We arrived in Vang Vieng having heard mixed reports. Undoubtably the biggest draw for a lot of travellers is to go "tubing" down the river and stopping at the many bars that dot the river bank, each with unique and increasingly dangerous ways to jump back into the water. Others had raved about the beauty of the remote location and the excellent rock climbing and other activites. Another good reason to stop was that it offered a tempting halfway house on the way to the capital at Vientiane which would have made a punishing bus trip in one go!
In the end we stayed far longer than anticipated - celebrating my birthday on the 9th January with hiring motorbikes and heading south to a beautiful turquoise blue lake and we passed school children who waved and shouted as we went by. We even made use of the wretched TV bars when it all got too much, where they play endless hours of Friends episodes and we just vegged out and ordered food and drinks as we slumbered on the cushions.
Most interesting was the wonderful and spectacular scenery with the clear blue water of the river (where we spent a memorable afternoon watching the kids diving and catching fish for their little fire by the riverbank - if only all modern childhoods could be so healthy!) and we explored some caves and went rock climbing with an excellent guide whose name was "G". The photos show some weird and wonderful angles of our beauteous forms dangling precariously... Cheryl and I enjoyed it very very much and the adrenaline rush was fantastic. It was topped off with climbing within a cave a stalagmite to stalagtate formation known as "scary tuna" because the stalagtite resembled a fish (well maybe after a few beer laos, eh?!) and was a weird sensation and required a massive leap of faith to ascend one and to then lift off and place you weight onto something hanging down! It is something that we would both very much like to do again, although I'm not sure that an indoor climbing wall quite compares to the natural beauty of the limestone karsts we were climbing...
So after a suprisingly good time in Vang Vieng (which we were prepared to be a bit sniffy about beforehand because the write up in the guidebooks is not particularly complimentary - but hey, the guidebooks seem to be handy purely for the maps) we boarded the bus to Vientiane, the capital city.