Thursday, 18 April 2013

Vang Vieng and Vientiane!

As we were expecting, the pace has slowed considerably since entering Laos...

In recent years, Vang Vieng has transformed from a sleepy town with little more than a potholed track, to the self styled "tubing capital of the world" and a major hub for party hungry travellers!

This is the deal. You get a large tractor tube, go a few km up river, tube down the river stopping every few hundred metres at a bar, most of which offer 'happy shakes' and have jumps and slides into the river. At least that was the jist of things until about a month or so ago!

After a string of recent deaths surrounding the river tubing (20 deaths in 2011!) the government has finally imposed strict fines on river side activities. That has pretty much put and end to it all.

Our experience was really relaxing. There are now just three bars open along the route, and that is all we needed!

I think Vang Vieng is going more upmarket now, catering more for the hiking and climbing than the drink and drug fuelled tubing.

Back in town, every guesthouse/bar had Friends playing on repeat at pretty much every hour! presumptions of them, assuming all westerners like Friends. Good job we do!! We actually catered 'Friends watching' into our itinerary.

Eventually we managed to pry ourselves away from Joey and Chandler and onto a bus, bound for the capital-Vientiane!

The capital of Laos, Vientiane is sat perched across the Mekong from neighbouring Thailand. It has been Laos New Year whilst we have been here. This involves everyone taking to the streets with water pistols, hoses and buckets! As we found out, you literally can't go anywhere without getting soaked. It is pretty fun and the theory is that this 'scented water' washes away all of the bad, setting you up nicely for the New Year ahead. Win-win!

On a more somber note, we have probably had our largest bout of illness since we have been here! Of course, I will spare you the details, but lets just say we will be avoiding the fruit shakes and spicy soups for a few days. Every cloud has a silver lining though, in that we are in the best/least worst place in Laos to have been ill!

This hasn't stopped us enjoying the local morning and night markets, food stalls and rooftop bars though :)

In terms if the next stage of our travels, our plans have changed daily if not hourly over the last few days!

We were planning to head South into Vietnam around Hoi An but after being accepted on an awesome 1 month volunteering placement in Hanoi, we are heading North instead.

We are volunteering with a community development organisation, helping teach English to children In Hanoi and the neighbouring towns. In exchange we have all of our food and accommodation sorted, and hopefully a lot of local travel tips for our time off in the area too!

We are pretty excited about this, and sorted our Vietnam visas yesterday!

Today we embark on a marathon sleeper bus ride into Vietnam and Hanoi...

Wish us luck