Dondet, Lao Peoples Dem Rep
Haven’t updated for a while, we’ll blame a combination of poor internet and bone idleness!
Vang Vieng Next stop after Luang Prabang was the party town of Vang Vieng, it’s somewhere we’d both been secretly dreading after reading reports online we thought we’d be the oldest ones there – Vang Vieng is reknown (infamous) for the tubing scene, basically floating down the river from bar to bar getting ****** and trying not to hurt yourself on slides and ziplines into the water – but it turned out to be not as hardcore as we expected and actually there was a wide range of people there.
We found a decent place to stay after a bit of a walk in the hot hot midday sun far enough away from the noise of the bars but near enough to feel part of it, the view from our balcony was awesome.
It’s true that bars do show Friends and Family Guy on a loop but not everyone and not every bar offers a “happy” menu either. We decided to be brave and have a go at tubing, we didn’t realise it was St Patrick’s Day so there were a lot of green people about including one guy who was sprayed from top to bottom in green car paint – we would have got a photo but he was charging!
Our tubing experience was really good fun, we chatted a few Scandinavian guys for a while at the first bar as well as Alan, a 70 year old Aussie guy! At each bar you get a free shot of whiskey and a friendship bracelet which, if you’ve been there for weeks as some people have, you can wear as a badge of honour.
After a few beers at the first bar we floated over to the next which had a zipline and after weeks of telling ourselves we weren’t going to do anything daft Sharlie had a go! It was good fun and despite me almost losing my flip flops – I didn’t think to take them off before having a go – much to Sharlie’s mirth, we both survived no doubt fuelled by the buckets of whiskey and mixer.
A bar further down had a slide which we also had a few goes on as well as a trapeze swing – we got some good footage on the camcorder but it takes too long to upload.
What they don’t tell you when you hire your inner tube is that there aren’t that many bars at the moment so we quickly ran out of places to go so though we’d float the 2.5kms back, we started off well but as it’s dry season the river was quite shallow in places and we almost ground to a halt, luckily we found a river taxi to zoom us back before dark.
One thing we’d recommend if you’re thinking of going tubing is to just pay for the tuk tuk up to the first bar and take it from there, we found the bars more fun than the actual tubing plus you have the pressure of making sure it’s back on time, we fully intened on doing this the next day but were too achey from the previous day’s exploits!
Apart from tubing we mostly lazed around and, yes, we did watch some Freinds!
We got to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, in a minibus which although quicker than the big buses was a hell of a lot more bumpy! The roads in Laos aren’t great at the best of times but there were long stretches of road that seemed half finished so you’d have a few hundred yards of tarmac then rubble – t’was a twisty, bumpy ride.
We stayed at the Orchid House Hotel which we stumbles on after the place we wanted to stay turned out to be not so nice, cheers Lonely Planet, it was a bit pricey but we had aircon and cable TV! The aircon was a godsend as Vientiane was H O T!
We stayed for 3 nights during which we visited the night market which sets up on the riverside prom type area, hired bikes and cycled to the local version of the Arc de Triomphe, Patuxai and visited Svensons ice cream parlour for a cooling treat.
We mainly ate at at local restaurant places rather than the more traveller orientated establishments which saved some money as well as providing us with some delicious grub although I was served up the spiciest plate of food I’ve tasted at one! We almost opted for the stir fried frog at one place but were glad we didn’t when we passed the bowl they were sitting in on the way out!
We booked tickets to our next destination, 4 Thousand Islands or Si Phan Don, an overnight bus – yippee!
Si Phan Don
The bus journey was our first experience of overnight VIP buses which we were pretty impressed by considering the standard of some of our previous ones, we had a double bed with pillows and blankets, water and in Sharlie’s words, some ****** rice for dinner, we had the berth right at the front which was good in one way as we had some light to read by as the overhead ones weren’t working but also meant we could see what was coming the other way!
The big bus took us as far as Pakse where we transferred to a smaller minibus which took us to Ban Nakasang where we got a ferry aka a long tail boat over to Don Det which would be our home for the next 5 nights.
The place we stayed our first night was a wee bit grotty, we didn’t realise until after we’d checked in that it didn’t have a basin! We slept well however but decided to find somewhere over on the sunset side of the island for the remainder of our stay, and we found somewhere that cost a little bit more but had 2 hammocks and a great view of the river.
Don Det is the kind of place where you can sit in your hammock and let the world go by, it’s such a chilled out place. It’s meant to be the party island of the 2 twinned islands – Don Khon being the other – but we found it to be a very relaxed, cool place to hang out for a while.
We rented tubes once more but had a much different experience to Vang Vieng, we just launched ourselves and floated out into the river and enjoyed the sunshine, it’s a good place to meet other people and we shared a meal with a big group of folk we’d just met, it wasn’t the best food but was good fun, we went to a bar afterwards too and had a couple of buckets before curfew at 11.30 pm meant everything closed, that probably saved us a terrible hangover!
The next day we were invited by Lisa and Dan, who we met when we arrived, to Happy Bar’s sunset BBQ and this was one of the highlights of our time there, a big group of us set out on 2 boats to a small strip of sand on an island down the river to sunbathe, drink cool beers and, if that way inclined, enjoy the local “happy” stuff, something we passed on I hasten to add! A delicious BBQ lunch was included of chicken and veg skewers, rice and potatoes – yum. We had music courtesy of a massive portable speaker, sitting on the sand with “Summertime” playing was fantastic.
The next day we hired bikes with Dan and Lisa and headed over to Don Khon to visit the Tat Somphamit waterfalls and the little beach, unfortunately for me one of my flip flops broke on the way there, I had to use all my Ray Mears’ skills to fix it, I was almost defeated though when the second one went moments after we reached the waterfalls! We managed to cobble something together to keep them on my feet though.
The beach was tiny and was more of a patch of sand with a little bit of bank where you could get in the river and have a dip, it was nice and cooling although you couldn’t go out too far as the current was really strong. We had a bit of drama after Dan, Sharlie and I had gone for a paddle, Lisa was went missing! We searched around for best part of an hour and a half before discovering her bike had gone turns out she cut her foot and went back – we thought she’d been kidnapped!
We really enjoyed our time on the island and in Laos in general, our next stop, via ferry and bus was Cambodia!