We arrived into Vang Vieng on a proper VIP bus this time! Although, as usual we were dropped off at a bus station miles from the centre of town and had to get a tuk tuk the rest of the way. After traipsing around the town in the midday heat, we found a nice enough guesthouse that would be our base for the next few days.
Vang Vieng is a well known backpacker haven and packed full of bars and restaurants, which all run episodes of “Friends” back to back. The town is famous for its tubing adventure down the local river. Tubing is basically where you sit in a huge inner tyre and float down river stopping off at all the bars (that coincidentally have popped up along the river banks!). As you whizz by the bars, they throw out a rope to pull you in. They all have loud music blaring out and zip lines so you can swing into the river from 10 feet above. Not such a good idea after a few beers! Some of the bars have mud pits for tug of war games and some have big mad water slides that are only for the brave of heart or the blind drunk! We stopped off at a few of the bars but as we were a ‘tad’ older than most, so we decided to spend our time together happily meandering down the river ahead of the big crowds. The water wasn’t exactly warm or crystal clear and when we hit some bumpy rapids Bex was a little shaken and needed me to hold her hand!
There isn’t a lot else to do in Vang Vieng so we boarded yet another naff bus to get to the capital, Vientiane. We were packed in like sardines with all our bags packed on the roof, so the bus literally crawled along the flat roads. Going up hills, we nearly stopped!
Vientiane was in the midst of the boat festival when we arrived, which seemed to be one big market stretching down either side of the main road. Each stall blasted out advertisements, trying to be louder than their neighbours. We certainly didn’t see any boat racing!
With not a lot to do and eager to reach the beach, we only stayed in Vientiane for 2 days. We made a quick visit to the ‘COPE’ centre, which is an organisation that makes prosthetic limbs for victims of land mine accidents, as well as other people who need their care. Even though the USA were never officially in Laos they dropped over 500 million bombs over the country, of which an estimated 20% failed to detonate on impact. These bombs are scattered around the country and are still deadly to this day. Recovery projects are underway, but it will take around 30-40 years before most areas are made safe.
In the city there is an ‘Arc De Triumphe’ style monument, but it is certainly not in the same league as the one in Paris! Pretty from a distance and with Buddha images craved on the outside, it is certainly striking. Unfortunately, it has been left unfinished and when you get closer it looks like a ‘monster of concrete’ (as the Laos government say!).