OK so 'Hello' in Lao is almost the same as Thai, but whatever! So our trip over the border wasn't off to a great start as the promised '6 to half 6' pick up didn't arrive until half past 8! Despite this the 12 hour bus journey was surprisingly OK! Nina and I managed to blag our way through immigration (we obviously don't look suspicious!) and got on the bus to Vientiane. We arrived at our guesthouse - a luxury for us this time since there didn't appear to be any cheap spots online to prebook! The glorious sum of a tenner a night did, however, get us a private bathroom AND, wait for it....a TV! I don't think I've ever been so happy to see an electrical appliance.
Since we were in Vientiane mid afternoon we went for a wander around the city and got a tuk tuk up to the Vietnamese Embassy to get our visas sorted so we could actually enter the country, since they don't do visa on arrival like everyone else, difficult so-an-sos! Online we'd been told it was a 2-3 day wait, but, oh happy days, we got it sorted in about 15 mins. Becca 1- Embassy 0! Pretty tired from our what seemed at the time, oh how we'd learn) mammoth coach trip, we went to bed pretty early and watched Cheaper by the Dozen - like I said, pure luxury after weeks without the sight of an english language TV! (really need to sort out my priorities...)
Friday had its ups and downs! On the plus side I got to speak to Joe for a bit, although the internet cafe was full of kids playing some kind of game - can't quite work out why they weren't at school, slackers. We also walked along the riverfront, which was surprisingly Mediterranean-feeling, and had some streetfood - I personally had a full fish on a bamboo stick which was delicious. We also found a beach side park with gym equipment, which I ran to with delight! After a quick ten mins pushing my own body weight around and pumping the guns, I felt very happy! Then onto the bad news..my camera decided to jack in after only 3 weeks of travel! It just refuses to focus on anything, and I haven't even dropped it or banged it or anything so I can't work it out. my only advice to anyone is DON"T GET A LUMIX!! This is my 4th in about 6 years, they are just not reliable. Going to try get a canon or something in Singapore I think. Anyway this means that Nina and I are down to 1 camera between us for a while so I won't really have any pictures to share unless you check my facebook, as I'll be posting links from Nina's photobucket account. Frustrated doesn't quite cover it!
Despite this we had a pleasant day and went to get cake to cheer me up. Laos was occupied by the French in the past so there are a lot of bakeries, and EVERY meal comes with a baguetter, it's a bit bread mental after Thailand never having any.
We went out for some happy hour cocktails at a nearby bar after a chill out in the room, then wandered over the the 'Drop Inn' which is 3 doors along from our guesthouse, from where we would have one of the most amusing and random nights of our trip so far! We met 4 guys there - 2 Swiss who we didn't speak to that much, a Canadian called Brent who is part Native American (he had a card and everything) and a big bearded, long-haired German called Heinze. Heinze was, in a word, a legend. He wore a kilt and played the bagpipes, and was generally just hilarious. We even made him bring the bagpipes to the pub and play them for everyone, to much applause. Anyway, Brent takes people on fishing trips in the summer and is generally OK off (I hope!) so he took us up to a club in the big fancy hotel nearby (which had an amazing Christmas tree in the lobby) and bought a big bottle of gin for the 4 of us to share (the Swiss had gone home). Heinze and I had a dance off, much to the amusement of all, and we all generally had a good boogie before going home, via a noodle soup stop.
On Saturday Nina was greatly regretting the masses of gin consumed as we had a 5 hour minibus up to Vang Vieng. To say the roads were rough is an understatement - they are more like dirt tracks, with potholes everywhere, hairpin bends with no crash barriers, and massive lorries squealing towards you at every turn. You basically take your life in your hands. Everything is covered in this crazy red dust as well, no wonder the scooter drivers all wear those masks! As I had taken the gin steadily (so grown up) I felt fine and spent the journey just trying to stop a pile of backpacks falling on my head! We found alovely spot in Vang Vieng for 30,000 kip a night, which translates to the princely sum of around 2.40 (none of these keyboards have a pound sign, grrr).
As Nina said numerous times, Vang Vieng is just built for hangovers. Every bar serves stodgy western food (and a baguette with every meal) and every bar shows friends or family guy 24/7. On Sunday we were going to go tubing, but the weather had other ideas. it was too cold to sit on a rubber ring on a river all day so we decided to try and be ab it cultural and go find some caves. Apart from tubing that's about all there is to do there. This was a mistake as we found some caves and paid 10,000 kip to get to them, with a guide, then upon leaving what was basically just a hot, damp, clay covered tunnel the guide turned round and expected 'money money'. Well I wasn't impressed as we'd already paid the entrance fee, but upon fear of either mugging or attack by his friends nearby we gave him 5000 kip and ran away. We wandered around for a bit longer then chilled in front of Friends (a common theme to the VV tale) before hitting the sack, in the hope of tubing tomorrow!
I'll leave my tale here and pick it up mid-river, with a bucket in hand...