Hello people, i'm so sorry you haven't had any updates for a while anf the whole of our time in Vietnam is missing. Vietnam was so busy, it's such a big country that we could only stay in each place for a couple of nights and it still took us a month to get through it, The plan is to keep you up to date with what we're up to in Laos and add in Vietnam as and when we can, it may be that we only up date you by adding descriptions to the photos when we add them on.
So the beautiful country of Laos then.
To get here we had to catch a bus from Hanoi in Vietnam and booked it to drop us off in Vientiane which is the capital city of Laos. The journey was going to take between 22 and 30 hours, big difference i know but basically you get the bus at 8pm (having been picked up from your hotel at 5pm, just to make you waste some more of your life!) and drive to the Vietnam-Laos border, arriving around 2-3am and then being stuck there until 7am when the border opens and you can pass through! Ridiculous i hear you say, well, you just learn to get on with it!
So we get on the sleeper bus, (there's 8 english people and 3 european people altogether) and the vietnamese man is grunting at us to sit on the back seats but me being a bit tired and balshy argued and decided i was sitting on the two seats that were together so me and Dave had our own space. I'm so glad i did because as the journey went on more and more Vietnamese people were piling on and i mean piling on, there must have been at least 50 of them! They slept on the remaining available chairs, underneath the chairs, in the luggage holds and in the aisle of the bus and 3 of them shared the one available chair in the middle of the back seats so took up most of the space our friends were meant to have, hilarious really, but completely ridiculous.
We arrived at the border as expected around 3am and then waited until we could get off and be stamped out of Vietnam. Getting out went pretty smoothly but getting into Laos was a bit more difficult, through no-one elses fault but mine and Daves!
When we were in Sihanoukville, Cambodia we had purchased a multiple entry visa and had asked specifically if it would get us into Vietnam, Laos and Thailand and was told it would. However, there was a bit of misunderstanding as when we got to the Laos border all chuffed with ourselves, thinking we would just sail through they were saying we needed to pay for a Laos visa. Whilst Dave was trying to explain to them and getting nowhere, i tried to understand what was happening. Then the penny dropped! When we asked about multiple entry and thought we had confirmed we could enter all the necessary countries, what the man had meant was that we could go into Vietnam, then Laos, then back to Vietnam. Basically we had purchased a multiple entry visa for Vietnam so actually just paid 90 dollars each to enter instead of the 48 dollars we could/should have paid. Doh! So we had no choice but to pay for the Laos visa aswell. Oh well, it is our first time doing this, we're bound of make a couple of mistakes. Really hate border crossings though, we don't seem to have much luck!!!
Anyway onwards and upwards, we got back on the bus with the 50 or so vietnamese people and carried on with the journey.
Instead of going all the way up to Vientiane we realised that we could be dropped off at Ban Na Hin where we were going to go after Vientiane. Going to Vientiane first would have meant a bus journey south to Ban Na Hin to go to Kong Lo caves and then back up again to go to Vang Vieng so made much more sense to be dropped off there first and save the hassle. It also got us off the bus at least 5 hours early aswell which was an added bonus!
It was well worth stopping! We got a taxi (called a Sawngthaew) to Ban Kong Lo village and found some lovely accommodation. To be honest though, it wouldn't have really mattered where we stayed because the views were stunning. Huge limestone rocks surrounded the village and the only other things you could see were golden fields and the odd house dotted here and there, so peaceful, we could have stayed there for ages.
The next day we took the lovely walk to the Kong Lo caves. The caves are meant to be the best in Laos and they certainly impressed. Once you get to the national park you walk through a wood and then see the entrance to the cave with a beautiful river flowing into it. The journey through the cave is done on a longtail boat. As you can imagine caves are dark and there aren't any lights apart from the headlights you can hire and the light your boatman uses to drive the boat. Creepy but amaxing. The caves are 100metres high at some points. Every mow and then they take you off the baot, the first time it is to walk though part of the cave that has a few lights and all sorts of shaped stalagmites and stalagtites (think that's how you spell them!) then at other times it is simply because the water is too shallow so you have to walk a few metres while they push the boat into deeper water. It's really cool and the boatmen amazed me that they knew exactly when it was going to be shallow and when it was deep enough.
After the caves we took a walk around the village and down to the river where there was loads of cjildren playing. They are so cute and so friendly, we had balloons to give out so Dave and Charlotte were blowing them up for them to play with then Dave showed them how to make the squeeky noise by letting the air out so they then wanted all their balloons un-tying, hilarious. Awkward little monsters!
The Laotian people are so friendly and actually just want to say hello to you (or sabaidee in Laotian) without wanting anything from you which is a change from Cambodia and Vietnam.
We stayed at Ban Kong Lo for two nights then headed to the capital, Vientiane, just for one night. We've already decided that we're coming back to Laos for a holiday because there's so much more to see than we can do in such a short space of time.
I've not really got much to say about Vientiane because we didn't really see much of it but for a capital city, it's pretty quiet and quite pretty, no high rise buildings like other capital cities.