Sunday, July 31, 2011

Vientiane and Vang Vieng

Hello again,
We've been having too much fun to find computers to blog on but we finally found time tonight after we have just stuffed our faces with the best mexican we've had on this trip (which isn't saying much..)
Savannakhet was a really fun small town. We really enjoyed walking around a seeing a few temples, the dino museum, and of course tasting the local cuisine. It was small and we probably saw less than 10 barangs (white people) while there, which was nice because we like getting off the beaten path. The people were very friendly and it gave us a nice taste of the real Laos.
We took a night bus to vientiane, meaning the bus leaves at 930pm and arrives around 6am... The bus has beds and you can sleep during the ride. The bus was much nicer than the sleeper we had in cambodia HOWEVER they ripped us off about 3-4inches on the seats. Luckily there was no bar between beds so i could take up half of lilas but that was no help and i slept in fantastic 15 minute increments all night. This aside, the bus was pimped out in beautiful asian pink decor, it was really nice and cold all night.

We arrived in vientiane weary and hungry and ready for adventure in a new city. After hopping off the bus and denying the first rip off artist tuk tuk driver, we got a reasonably priced ride to a guesthouse we had heard of. It was way too expensive so we took to the streets and found a nice place in about a half hour. It was in the guesthouse dense area of town with a lot of bars and seemed like a great place... plus we had aircon and a shower.

We quickly headed out to a much needed breakfast and ate at a nice french cafe. we walked around downtown, checking out a few sites including a city park and the river.. we were exhausted so we went back to the room and watched Reality Bites- a great 90s movie and another movie called cemetary junction. We finally got some energy and headed out for happy hour at a fun bar and went to indian food afterwards. after dinner we got some desert and passed out.

After walking around all day and finding out that the only things to do were to see a few temples of buddhist sites, we decided we had better things to do and wanted to head north to vang vieng sooner knowing that we had to pass through vientiane again and if time allowed, or we wanted to, we could come back for another visit. So we booked our bus to vang vieng for 930 the next day.

We got up, got some cheap street food, and hopped on our bus.. surprisingly at 930 since no buses are ever on time... but than we waited 45 minutes before leaving... close, but no cigar..

Anyways we start on the ride and Lila instantly gets bus sick. It didnt much help that northern Laos is more mountainous and after 30 minutes the roads became constant a constant 'S' around mountain corners. We met some guys from canada about half way through so the conversation almost helped get her mind off of it... but the ride did come to an end and she survived.

We got to Vang Vieng and went to find a guesthouse with our new friends Dan and David, 2 jews from canada. We found a great cheap place and headed out to check out the town. Since the bus was so late we didnt have time to do much but walk around and relax, luckily we had friends to do this with also! And after we ate we met George and Arianne who joined the crew... Dan and David had met them on the bus.

We walked around and ended up at a bar on the river for happy hour. We had fun having a few drinks with our new friends, playing pool, and walking around the city a bit more before we went to bed.

We got up the next day and met everyone for breakfast before going tubing, the adventure vang vieng is famous for. Let me explain, this isn't just tubing, its extreme tubing. The reason being is that you dont really float as much as just float from bar to bar down the river...

We got our tubes, hopped in a tuk tuk to the river and soon were at the first bar. After a round of beer pong and free (horribly low quality) whiskey shots they gave out we headed for the next bar in our tubes. this consisted of getting in our tubes, frantically wading to the middle of the river and having a rope thrown to us from the guys at the next bar... they conveniently pull you in so you can drink at their bar. Our friend george let his hands slip on the rope and got pretyt brtual cuts all over his hands and at the base of his fingers.. ouch. 10 minutes after, our friend david had a red rash on his stomach from going on a tire swing and having the current push him as he tried to get out. And i had cuts on my knee from jumping off a rope swing and having the current push me hard as i was getting out... mind you, none of us were drunk at this point so think about how the kids that were pounding shots all day were doing...

We went from bar to bar which included mud volleyball, 2 giant waterslides, tons of music, and lots of ridiculous crowds. We finished late and ended up tubing the river into the darkness of night. After maybe 25 minutes in the river in the dark we found town, got out, returned our tubes, took a quick shower and all met up for dinner. After dinner we went to the 'trendy' bar where all of the partyers were and had a few beers and hung out before bed.

The next day me and lila got up and ventured out ourselves on a motorbike. It was the first time i ever drove a semi manual but it wasnt hard. We headed towards a huge waterfall to start. The countryside drive was absolutely gorgeous and looked something like this the whole drive (image from yahoo)
We arrived at the waterfall and it was spectacular.. after jumping off a platform into the deep pool at the bottom we headed off to the blug lagoon... A short drive later we arrived here..

We jumped off the tree a few times and than ventured into a MASSSSSSIVE cave before it got dark and we headed home on the motorbike as dusk started to set in. We made it home before dark and nothing else exciting happened that night, except the fact that we knew we were going rock climbing the next day!!!

We got up early and met at the gear shop at 830, got our gear and headed out with our guides. A short drive later and a 25 minute moderate approach we arrived at the rock... Damn it felt good to see a rock I was going to climb again... It has been about a month and a half since I was climbing in Colorado and I was itching for my fix. The guides quickly set up 3 easy routes and after Lila and i proved we were actually experienced they set up a 5.10a... for those non-climbers- this is the level that climbing starts to get tricky. I climbed it and lila was soon to follow. they than set up a 5.10d which i climbed but it was a little too tough for lila so she took a break. after this we ate lunch and than i lead a 5.10b which was really fun and exciting... After i set the top rope Lila climbed the route. We were pretty tired but the guide and i climbed another 5.10c before we headed out for the day.

There was a japanese man there taking pictures of us all day and we found out it was for a promo package the company was going to try to sell to tourists in thailand... so lila and i might be featured as climbers in their brochures... who knows, theres no copyright laws out here anyways..

After climbing we got some great dinner with 2 girls we met climbing, who were from the dc area... and afterwards ended up catching up with dan and david and going out for a beer... actually it was a beer tower... actually there were a few and we stayed up pretty late hanging out with everyone.

We got up reluctantly very early the next day to get a motorbike and check out the watercave we had to see before we got on our 24 hour busride at 130pm to chang mai. We rented our bike and took the 30 minute drive to the water cave. Here we rented tubes and headlamps and holding onto a string in the water, followed the guide into the cave. Yes we entered a cave in a tube, and yes it was awesome. After a short visit we rushed back to catch our lunch. Lucky for us we met dan and david in the street and since we had 30 minutes til the bus we ate a quick lunch before we had to say bye and head to thailand. We hopped on the bus and were the last ones on for some reason and got the best seats on the bus, the back seats... Not only were we above the blazing hot engine, but the ac hardly worked and the back curtain fell so we had the sunlight on top of us... oh yea and its the back so lilas bus sickness was going full throttle. fantasstic! after meeting some fun kids from london and hearing all about their sports teams hazing rituals our 4 hour bus ride to vientiane came to an end at the bus station. we stayed on the bus as more people boarded and headed to the border. 10 minutes later they dropped everyone off on a random city corner with all our stuff and told us to wait... we were all confused and they hardly spoke english to us so all we could do is wait. we met a guy from louisiana on the bus so we were talking with him this whole time. finally another bus came and again hardly any english was spoken so we hoped this was our bus. It was and we were soon at the border.

After 'checking out' of Laos and getting our new thai visas we got on the next bus where we got to sit in the bottom that was pimped out with tables and tv for karaoke... but this wasnt our last bus... we soon arrived at a restaurant for our free fried rice dinner which was included in our bus ticket and got onto our next and final bus to chang mai. it was about 8pm at this point and we were really excited to see we were on the nicest bus we had been on for our entire trip... it must be less than a year old, drove smoothly, and had big leather reclining seats, pretty much the best situation we could ask for. We headed out and after a night of stopping at least 4 times with a drivers nap included we arrived in the beautiful city of chang mai around 10am.

Were heading to bed soon and are leaving for Pai in the morning but will post about all our fun in chang mai very soon.

Miss you all and cant wait to see you soon!

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