After spending a few days in Bangkok (more on this later), I treated myself by taking the overnight sleeper train to Nang Chai, a border town between Thailand and Laos. However, it turned out not to be the comfortable journey that I imagined and the spotlight bright lights were on the entire night, meaning the little sleep I got was of no good quality.
Anyway, to stop complaining, I arrived in Vientiane (you have to pay $35 for the visa and the capital city is around a 20 min tuk tuk ride from the border) on the 25th October, which, as it so happens, was the day of a boat race festival to mark the end of Buddhist lent. Except there was no boat race, as far as me and the other people from my hostel could tell. The only boats on the Mekong were the usual rickety old motorboats. There was indeed some large street market, but if this was the festival, then it is the strangest festival I have ever attended.
I moved on from Vientiane quickly via a 4 hour minivan ride to Vang Vieng.
I had not known what to expect of Vang Vieng. A quick google is enough to give one a sense of the history of the place as a backpacker destination: it was known for it’s partying, drug-taking and ominous “tubing” (where you sit in a rubber ring, float down a river, and stop off at bars along the way, inevitably getting shitfaced).
However, nowadays the place is a little changed. There is still a small backpacker community, and tubing along the river is still offered by hostels, but the majority of activities revolve around outdoors and adventure, which, I must say, Vang Vieng is spectacularly placed far.
Just coming into Vang Vieng and going down to the riverside is breathtaking. There are huge, green mountains rising out of nowhere from lush, green fields, and they seem to stretch on for miles.
There is plenty to do here, and I was happy to go on a $13 tour for tubing through a cave (a bit of an odd experience where you sit in a rubber ring and pull yourself along by a rope with a headtorch through a dark, cavernous cave, and also for kayaking, which I enjoyed greatly.
A spent another day exploring the exquisite countryside on a scooter, hiking up to a spectacular viewpoint and going to Blue Lagoons 1 and 3, both of which have things to jump off and both of which I recommend.
An overnight bus, and I arrive at 4am in Luang Prabang, luckily being taken in by my hostel. I, again, wasn’t sure what to expect of Luang Prabang, but what greeted me was a quiet town along the Mekong. There is a hilltop temple, a busy place to go and see the sunset, and a night market with good “fill your plate with veggie food” buffets for 15.000 kip (~$2), but overall there isn’t much else to do, unless it’s through excursions.
But for me, there is no more room in my budget for more excursions in Laos, so it’s onwards and eastwards to the next destination.