Crossing the border and party town
Up and about early the next day. We were ready to hit the road and make our first border crossing. We took the hotel tuk tuk who turned back halfway there after a phone call, as I had left a portable charger that didn’t work. We were convinced it was a scam and felt pretty bad when he charged us the correct amount at immigration. From there we stamped out of Thailand and got on a cramped bus over the friendship bridge. We were stood on the bus until a girl squashed onto the backseat and insisted we sit down so we crammed onto two seats and relaxed while we watched the Mekong go past from the window. Visa control was pretty simple and we then took a 60baht each tuk tuk to Vientiane.
We had debated the pros and cons of staying in Vientiane and after some research decided not to and we were glad we made the decision as there wasn’t much that we were interested in seeing. So we got some food and organised a ten dollar mini van to Vang Vieng. A place that doesn’t quite have the reputation of old but is still a must see spot for backpackers. Our first impression of the van wasn’t good, old and with huge cracks spread across the windscreen, it didn’t bode well. However the journey was incredible, the views amazing, as we were being thrown from side to side, up and down, and back and forth as the driver negotiated his way past pot holes, missing parts of roads, goats, motorbikes, chickens, and water buffalo. It was interesting to watch him slide across the road to overtake everything in sight and dodge oncoming vehicles. As we drove through small towns that turned into small villages we relaxed and enjoyed the ride. Making our way into the mountains and forests of central Laos. Seeing the karsts for the first time was spectacular. Each time we peaked at the top of a hill we dove down into more fascinating views than before. I tried dozing off a couple of times but my head just ended up cracking off the window and I wondered if previous occupants had caused the cracks in this one.
We arrived in Vang Vieng near an old airfield and were again set upon by tuk tuk drivers offering to take us to the centre. Luckily out hotel was 2 minutes walk away and we found out later the centre was 5 minutes across the airfield
We walked down a small path to our hotel which is a collection of wooden houses surrounded by foliage. We felt like we were in paradise.
A swift re-energise and we were ready to go. Travelling had taken around 6 hours in total and we were looking forward to exploring the town.
We crossed the airfield after realising our street was devoid of life in any of the bars or restaurants and found the main street, full of backpackers, hostels and bars infamously playing friends. We sat down in one bar where you take your shoes off and lounge on a platform with a small table in front of you and ordered drinks. I went for a Lao Whiskey bucket with sprite for the equivalent of £2. It arrived in a childrens sandbucket and I was asked to check it was strong enough. I couldn’t really taste any whiskey so the host added more! The others just ordered beers as the cocktail man wasn’t arriving for another 20 minutes. By this point all I had had to eat were some cashews and pretzel sticks so I headed out into the night to find some street food. As Laos was a former French colony they have baguettes and pancakes everywhere, so I opted for a hotdog, bacon and cheese baguette. It was sublime, lots of filling and greasy, just what I needed for a night on the town. Arriving back to Leia and Liam hunched over a mango daquiri bucket I was offered to taste it as they had decided it tasted like grass, which it did, Grass soaked in Bacardi. Tonight would be a fun night.
We decided to check out the rest of the centre and wandered round spotting people returning from the tubing we were going to be doing the next day.
We settled down in a bar playing friends, something I had read was quite popular in bars here. It was comfy we had beer and the temperature was perfect. After a couple of beers here and a pancake for Leia we knew the Manchester derby was on so we went looking for a bar with the game on and duly found a busy street with an Irish pub playing the football. It’s regrettable that we’ve ended up in two Irish bars in 6 days but needs must!
The place itself was filled with the obnoxious sounding travellers we were worried about coming across. Glazed looks on there faces and girls two drunk to string a sentence being seduced by several guys.
We got a £1 beerlao and found a seat with a partially obscured view and soaked in the atmosphere. It was actually quite fun but we’re not the best bunch to strike up conversation so it was left to Liam to chat to an irish girl who announced she had slept with a German guy earlier in the day but who later went home with a Canadian man. Maybe the hedonistic vibe of Vang Vieng still survives. We got chatting to the Canadian man’s Canadian friend who had never met a Welsh person and barely knew who Tom Jones was.
Several beers later and we stumbled back to the hotel via pancake and burger stalls ready for tubing the next day.