We landed in Vientiane, Laos after a 50minutes flight from Hanoi, Vietnam. It was a bit of a shaky take off which nearly left Zoe with a couple of broken bones in her hand as I was squeezing it so tight! We got a complimentary lunch box but the contents looked a little bit odd (I swear there was a jellied squid in there) so we left well alone. I enquired as to the price of a beer though and they too were complimentary so it would have been rude of me not to take one wouldn't it! Zoe stuck to the soft stuff though. After dropping our bags at the hotel we headed out for a local meal and had duck for the first time since getting out here. It was really really nice, melt in your mouth succulent, but the portions were really stingy, we both literally could have eaten it again! We had a little walk around the town, saw a live band playing by a big fountain in the centre, a Loation lady singing Adele but sounding like Shakira. Weird. The river front there was really pretty, lots of little lanterns lighting up the bars and restaurants, we'd left the cameras charging though and only had the iphone so didn't manage to get too many good photos which was a shame. We had a walk around the river front night market though and bought a couple of bits and bobs. Zoe bought a bracelet and some elephant earrings, and I bought a Beer Lao t-shirt, declining Zoe's advice to try it on as it looked big enough and let's face it, when did you ever last see me wearing anything in a Medium or bigger?! I hadn't reckoned on the Asian sizing though because I looked like a gay boyband member when I tried it on back at the hotel and donated it to Ellis. We had the following morning to explore Vientiane, which was a shame because we'd have loved to have spent more time there, it was such a beautiful city. We made the most of the time we had though and got around the main sights, armed only with the little map on the back of the hotel's business card. We ate at a grillhouse that we'd seen the night before, sharing a massive dangling kebab. The beef in it was cooked medium, which as you know, we'd normally turn our noses up at, but we demolished it, and even reckon we'd go for medium to well done in future!
From Vientiane we travelled the 4 hours by bus to Vang Vieng, the home of the infamous 'tubing'. For those of you not familiar, this is the one where you float down the river in a rubber ring, getting pulled into bars all the way down, and the bars ply you with free booze and get you good and drunk along the way. However, last month the government shut all the bars down because last month alone, 8 tourists drowned, having been plied with opium and magic mushrooms in the bars, so the government literally burned the majority of them down. We booked onto a tour there on our full day where we had a little trek out to the mountains and did some tubing through the water caves there, pulling ourselves along through the caves and then floating out the other side. It was quite dark and dingy in the caves so we had little torches strapped to our foreheads. We ate lunch there, chicken kebabs and rice served up on banana leaf, and then kayaked the 10miles down the Mekong river back to our hotel. We managed to stay afloat and didn't capsize, but one of the rapids caught us out and we got marooned in some bushes for a while until our guide came and got us back on track. We had a bit of a big night out that night in a bar that kept showing 'Friends' on big TVs and had a bit of a drunken walk home barefoot after unsuccessfully trying to swap shoes for some reason (that's what whisky red bull buckets will do for you!).
Of course what you want when you're hungover is a 7 hour bus ride through the mountainside, and that's exactly what we got as we made our way to Luang Prabang. I don't think we drove for more than half a mile at any point without twisting and turning and weaving left or right it was horrendous! The views were absolutely spectacular though, so that made up for the pain somewhat. That evening we went out and had a little walk around the night market and ate street food, all you can eat for 70p and it was amazing! We were having 1 last beer in the hotel when some of our group came back and told us one of the other girls, Becky, had had her bag snatched just around the corner from the hotel. We rushed down there to make sure she was OK, just as the police were escorting the thief back the the spot. A passing undercover policeman had given chase and got him, and her bag back. We went to the police station with her where she had to give a statement etc., and were nicknamed Aunty Zoe and Uncle Lee by everyone from there on in! The next day was probably our favourite day so far. The rest of the group all booked on full day elephant treks or waterfall trips for 60-70pounds but we paid 15 to go on an elephant ride through the jungle and waterfalls, and it was amazing! We took our own private tuk-tuk and long boat to the sanctuary where the elephant rode us out into the jungle and then through the waterfalls. It walked us straight through the water, where there were another couple of elephants with people doing the same, and the elephants started splashing and spraying each other, soaking us in the process, but it was awesome. We had bought bananas and bamboo and were feeding the elephant as we went along, every so often he would stop and present his trunk and take the food from us. We had lunch at an Aussie bar back in town and ate street food again for dinner after shopping at the night market. After dinner, we went to a little bar on the river called Utopia. We literally laid at the end of the bar overlooking the river, had a few drinks, and then played volleyball with other revellers in the volleyball court built into the bar! We were on separate teams, and despite the best efforts of some a******* dutch bloke, weren't keeping score so no one really got bragging rights! The next morning we got up at 5.15am to go and offer alms to the monks. We bought rice and spring rolls and placed them into the pots that the monks carry. There were hundreds of monks passing, some no more than maybe 12years old, it was such a great experience, well worth getting up for! From Luang Prabang we made our way to Pak Beng, and boarded a family's boat that took us to Chang Kong, Thailand. We spent 2 full days on the boat, 10 hours on the first, 6 hours on the second, docking in between where we stayed the night in a gorgeous little bungalow on the Mekong River. The boat was covered so we didn't get chance to sunbathe, but just took in the views as we cruised down the Mekong, played cards and relaxed to pass the time.
Back in Thailand, we had a little dip in the hotel pool when we arrived and headed out for dinner, but Chiang Kong isn't the liveliest of places so we all got some drinks from a local 7-11 (where I'm still not sure if we were served by a man or a woman, but hey, that's Thailand for you) and sat out by our rooms and chatted, and watched funny youtube clips till gone midnight. The next morning we drove the 5hours to Chiang Mai, and had a little wander round the city and found a MacDonalds for lunch. After a month on Asian food it was heaven! That night we had a bit of a mad one as it was Becky & Ellis' last night with us. We started on a rooftop bar with great views of Chiang Mai before pub crawling through a Reggae bar, a bar called Zoe in Yellow, and Spicy bar. We crawled into bed at 3am and were up early the next morning to go on a traditional Thai cooking course. We were taking to the market to buy ingredients and then to the school where we got our own little station and ingredients and made 4 our own 4 course meal, after watching the 'teacher' show us what to do, we cooked and ate as we went. The food was beautiful, we made spring rolls, sticky rice with mango, chicken & coconut soup, chicken with cashew nuts, traditional Thai noodles, Thai green curry, and phanaeng curry. We got a little recipe book to keep too, so we'll definitely be trying it out again when we get home! That evening we boarded the last of our sleeper trains, destination Bangkok. This train was different to the last, there were no private bunks just a communal carriage where the attendants came at 8pm to convert the seats into bunk beds. We just sat around drinking, playing cards, and watched American Pie: The Reunion on Jules' laptop to pass the time. We had one fat attendant who kept walking through the carriage, and his colleagues seemed to like pulling his trousers down as he went. The first time they did it was right by us and the guy was carrying a tray of stuff so had to waddle straight past us with his trousers round his ankles, we were all crying with laughter it was brilliant!
Anyway, that leaves us back where we started on our tour. It's Saturday morning and were back in Bangkok. One last night as a group tonight on Kao San Road, then everyone goes there separate ways tomorrow. We have 1 more night here and then fly to Phuket on Monday afternoon for 10 days of island hopping. We're going to have 2 nights on Phuket, 3 nights on Ko Phi Phi Don, and then 5 nights on Ko Samui before we fly to Australia on the 25th. That keeps you all up to date for now. Hope all is well back home. Until next time,
All our love, Lee & Zoe x x x