Last Few Days in Laos

Date: 19/04/2007 | Author: Gabby

We ended up staying at Khone and Khune's in Luang Prabang for nearly 2 weeks. We were all very sad to leave our new friends. As we had stayed there for so long we felt we had to speed through our final 2 destinations in the country, Vang Vieng and Vientiane. The south of Loas will have to wait for another trip
After a 6 hour drive along windy roads, mountain passes and stunning scenery we arrived in Vang Vieng just as the sun was setting. We had booked accommodation in Ban Sabai Riverside Bungalows overlooking the Nam Song river, as we had been told that the town itself was pretty noisy.
Vang Vieng has become a bit of a mecca for backpackers. The town itself is pretty awful, it's full of bars and restaurants with blaring TVs showing repeat episodes of Friends, The Simpsons and the like. The mountain scenery surrounding the town is amazing, huge limestone escarpments, great rivers and an abundance of incredible caves. We only had one day there and made the most of it - an organised day out with about 8 other backpackers. We explored 4 caves, one with a river running through it which we navigated on inner tubes - pitch black and the girls loved it. After a great picnic lunch we spent the afternoon on the same inner tubes and floated or paddled (depending on how strong the current was) down the Nam Song back towards Vang Vieng. The river has bars and giant swings dotted along it's length, allowing farangs and locals to take a cooling dip in the river. It was the day after the official last day of Laos New Year and it was still in party mode. Many farangs get stuck in Vang Vieng for weeks and spend large parts of their day sitting at the bars drinking, getting stoned, taking the odd dip in the river. It really is the closest to a beach vibe in this country - I completely understand why people are drawn here. It's just a shame the town has become what it has.
Ella and Florence really enjoyed our day out, not just caves and the rapids (which weren't too ferocious as we were approaching the end of the dry season), but the opportunity to interact with other travellers. Ella is becoming particularly independent and spent most of the day hanging out with 3 Swedish girls. Dave's (frequent) offers of help (I think he wanted to hang out with the Swedish girls) on the steeper rapids were refused, she was out to prove she could cope on her own.
We didn't really do much in Vientiane, Laos' capital, on the banks of the Mekong and a 4 hour drive from Vang Vieng. It's possibly about the quietest capital city I have ever encountered. With a lot of wiley manipulation, I persuaded Dave that we should stay in Vientiane's loveliest hotel The Settha Palace. To be honest, it wasn't that expensive and with the South East Asian currencies tied to the US $, these usually inexpensive countries are a bargain at the moment! It's a gorgeous old colonial building, beautiful wooden floors, 4 poster beds, a fantastic swimming pool in beautiful frangipani filled gardens - a great way to end our time in lovely Laos.
This is a country I definitely want to come back to - it is really beautiful, the people are lovely and there is so much more to explore!

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