It was 100,000 kip (£8) to get the minivan from Phonsavanh to Vang Vieng which took 7 hours through the mountains and local villages and wasn't as bumpy as all the other roads I'd been on in Laos. From the bus station I grabbed a tuk tuk which dropped me off at Sengkeo Guesthouse that I had already booked for two nights but it turned out it would be cheaper to just turn up than book in advance. After initially been given the wrong room, as the old woman didn't really understand what was going on (and annoyingly the first room was better than the one I ended up in) it was time to explore the town. It's predominately two main roads, one of which contained the majority of the bars, agencies and restaurants. The town is known as the party town of Laos and over the next two nights I saw why but other than drinking and tubing down the Mekong River there wasn't much on offer to do.
The first evening I met up with the group I had sort of been travelling and hanging out with from both Thailand and Luang Namtha for some food and to explore the night scene. We were given a leaflet for a free drink at the Irish bar, but before we headed there we stopped by the Sakura bar where between 9pm and 10pm they give out free drinks! Either lao lao whisky and mixer or lao lao vodka and mixer and it's unlimited until the hour is up. Dangerous but brilliant! As we had all decided to make this a tame night due to a mixture of hungover people and like me having travelled all day, we only had a few free drinks before heading over to the Irish bar to claim another free drink and then crazily, to buy a beer! I could certainly see why, with bars offering free drinks, us backpackers would enjoy spending time in Vang Vieng.
The following day, Saturday 7th February, was a very chilled out day, firstly all meeting up for breakfast to say goodbye to one of the guys who was moving on. The baguettes/sandwiches in vang Vieng are amazing! The bread is the best I've had in Asia so far. After this the rest of the day was spent sitting in a restaurant watching either family guy or friends continuously and alternating between fruit shakes and a beer. Most the bars/restaurants seem to play either family guy or friends to 'appeal' to the hungover or lazy backpackers, it definitely worked for me. That evening the lads wanted to watch the Arsenal v Spurs game (myself been a spurs supporter and one of the guys being for Arsenal) anyway I didn't attention to the game and after a few (paid for!) beers, us girls left the lads to watch the end of the game and headed back to Sakura to hit up the free drinks. We optimised the half hour left on the offer and needless to say proceeded to be rather drunk. When the lads joined us they to decided to play catch up. Randomly I bumped into a few guys I had met in the south of Thailand...I suppose all travellers in SE Asia operate on roughly the same plan and route. Once the offer of free drinks ended around 10pm we headed across the road to another bar which was offering a free drink, not that any of us needed the top up. Following this, as none of us could physically drink any more, we all stumbled back to our accommodation. But certainly a good night and more importantly, cheap, out can be had in Vang Vieng.
It probably goes without saying that the next morning we were all a tad hungover, so again we met at Smile Bar for our sandwiches...again they didn't disappoint. The only other thing to do in Vang Vieng is to go tubing down the Mekong River. Ideally this should be done by starting 3km out of town and stopping at the 4 bars that are open for a few beers at each stop. The queue to get the tubes is long and slow as you have to fill a form in one at a time, probably signing your life away and to hand over 115,000 kip of which 60,000 is the deposit meaning you have to return the tube by 6pm to get it back. On our way and due to the state we were all in, we merely jumped into our tubes at the drop off point and paddled our way back to town with only one bar stop and even then none of us could face a beer. The view going down the river was lovely with towering limestone cliffs, greeny blue water and lush green river banks it certainly helped soothe the hangover, well a little anyway. The river got insanely shallow at stages to the point that your tube got stuck on the rocks. By the end, which took us 4 hours, we were all knackered and ready to head back to relax before meeting up again for our last night altogether. Not even the free alcohol that evening could tempt all of us to drink that evening, but it was a good night to say goodbye to everyone as it will probably be the last time all of us are in the same town together.
I booked my bus from Vang Vieng to the 4000 islands for the following day which would take an easy 22 hours down to the south of Laos.