Slow Boat, Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng
25.09.2012 - 03.10.2012
We took a two day slow boat from the Thai/ Laos border down the Mekong river to Luang Prabang. Before we got on the slow boat, we had a quick stop off at "The White Temple". A temple designed by a controversial Thai artist who wanted to combine popular western culture with traditional bhuddism. From a distance it looks really impressive, and as you look closer you begin to see some bizarre statues and paintings which appear really out of place. For example a statue of predator and paintings of star wars, spiderman, Bin Laden and the twin towers to name just a few! Very odd! The walk in is meant to symbolise tyhe journey through hell to heaven so you walk through some bizarre sculptures of hands and skulls coming from the ground!
The slow boat was a great way to travel, as the views down the Mekong were incredible- untouched scenery and remote villages with kids playing in the river dotted along the way. It was also nice to be out of a cramped bus for the long journey and cruising along with cold beers and a breeze was ideal! We met a good group of people on the boat including some Canadians, Dutch and some Northerners from Wigan. After spending three days with them we got to know them quite well and have been travellling through Laos with them ever since, along with our Chillean friends and Australian friend Maverick (yes his name is Maverick and the top gun jokes are not always well received!) who we met whilst trekking.
We really enjoyed our time in Luang Prabang and overall it's probably our favourite place we've stayed in so far. It had a really chilled atmosphere and wasn't too busy and there were lots of things to do in around the town. On our first night we went for a nice meal altogether, and the bars around the town, then ended up in a bizarre asian nightclub with ridiculously loud electro music, but no dancefloor! But all the people were really friendly and buying us drinks!
The next day we visited a national park with waterfalls and a bear sanctuary just outside of Luang Prabang. The bear sanctuary hosted asiatic black bears and seeing them upclose at feeding time was good. We then went onto the waterfalls, trekking half an hour or so to the top where the view was amazing. After getting hot and sweaty on the way down we had a refreshing dip in the waterfall pools. We spent a couple of hours swinging off trees into the water by a ropeswing and diving off he mini waterfalls. We got some good photos and action shots!
That evening we went to the night market and ate an all you can eat dinner for 80p!
By the time we finished dinner all the bars were shut as they have a 11:30 curfew in the town! So we went to the only place open late at night which was the bowling alley! It was packed full of backpackers and we had a quality laugh into the early hours. Our bowling was shocking but we put it down to the beers, but it was weird as everone else seemed to do alright! When returning back to our guesthouse we found the biggest spider we had ever seen in our room and after a traumatic ordeal with Rob being a wetter jumping up on the bed, Arch lured him onto Josh's pillow and we threw it out towards the girls room down the hall- then they discvered it in their room the next day and came out screaming so Josh, armed with a flip flop, provided the muscle to knock it for six!
After another day relaxing by a pool in Luang Prabang, we got a 6hr bus down to Vang Vieng, the famous touristic tubing town. The drive was pretty sketchy and we went up
up some ridiculously winding roads with some sheer drops, again surrounded by breathtaking scenery of mountains and small villages in the distance.
We were expecting a really busy place full of tourists but it was fairly quiet but the backpackers and tourists still managed to pack out a few bars through the town. It was quiet as it's the off season but mainly because the towns main attraction of tubing with bars and zip lines has been shut down by Lao police as there were 27 deaths last year from the tubing! You can still go tubing down the river though, so we did that, about 35 of us that went down the river together from people we met over the last couple of days, so we had a few cool boxes full of beer and floated down the river peacefully enjoying the mountains in the background, stopping now and then down the river. It looks odd floating past the bars that have been smashed up by police, its a bit of a ghost town and weird to think a month or two before there would have been thousands of people tubing down the river with music blaring. The tubing was really enjoyable and we made a good day of it anyhow.
The day after we rented out bikes and cycled roughly 10 miles to a blue lagoon and caves just outside of Vang Vieng. We were cycling in really nice rural areas away from the touristy shops etc. It was so nice to see the typical Laos villages and kids playing in streams and families going about their day. The views and scenery were stunning, Laos is such a beautiful country, especially in the areas away from tourist bars and shops. The caves were really impressive and there was a Bhudda shrine deep into the cave which looked unusual in thepitch black darkness. Swimming and rope swinging in the blue lagoon was nice too, especially after getting so hot and sweaty oin the ride up! We also met a local man with a bear cub which he told us he had bought! It was real cute and we had a good time playing with it but it probably wasnt in the greatest hands as Maverick got bitten whilst it was playing and he managed to drop it on the floor!
All the best,
Ben, Rob and Josh x