From Vientiane to Chiang Mai
After realising there was very little to do in Vientiane we made sure we didn't waste any time there and took a bus to Vang Vieng the next afternoon. We took in a few more temples in the morning before leaving and caught the bus. We were heading to the place not long ago that was responsible for 25 traveller deaths per year. Tubing in Vang Vieng was and still is the main attraction. It involves hiring a large inner tube from a lorry or tractor tyre and floating down the Nham Kong river stopping off at a few bars and having a few drinks along the way. Until 2012 there was over 80 bars along the 4km stretch it's now been chopped to just two. Still we had a great time we decided to meet up with the people we met on the bus the previous day and off we went. It was a lot of fun. Although at first it seemed quite daunting having someone throw a rope at you and pulling you in to the bar. After a few beerlao's it was second nature. We spent the day drinking with the backdrop of mountains and the river playing volleyball, basketball and football with local kids and other travellers.
Vang Vieng is the place to be if you want to just laze around. Every bar/restaurant has lay down booths with endless amounts of cushions and they all play Friends on repeat. All day. Every day. It's incredible. Neither of us realised how much we liked it and now miss it. We woke up the next morning and with the same group headed to the blue lagoon where we had another much deserved rest at a natural pool and headed to it's accompanying cave. Despite the smell of horse manure filling up our nostrils the place was good and Laos was pulling itself together. We decided that we had better pull ourselves away from Friends and the $1 beer and head north to Luang Prabang. Another bus journey spent with locals that took 7 hours instead of 4 was had and we arrived late at night in the pouring rain having to settle for an overpriced cell of a room with a shared bathroom that even a university landlord would've decorated.
We swiftly checked out the next morning found a new guesthouse put our stinking clothes in for washing and reached for our lonely planet guide. Luang Prabang was very quiet and has two rivers running either side, the Mekong being one of them. We got some breakfast next to the Mekong and chilled out some more. Southeast Asia is sooooo relaxed no one is in a rush to do anything and this is especially true in Laos. We spent the afternoon visiting the museum, dodging the rain and took the hike up Phou Sy to watch the sun set behind the mountains. The only sad thing about Laos is that it doesn't really have much of its own food so asides from Lap (a spicy minced meat dish served with rice) it was more standard noodles and pad Thai. What was great about Luang Prabang & I think Ellie's favourite thing about Laos was the endless smoothie stalls that sold Oreo & banana milk shakes among 459 other flavours. The rain didn't really stop and caused a power cut on our second day so we headed to the waterfall which was quite nice and swam and weirdly looked at the bear sanctuary, which we weren't expecting at all. We had to get back as our bus to Chiang Mai was leaving at 6pm. It had rained all day and wasn't showing signs of stopping so we didn't mind sitting on a bus and heading back to Thailand.
We left yesterday and was picked up by a tuk tuk for our 18 hour journey to Chiang Mai. We got on the bus at 7pm and stopped at 1am because of an accident. We didn't move until 7am the bus was hot and because of the mountain roads we had nowhere to go. We should have arrived at the Laos- Thailand border at 7am and been in Chiang Mai by 1pm. 21 hours later we got to the border. Tired hungry and with greasy hair we got scammed some more and ended up having to buy another bus ticket to Chiang Mai on the Thai side. We're still not in Chaing Mai and it's 8:30pm now so 26 hours and counting. We should be there by 11:30 hopefully and complete a ridiculous 29 hour journey on a bus.
We have booked our flights to Burma as well so our plan now is to stay here for a week and go to Pai in that time and also spend a day with Elephants before flying to Bangkok. From Bangkok we'll fly to Burma for a week and then back to Bangkok before heading south to the Thai Islands for two weeks. We hope the heat wave doesn't last too long at home and fingers crossed that the Russians don't shoot down any of our planes.