We arrived in Luang Prabang finally after a marathon 9hours on a cramped boat! LP is much nicer than its predecessor Pak Bheng. It's the second biggest 'city' in Laos, it being more akin to a cosy village in England though. Still it has a nice atmosphere. We got accommodation with some of the people we had met trekking in Chiang Mai. The next day, Sam and I visited the Royal Palace. Laos was a monarchy up until the 1970s for those interested! Had the best massage I have had during the trip afterwards!
The evening's activities were focsued on the 'temple' party taking place in LP. After a few drinks in a bar that could easily have passed for one in Soho, we wandered up to find the most bizarre gathering. Think Sunday school summer fayre mixed with Beer and a Yamaha keyboard. Not sure my pictures convey the true hilarity of the event but anyway.... It emerged that this allegedly 'all night rage' was to raise money to build a new roof for the temple. It did however seem somewhat sacrilege to be drinking heavily in a place of worship!
The whistle stop tour of Laos continued the next day as we got up early for a 5hr bus ride to Vang vieng, a small town well acclaimed among backpackers for its 'tubing' and no this isnt something rude! It simply entails hiring an inflatable donut ring for about ten pence and floating blissfully down the river, stopping only at the riverside bars for a Beerlao (great beer by the way), a sunbathe, or a ride on the crazy zip lines they have by the river. Suffice to say, it was a great afternoon out and one not to be missed by anyone visitng Laos! Vang Vieng itself is a sleepy little place with most of its backpacker inhabitants contenting themselves to laze around in the many restaurants watching DVD's, many made comatose by the 'happy' pizza and shakes available at such restaurants!
Monday - we travelled to Vientiane, the capital of Laos in yet another mini bus. I was a little disappointed by the capital, preferring Luang Prabang. Howver this was probably exacerbated by the fact that we had little time to explore it properly as Sam and I were to depart for Cambodia tuesday evening and also we were booked into the perhaps the s***test guesthouse in Laos -although it was dirt cheap, emphasis on 'dirt.' However, we did manage to find a bowling alley which amused us for a couple of hours!
Overall, I have really enjoyed Laos. It's exactly how people describe it -really chilled out, would have liked to have spend a little more time here but we have to speed on to Cambodia. Sam and I have taken the exectuive decision not to go to Vietnam as we just dont have enough time and it would mean spending more hours on a bus than any human being should have to go through. They dont really do trains here in Laos and Cambodia!