Vang Vieng: Entering Laos like we did, your perception of the people can be somewhat different than others crossing the border from for instance the middle or South. Here the local people felt to us even more distant and grumpy and we at first could not understand. The contrast with Thailand and the constant smiling to the ignoring and walking away and grumpy looks did not add up. But wait until it gets dark and you’ll find out. This place is known for it’s party and drug scene and thus the locals who live here have to put up with drunken/drugged up tourists swaying on the middle of the road in scampi bikini’s while holding another beer in their hand. Why is this place the party place? Tubing is the ultimate sport to do here while floating on the river pass bars that will throw ropes out to you to grab and pull you in for a shot or beer. Do this the whole day and you’ll be wasted in no time. However, this place is not only known for its party people as you can imagine the river and scenery is worth the while. Located in a valley in between huge bouldering limestone rocks the view is awesome! And also, you just have to have visited Vang Vieng as it is part of the journey.
Must Do 1
Hot Air Balloon Ride: Oh My Lordy Lord… I am afraid of heights and I honestly do not know what I was thinking. If a deodorant brand would have liked some hard core testing I would have been the perfect test rabbit. My boyfriend and another backpacker wanted to do it and I guess I figured, why not what can be so bad? And in the end it really wasn’t that bad at all… actually… it was amazing!
Yes ok, so the first 15 minutes I was frozen in place holding on to the basket railing as if my life depended on it (which at that moment I did think). But, afterwards the view caught me complete off guard and made me forget the whole situation. Looking out over the town you can see 3 other smaller villages connected with dusty winding roads and perfectly manicured rice fields in different shades of green.
We went during sunset and the mountains made a bold contrast to the rays disappearing behind them. A full 45 minutes in air and then we slowly drifted like a cloud downwards. The only thing was, there was a tree… getting closer and closer and closer… BOOM! Yup, we hit a tree right before landing and one of the limbs stuck straight out of the basket.
The weird thing was, this didn’t frighten me at all because, I had already made the calculation that if we were to crash we would survive at this height (yet the rest of the basket was freaking out).
Anyways I shouldn’t continue ranting if you’re reading this to get tips on what to do, because you seriously have to do this! Even though I was an enormous scaredy cat I’m so glad I did it.
Must Do 2
Tubing: Unfortuantely or maybe fortunately we didn’t do this yet in Laos but, I would recommend it to anyone that would go here! The reason why we didn’t go is because we didn’t have enough time due to the amazing hot air balloon ride that day. However the experience is one that many say is a laugh and must do.
Watch out though, many tourists have died here due to the drunky spunky situation and the strong waters. While gliding down the river find bars on both sides that throw ropes out for you to catch and then haul you in to take a few shots of your favourite liqueur before sending you further to the next bar.
Must Do 3
Watch Friends: I read it in the Lonely Planet but did not expect to really experience this phenomenon: restaurant after restaurant the places are filled with tv’s all playing episodes of Friends. Seriously, the lounge beds are ready for you to lay on to then stare up to tv screens filling the restaurant with the familiar voices of Pheobe and Ross. Honestly a must do even for only 1 drink, sit back and forget your worries or travel planning and laugh together at the cliché scenes of the world’s favorite tv show. Do note that it can be very addictive and one can easily loose herself while watching the 8th episode in a row. Also be warned there’s a large chance that you will continue watching Friends as of this moment after downloading the other seasons on your laptop when leaving Vang Vieng.
Living Room: This small ambient restaurant looking out over small bungalows found lower in the valley gives a great view to spot lit lampions flaring up the night sky and floating up to the stars. Owned by an Austrian man and having been open for 4 years now, the combination of Asian cuisine and the Western atmosphere gives it a great feel and contrast to the more party scene found in the streets further up. Very cozy and yumsters.
Central Backpackers: This was absolutely a coincidence how we ended up here as the tuk tuk just happened to stop right in front of this place. I have to say this was a real nice deal as the price was cheap and the rooms were clean and right smack in the middle of town, I think we paid around 10 Euros for a room for 3 people. We even had a small balcony which is great for the smokers under us and plus you get a view across the main street. The staff was extremely friendly and even helped us out when we had a confusing mix up at the bus station late in the night (waited 3 hours to find out that our bus wouldn’t come anymore, they helped us get a refund and buy a new ticket). If you want a bit more comfort and luxury head on over to the hotels located near the river. Be aware that they might cost a lot more while the rooms might not differentiate that much. The bungalows in the valley underneath restaurant Living Room looked really nice at night, maybe this is interesting.
Medieval toilet: Focus and keep your balance. Pooping and peeing has never been this exciting as you have to really aim for the hole while putting. Although this concept of toiletry was also familiar to me in Thailand I’ve noticed that in Laos it is even more standard. What is the large bucket filled with water doing next to the crouch hole you may ask? Well that my dear is the way you will ‘flush’ your belongings down. Tip: bring toilet paper because it’s often not in here and … hand sanitizer.