The 2 weeks that has just passed has come to be known as 'Activity Weeks'. We have lunged our way down Laos using various different modes of transport and have partaken in several physical activities.
The first of these activities was getting s***faced - pissed for my birthday (Thanks to all those who left birthday messages or sent birthday emails. To all those who did not - Friendship Over!). We spent one night in Chang Khong, on the Thai - Laos border, where me a DSW had to share a double bed. Needless to say naked sleeping was forbidden that evening! The next day was my birthday and we spent it on a 'Slow Boat' for seven hours with very uncomfortable wooden seating. That does not sound like a great birthday but when you add several 50p bottles of whisky and plenty of Beerlaos then it became more like a 18 to 30 booze cruise rather than a slow boat. The booze flowed and the singing continued until we reached our destination where the booze flowed and the singing continued!. The result of the evening was Jake being extremely drunk and DSW having to carry me up a large hill to our guesthouse where I promptly ran back down apparently. After a few bungled attempts jakey finally got into bed in our guesthous known as alcatraz. Earlier on in the day we were offered a choice of rooms, one with a bathroom for 300 baht and one without 200 baht. In deciding to save 100 baht (about 1pound 20p between us) we went for the cheap option. This proved to be a bit of an error as the guesthouse or shack was surrounded by barbed wire and had one shared "hole in the ground" and tap between the whole place which was our shared bathroom. The other problem was that after i had put jakey to bed i went to go out again only to find that i was locked in. All the windows and doors had steel bars over them and we were literally in prion hence alcatraz. This did not deter the wily old pro smith-watson as the other guys were chanting for his escape he promptly went and woke up a few local laos men who were a little bit shocked to find a long haired 6ft 3 oaf wearing quite tight fitting pants with a big ol tattoo drunkenly asking if they wanted to join his army and fight for a revolution out of alcatraz. After promising them girls we broke out and headed on into the evening to harass the danish lads and the girls with daves army in tow. I think the girls appreciated being pimped out by dsw to his laos army but they did not show it, the sight of the girls face as my laos army started leering all over them was priceless.
The second 'Leg' of the Slow Boat was less fun due to a bit of the hangover and the fact that because we got to the boat late we had no seats and had to sit on the floor at the back, next to the engine and DSW actually had to sit in the stove area where he got covered in soot. This soot was used to write 'Knob' of my head which I imagine was revenge for the Charcoal Incident during the trek.
Our eventual destination was the small, but beautiful town of Luang Prabang. Our booze cruise buddies (You know who you are!) and us all went to one guesthouse. Here me, Dave, and 2 lads from Soton Uni (Yes Suchers...of course they know Jesters!) were assigned a four man 'Party Room' which had its own balcony for late night banter. The next activity was visiting a very tall, picturesque waterfall. We had been told that we could jump in and have a swim there so we trekked up to the top and then down to the bottom, and then back to the top and then we were told it was at the bottom. We eventually found it and after performing several 'Running Bombs' and a couple of 'Running Mans' into the water we went to see a Tiger and a Bear who are in Sanctuary just next to the waterfall before they are moved onto the wild. We felt we had earned a good feed and went to a Laos Bar where you can BBQ your own food at your table. DSW again proved his culinary prowess and was even showboating giving it the Ainsley Harriott jazz hands as he placed another bit of squid on the barbie. It was here that we last saw our club rep deano before he went awol, rumours yet to be confirmed but it appears the charms of a young brunette have led him north. he was supposedly travelling down th islands with us but we woke up the next morning with news of his exit and a note asking if we could pick up his washing and give it to him at the full moon party. I dont think so.
We had been told that there was a 11.30 curfew in Laos so we were going to head home when a Tuk Tuk driver offered us late drinks and we decided to hit 'The Vietnam Bar' hard. It turned out that the bar was less of a bar and more of shack with very small plastic seats and one lad selling beers out of a water cooler (A bit like the Swinley). Also, due to most Lao people being up at 6.30 to give alms to the monks it was also highly illegal and so there were many signs instructing us to keep the noise down and the 'Steps' tunes requested by Dicko could only be played on a very low volume. Due to our fairly lively drinking games of '21' and 'Fives' we were on many occasions were told to 'Shhhh' by the barmaids and we were left thinking that that does not happen in Pantiles, Bagshot.
Next activity - Footy with the locals. Me, DSW and about 8 other lads got a Tuk Tuk to the local 'Stadium' to have a kick about with the local children but the surface turned out to be worse than Victory Fields on a dry summer afternoon. The big westerners ..and me.. arrived very confident of turning over the local kids. It was winner stays on - We didn't stay on. We may not have scored a goal but it was good fun and DSW proved that you never lose it with a Beasant like performance between the sticks (which were literally sticks) and the awesome scenery all round us softened the blow of defeat. Smith-Watson did a bit of shopping at the night market on our last night and bought two pairs of trousers which were supposedly 'Reddish'. The problem with night shopping is that you cannot see the product that well and when he tried them on in the light of day they were definately bright pink - GAAAY!. As I understand Dale Winton made the same mistake some years back and has never been the same since.
The long and winding road to Van Vieng was next up and Van Vieng was where our activities really picked up. The 1st was to hire some pushbikes complete with basket and bell and explore the town.DSW looked like he was on his way to the village fete. As you can see in the pictures I had the yellow jersey due to my Lance Armstrong technique and on several occasions I left the pelaton for dead.
Another activity was tubing down a river. We were all given ringos and got a Tuk Tuk 5 kilometres up the river and started to float down. On there riverbank there was various different bars and activities with Lao people standing there shouting 'Beer Lao'. If you wanted to stop you simply grabbed onto their bamboo sticks and they pulled you in. At the stops you could zip line into the river, swing and jump into the river or just sit back in the sun and enjoy a cold lager or a shot of Lao Lao whiskey. Our dismount off the zip lines and swings, as some pictures show, were near perfection with DSW pulling off a couple of pikes and a swivel hips in mid air and entered the water with minimal splash. After the jumps we just floated down the river and then chilled out at the bottom for a few hours.
Some people in our group were very keen to sample a 'Happy Shake' after the relaxing tubing. In Laos, when something is 'Happy' it means that it is full of either magic mushrooms or opium. You can get allsorts of happy products, from Happy Pizzas to Happy Omlettes to Happy Milkshakes. A few people shared such a shake and by midnight most of them had fallen asleep or thrown up. I didn't get a look at their faces when they were puking but I imagine that it was not a very 'Happy' look.
We had to next get to Vientiene (The capital of Laos) and had the option of either getting a 3 hour bus or doing a 2 day kayaking trip and with it being 'Activity Week' we had no option but to kayak. Before we started, Dave was saying how he had kayaked before in Grade 3 rapids and was actually given his own teaching clinics to the less experienced members of the group. We were in 2 person boats and on the 1st GRADE 1 rapid DSW and his kayaking partner, Kezza, capsized not once but twice! DSW floated down the river boatless leaving his team-mate and boat stranded on a rock. Next rapid - He was in again and on the third he got past the actual rapid and started celebrating and this excitement led to the kayak overbalancng and in they went. The post mortem of these falls led to a wobbly boat being to blame. Please Note - Another pair also used this supposedly wobbly boat and capsized exactly 0 times. Also, Jakey Mant with a lot less kayaking experience and his partner Dani stayed dry and only came into trouble when trying to avoid a capsized DSW. For lunch that day we moored our kayaks and had a cheeky BBQ on some rocks which was a bit surreal but good fun and we jumped off a 10 metre high rock into the river.
That evening we stayed in a deserted wooden guesthouse overlooking the beautiful moonlake which has 300 islands within in. No people live on these islands but the locals do go there to hunt birds and other animals. Despite the ants all over our toilet it was a great setting to celebrate Dani's bday. We drank all the beer they had and a bottle of whiskey (Whoops) and discovered that the couple who were there (Brian and Natalie) play games of Pop Idol in private where Natalie sings and Brian does a Simon Cowell and Louie Walsh impression to rate her!!! Oh dear!! (Sorry guys!!). After successfully getting dani smashed she decided to give us a rendition of Bryan Adams "summer of 69" in her pants which capped of the evening perfectly and after several sightings of a rat we decided to turn in for the night.
The next day we kayaked some more where dsw got quite sunburnt, weirdly on 1 arm and then got on a public bus to Vientiene, where we are currently.
Tonight, we get a overnight bus back to 'Sin City' where we are going to stay for a few nights and then will probably head off to a couple of the islands and might catch the full moon party!!
Jake and Dave