Arrived yesterday in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Maybe being a little bit harsh but haven't been that impressed so far. This might have something to do with the fact we got in a terrible guesthouse. By the time we arrived all the recommended guesthouses were fully booked so alarm bells should have started ringing when the place we stumbled across had plenty of free rooms! I can't really put my finger on any one thing which was awful because there was so many! The bathrooms, the stairs, the rock hard beds, the temperature and, let's not forget, the smell! The place isn't particularly beautiful but I think we have been spoilt by everything else we've seen in Laos. The buildings are all in the French colonial style and the restaurants are the best quality we have encountered so far in Laos so it isn't all bad.
Our visas expire at the end of the day so we are catching a bus tonight to Vietnam. We have been told it is a 19 hour journey but reports from fellow travellers suggest it could be much longer and will depend upon whether the border crossing is open when we arrive! I am kind of excited because it should be quite an adventure but I think I'm more excited about being able to laugh and joke about it afterwards than the journey itself! On arrival we have decided to splash out a little bit for one night so we can have nice beds and nice hot showers. I think we will have earnt it after a night in the Hell Motel and a night on a bus!
Before arriving in Vientiane we spent 6 days in a place called Vang Vieng. We never intended to stay that long but it was so beautiful and chilled out we couldn't help it. The place is surrounded by high limestone mountains and has a beautiful river snaking down through the valley. In the evenings you can watch the most beautiful sunset and see thousands upon thousands of bats take to the sky in the distance. More importantly, Vang Vieng had a Simpsons bar with non-stop episodes all day every day, now that is culture! We didn't do a lot during the days but did pay a visit to a massive cave and went tubing. Tubing is a very simple concept, you just sit in a rubber ring and float down the river, stopping for a drink or a quick ride down a zip line, great fun! A Canadian guy and myself managed to float too far down the river though and had to face a 1km walk through Vang Vieng in just swim shorts and bare feet, we are not talking about nicely concreted roads either!
Another superb aspect of the place was the night life and the chance you got to meet loads of other travellers. It would usually begin with the nightly pool tournament at a bar. Afraid to report that I never bagged the winners t-shirt and beer crates, although probably a good thing in hindsight! From there we would head down to a place called the Island Bar to drink Beer Lao and chat with other travellers.
All in all, Vang Vieng was the sort of place you could get lost in and stay for ages so it was probably a good thing we left! Also, if we'd never left we never would have stayed in THE guesthouse last night, hang on, why did we leave again?!
Really looking forward to Vietnam, will let you know how the bus journey and Hanoi goes in due course. Will also upload my photos when I get the chance.
Lovely to hear how everyone is getting on and have really enjoyed hearing other peoples travel experiences,
Take care of yourselves,