It would be fair to say that our relationship with Vang Vieng verges on a love/hate affair. We rode out on the VIP bus from Vientiane in the morning up mild grade mountains (note: VIP only implies the name of the bus company and is not any indicator of the comfort you would expect from a company baring the name). We befriended a couple of German kids looking to get their party on but unfortunately they had to contend with the doped up chicks hogging the seats in the back of the bus. They must have had their "happy" shakes early because they weren't moving an inch. With enough shoving they did manage to utter incoherent phrases in no relation to the present moment. Good for them, at least their stomachs didn't shift back and forth from the hairpin curves. Of the towns we visited in Laos, Vang Vieng was by far the most scenic and picturesque. Aside from the views there are caves, Wats (ancient Buddhist temples), tubing, biking, kayaking, rock climbing, basically an outdoor person's wet dream. We loved it, so what's to hate? Hippies. Spring Breakers. Junkies. People who go to Laos to get drunk and watch Friends and Family Guy on big screen TVs. I know, I'm being judgmental. Next to an Indian Restaurant we had dinner at was the "happy" pizza and shake place that will spike your food with marijuana, mushrooms, or opium and it was packed with zoned out kids. The best was while we were tubing down the Nam Song there were three hippies totally doped up, one thought he was the Bionic Man trying to run through the water while his two female friends were fixated at gazing into the sky with drool coming out of their mouths. The sad part was that we didn't get any pictures of this because water plus camera equals no bueno...so some of those Kodak moments will forever be lost.
One of the many scenic spots we passed along the way.
I could live here.
The view from our guest house (Villa Aekham) situated along the Nam Song. Accommodations were plentiful and ranged from a few bucks to around twenty if you desired A/C. We're old and we have jobs so $18 wasn't going to break the bank.
We thought spending the day exploring caves and tubing was in order so we stopped by the tour operator up the street from our place and made it happen. We stated out at 8:30 am and drove 13 km north to a village of the Elephant Cave. The next couple of shots are from the village near our drop off point. One of the pluses of the tour was walking alongside the river and through numerous farms and villages, it was too bad that it was hot, biking would have been a better option to explore the area.
Village leading to Elephant Cave.
A future meal in the making.
The Buddha footprint.
There were three caves in the area known as the Tham Song Triangle that we had the opportunity to visit. From Tham Song (Elephant cave) we walked about 15 minutes to Tham Loup (the above image), although we only spent 45 minutes in it, our guide said that it went 3 km into the limestone mountain, the short distance we walked was enough for us. He told us about an American who died because the battery to his headlamp went out. Note to self, bring spare battery and a buddy.
It looks like the head from the Martians from the Movie Mars Attacks.
Our guide told us that the caves in the area were a safe haven during the war and that the villagers hiding out kept a record on the wall.
Tham Nam (river cave) was the highlight of the trio. You get yourself a tractor inner tube, a bulky battery operated headlamp and squeeze through the narrow crevice and pull yourself along the rope and float in darkness until you get bored. It was totally bitchin.
After the cave tubing experience we walked for about 45 minutes on a dirt path through farms and villages until we arrived back at the Nam Song. We were given inner tubes and sent on our way down the river. Within the first five minutes we came to MTV spring break central, also known as the water park. Both sides of the river were filled with bars throwing out lines to tubers hoping to pull in Beerlao customers. Kids were also diving from rocks and swinging on trees with music blaring in the background. We did see our German bus companion making out with his new hook-up in the river. I give him a shout out.
A farm along the way to Nam Song.
Enough was enough, tubing might be great and all, but after two hours of moving at a snail's pace and you see the halfway point sign you sort of give up unless you're the Bionic Hippy with the drooling posse. This was the end of the line for us. the river was low since it was dry season and a rock massage on your behind isn't all that fun. After throwing in the towel we watched naked Lao boys jump from the bridge into the Nam Song.
Like all the other places in Laos (except the Mexican joint in Vientiane) the food was tasty and the people were friendly. Also worth noting was the Phoudindaeng Organic Farm which promotes community programs to help schools. There was a great cartoon poster of DOs and DONTs while in Laos posted which encouraged respect for the culture meaning no making out in public and a reminder to take off your shoes when visiting temples. Again the camera was MIA.