just chilling and tubing in Laos
20.03.2010 - 03.04.2010 20 °C
In Lijiang I had booked up my bus to my next stop, Dali, before going on my trek to Tiger Leaping Gorge this meant I could chill out the day after I got back. The journey to Dali was only 5-6 hours, one of my shortest in China, because of this I took a late morning bus as taking it overnight would have been pointless not saving or gaining me anything. On the bus I had managed to get a seat right at the front on my own meaning no people sleeping on me, loads of leg room plus I was next to the water dispenser (bonus) and thanks to all this the trip flew by. There was only one heart stopping moment when the driver braked so hard behind another bus it Fishtailed and for a couple of seconds I was looking out of my side window down the highway, not something I want to do again!!! When I arrived in Dali, just outside the old town, the usual welcome party was waiting for me to take me everywhere I didn’t want to go, but after a bit of haggling I got myself a ride to the Hostel.
To get to where I was staying the driver took me through the old town which looked pretty interesting and out the other side to the door of “the Jade Emu”. I’m not going to lie while here I checked out the town once with some guys who were teaching there and the rest of the time I took it easy with guys from the hostel shooting pool playing darts and generally doing very little so yeah pretty boring. After a couple of days I packed up and got on another short journey From Dali to Kunming where I was literally spending one night arriving late to just fly out the next morning (this is mainly because I had one day left on my visa and had to get out of the country, so couldn’t do anything).
The next morning I was up early ready to leave the hostel to go the Airport and after my last Chinese “rollercoaster” Taxi ride I was happy to be leaving China. That isn’t to say I didn’t like china it was just a lot of hard work especially on my own but I would still recommend it to people, but will warn them of what to expect before they go. I passed through the airport with no hassle and was on my plane, a little dual propeller fold out steps kind of thing, to Laos in no time.
The flight was fairly smooth and it was great watching the land change beneath me as we were flying, a lot lower than normal commercial flights. Had an interesting lunch/snack served but it hit the spot as I hadn’t eaten that morning. The Landing in Laos was far from smooth with a bit of bouncing down the runway but thankfully it made it. Once it stopped we were walked out into the heat and across the Runway to the single terminal building. Inside, me and the only other westerners on the plane went to sort out our visa’s. Here I came into a hitch in the form of Laos not taking RMB and only taking US dollar for their Visa’s thankfully the other guys had some spare dollars and I managed to get into the country. After customs we exchanged some money up and I paid them back before all jumping into a Taxi to The city.
Ok, Laos I didn’t know what to expect from anything and was so happy when everyone spoke English making me like it more than China within the first day, especially as my trip just got a whole lot easier. In Vientiane (the capital of Laos) I spent two nights which to be honest was too long, you only need a day in the city, but in a very nice hotel so I did spend a bit of time chilling and organising in there getting free room service and English TV. After the two days of walking around doing very little but enjoying a new part of Asia I jumped on a bus and headed north up to Vang Vieng for a bit of partying.
Now Vang Vieng really wouldn’t exist as more than a lonely little village in the middle of nowhere if someone hadn’t decided to build an “Adult Water park” along a dirty river alongside this I’m sure once sleepy town. I use Water park loosely but it is the best way to describe the; rope swings, zip lines, high platforms, slides, Mud volleyball (wrestling) court and bars standing on stilts into the river along a long stretch of the river, serving buckets of unbelievably strong dirt cheap cocktails and named this glorious experience “Tubing”. Tubing again is justified by the fact you can rent inner tubes to float down the river from bar to bar but on the whole that cost about the price of two drinks so most people me included just jump in, via a huge rope swing or zip line, and swim between the different bars (you can walk between most of them but that’s no fun.
My time in Vang Vieng extended longer than my initial intended stay due to the great group of people staying at the hostel called “spicy Laos” which was like a little paradise with bamboo tree house style dorms and open plan common “hut” room with hammocks etc on the edge of the jungle overlooking part of the river. The stay also extended generally to having a good time and generally not wanting to move on. Eventually after over a week of injuries, just a twisted ankle cuts and grazes on my feet knee and elbow, drinking too much swimming in the dirty river I handed my resignation into “spicy” and headed off to Vietnam by bus.
I think the journey from Vientiane to Hanoi could almost over take my worst journey so far, but due to the lack of little children vomiting the whole way, it comes in a very close second. Kicking off very hung over at 8 am for the bus south to Vientiane wasn’t too bad except for the hangover in full swing over the bumpy twisty roads of Laos. 5 hours later we arrived and waited to change to a sleeper bus to do the long 27 hour push direct to Hanoi. Now that sounds long but is even longer when the beds on these buses are designed for these little people who live in SE Asia NOT big westerners, like Myself, which means sleep is very difficult and the time passes so much slower. Anyway the first part of the drive was ok chatting to people around me then the lights went off and the hint to sleep was enforced after a few hours more with the odd few minutes of sleep we stopped and didn’t start moving again till morning. Eventually at 6 am we arrived at the border, after a short drive, and what a Circus that was 20 busses all queuing to pass through and the bus full of westerners all having to walk through the office and fill out paper work with reps from all the other buses climbing over each other and us to get to the front of those nonexistent Asian queues. After the first border, leaving Laos, we (the westerners) had to walk a couple km over a bridge in the early morning mist surrounded by jungle to the Vietnamese border and then fill out more paperwork and show our visas. After farting around the border for an hour having to carry our bags through for some reason we got back onto the bus we stopped once for food and arrived in Hanoi at about 8pm after another 10 or so hours without sleep. Now the next challenge began Vietnam...