Ryan here for the first time, sorry its been so long since the last blog!
From Luang Prabang we took a 6 hour, 12,000 Kip (11 Pounds) minibus south through the mountains to Vang Vieng. Crazy driver creating a rollercoaster affect aside, the scenery was breathtaking. The road ran up and down over the mountains and we passed relatively untouched Laos communities where local children came up to the van and found my camera fascinating as I took pictures of them and showed them the images.
We arrived at Babylon hostel (NEVER STAY HERE, all will be explained later) and checked in with the English manager, who over the years has had a constant intake of drugs and alcohol that he has lost the ability of speech. Every word is slurred and difficult to comprehend. His staff consist of a series of ladyboys. Its not just a myth, they are everywhere! The rooms were very average and the beds hard as nails, but it was about 3.50 a night each and we had to book for 11 people and it was the only one available (we booked for the people we were travelling with and others from the jungle trek that were meeting us there, who we were very excited to see again).
The address of the hostel said that it was on 'Main Road', which could easily be renamed to 'Only Road', thats how small Vang Vieng was. But we loved it! For those of you that don't know, the whole town pretty much exists so backpackers can get drunk and float down the river on a tractor inner tube. Heaven! During the day there are loads of bar/restaurants that play constant episodes of Friends, and I mean all day, to recover from the night before. For those of you that have lived with me, you know I enjoyed this! The seats in the bars are just cushions on a raised platform so its perfect for the hungover state of mind.
We went tubing twice, with a day to recover inbetween. Both Dan and I agree, 2 of the best days of our lives! It's also one of the most bizarre experiences ive ever had. We rented out our tubes and got the van up to the start of the course and the first bar, where we were presented with a free shot of tiger whisky and a giant swing. The whisky was there to encourage use of the swing, that plus two beers just about did the job! The bars (and swings for that matter) are made out of bamboo and overhang the river. The music was pumping, the sun was blistering and the alcohol was flowing. It felt good to be alive! We jumped in the river with our tubes and floated down the river, making it approximately 6.8 metres before some guy threw out a rope and hooked us into the next bar. This was the general theme throughout the day. Beer, ropeswing, beer, zipline, beer, massive slide, beer, bucket of whisky and mixer, beer. Good times. It got to about 5 and we needed to be back by 6 to get our deposits back. We were too far gone to care, but someone slightly more sensible in the group of us (now 13) rounded everyone up and sent us floating. 6 o clock came and went, still floating. 6.30. Dark. Cold. Mosquito's everywhere biting the crap out of us. Noone else on the river. Too drunk to get worried, but eventually we saw life on the river banks and some locals hooked us in and started a fire so we sat round it and started singing. Then they brought us, you guessed it, more alcohol. We had to pay them to take us back on this dodgy river taxi, arriving back at the shop at 8pm, no deposits in sight! Speaking to people later that evening, they thought we were crazy for trying to tube all the way down. Everyone just gets out at half 5 and gets a taxi back to the rental shop. We learnt from our mistakes and did that the second time!
Checking out of the hostel to leave for Vientiane we had an altercation with the previously mentioned hostel manager. Im not usually an angry person but he is just the worst human being in existence. One of our rooms had a hole in the roof and when it rained (our first rain of the trip so far) the whole room was soaked, including peoples belongings. We thought that we shouldnt have to pay for the room the night it happened or it should be discounted. Not only did he say we had to pay for that, he also demanded we paid for an extra night because we were checking out at half 12 and check out was meant to be at 12, even though it didn't state a check out time anywhere. We were trying to reason with the guy and in the end he locked the shutters at the front and started threatening us (there was only me, one other guy and a girl there, everyone else was at breakfast). I told him the three of us were going upstairs to talk about it but he chased us up the stairs and was being extremely aggressive with his ladyboy worker trying to push him back and calm him down. He was a bit of a psycho so in the end we paid up to save even more drama! I reiterate, DO NOT stay at Babylon hostel.
The hungover bus journey to Vientiane (capital of Laos) was not pleasant, with a certain member of the group throwing up out the window. It was only 3 hours so wasn't too long. Vientiane offered very little in the way of entertainment, so we didn't do a lot and just let our bodies recover from Vang Vieng. We had to say some sad goodbye's to people we were travelling with that were going on elsewhere as well.
That's it for our time in Laos. We both loved the country, its laid back lifestyle, the culture of Luang Prabang and the fun of Vang Vieng.
Now, back to Thailand.....
Hope all is well with everyone back home.
Ryan and Dan