I had a feeling that when I started this blog, I would be crap at updating it – and I was right! It is impossible for me to write about every few days so I’m going to try and condense it a bit and get up to date as quickly as possible. I have so much to share with everyone, two wonderful countries in a month!
The usual route to get from the Thai border to Luang Prabang is to take a slow boat that takes two days. I had to think about whether I wanted to do this, as although the views were meant to be spectacular it would also mean 48 hours on a fairly unsafe and uncomfortable boat that I heard many horror stories about. Lots of people said it was a really fun way to get to Laos, and that I would meet lots of people. I could also just meet people when I got to Laos and also be there a day earlier! I decided to rebel against the backpacker tradition and just get the bus which would only take 9 hours. I’m really glad I did because the views going over the mountains were stunning and I met two lovely German girls, Ebru and Veronica, who would soon become my travelling buddies for 6 weeks!!! Proof you don’t need to take a long ass boat journey to bond with people, but saying that if you have a lot of time the boat is a good option as you get to see more of the Mekong and stay in a little village. Also, the roads are very narrow and windy and at one point we had to overtake 10 huge lorries – whilst going round hairpin bends! I was thankful that I had a limited view of what was going on and beautiful countryside to distract me!
As soon as I entered Laos, I immediately noticed a difference in attitude between Thai and Laos people. The Lao are much more easy going and a bit more reserved. Whilst at first they seem not to be interested to interact with foreigners, if you smile first they will smile back! I didn’t get hassled by people trying to sell things or tuk tuk drivers either, which was a nice change. Some travellers have mentioned to me that in Laos you get less customer service but I don’t think that is true at all. I just think they are a bit more relaxed, but they will happily help when asked. It is quite annoying when travellers expect certain things, without considering the cultural differences. When did travellers become so spoilt, do we really expect every single person in a country we are visiting to smile and welcome us lovingly?! Also, it baffles me when backpackers write reviews such as ‘the accommodation was basic, the lockers were small and the free breakfast wasn’t that great’ – for rooms that they paid 4 dollars for!!!!! 4 dollars wouldn’t even get you a cardboard box in England, reality check people!
I seem to be having at least one rant per post but I can’t help but make observations! Anyway, back to the point of this post – Luang Prabang! It is a really pleasant town which I sadly did not get to explore as much, as I only spent two days there. I would have liked to explored more on a bicycle but I did get to see a few of the highlights. First, the view from Phu Si hill which was beautiful – very lucky with the sunset colours! I met some amazing people in Luang Prabang who Ebru, Veronica and I then travelled to Vang Vieng with. They definitely added to the experience, all of them comedians in their own right! I will share some very sexy photos of them later on in the post!
Due to the French influence, Luang Prabang also has a lot of bakeries. After 3 weeks of mostly noodles and rice, I was desperate for some bread so I was in heaven. Cakes, French bread and avocado sandwiches kept me going for two days. Plus, the night markets here are great and you can get an all you can eat buffet for about 2 dollars.
The highlight of Luang Prabang (and maybe even the whole of Laos) was the Kuang Si waterfalls. I have never seen water that turquoise, it was truly magical and made even more spectacular by the stunning nature surrounding it. I was lucky enough to go with some adventurous people who ignore signs that say ‘Do Not Enter’ and I am so happy that we did! We were rewarded with a infinity pool overlooking the lower waterfall pools and a cave under a waterfall. As most of you know, I am not usually lost for words but there is a first time for everything. Truly incredible and anyone who visits Laos should not miss this! This photo is the closest I could get to capturing its beauty!
Next, we headed to Vang Vieng for some tubing and partying! The hostel we stayed in gives everyone half a bottle of whiskey every night for free, so as you can imagine it was quite popular with young people. I’m not sure how much I trust spirits in SE Asia, you never know if they have got the proof right – what you think is 30% could be 70%! We went on a mini bar crawl and then to a ‘jungle’ party which sadly was just in a garden not the actual Laos jungle. Still, great to go to a bar outside and there were lots of fairy lights and good music. This was to be my first very bad hangover on my trip, and I was expected to drink again for tubing the next day. I just don’t have the stamina for drinking anymore, is that normal at 27?!
We left for tubing the next day around lunch time and I was prepared for a crazy day of drinking. It was a really fun day, mainly because it was spent with awesome people and we had such a laugh. The scenery is breathtaking, reminding me a lot of Jurassic Park (tried to make a GoPro video with theme tune but couldn’t remember it!). Don’t go tubing on your own, it’s only fun if you have a good group really. The Vang Vieng tubing scene has quietened down a lot in the last few years and for a good reason. A few years ago, the riverbank was home to lots of bars offering travellers both alcohol and various drugs. There were also rope swings and places to jump into the rapids, which coupled with intoxication is obviously a disaster waiting to happen. Sadly, disasters did happen and a few young travellers ( a number of whom were British) died. Luckily, the authorities in Vang Vieng reacted to this and have since put a number of restrictions on the tubing. Now, there are only two bars and no drugs on offer – but we still saw some very silly people absolutely trashed trying to enter the river after the first bar. If we hadn’t been there they might of drowned but luckily Holly persuaded them to get a tuk tuk. I’m totally up for a few drinks but what is the point of going travelling and spending your entire trip out of your tiny mind! You’ll just end up going home with fuzzy memories and a bad headache. I admit that I have had a few big nights out in my time, but some people here do it every day and I just don’t understand. SE Asia is beautiful and there is so much to do other than getting trollied. Also, alcohol is cheap here but you can still easily end up doubling your budget. I’m not sure if I have a good point or I am just old and boring now! Think probably a mixture.
After Vang Vieng, E&V and I said goodbye to our new friends as they were going on to Vietnam and Cambodia. All the goodbyes are making me very emotional, but at least I still have my lovely German girls for company! Here are some silly pictures from tubing, the GoPro catches people at their most sexy!!!!