Buddha Park. It’s full of Buddhist and Hindu sculptures, there are hundreds of statues including a massive reclining Buddha. The journey there was an experience in itself; we decided to get the local bus and we were crammed on to a mini-bus with another 30 passengers (Jimmy was almost sat on the drivers lap!). We were the only Westerners on it and it only cost us 40p each for the 25km journey! We’ve been to Pha That Luang today which was stunning. It’s a golden Stupa (a dome-shaped shrine built by Buddhists) and it’s the most important monument in Laos (it’s on the national seal, bank notes and pretty much everything else!). Apparently it contains a piece of Buddha’s breastbone which was put there in the 3rd century BC! After that we went for a walk along the Mekong before coming back to pack as we’re flying to Vietnam tomorrow, the next part of our adventure!

Anyway, hope you’re not all too cold, we’ve heard it’s freezing back home! Hee Hee!

P.S For those of you who don’t speak Laos, ‘Khawp jai lai lai’ means ‘Thank you very much’ (thanks Diego for the lesson in Laos)!