Vientiane – Vang Vieng (4.5 hrs 20,000 KIP)
The first thing i noticed when i arrived in Vang Vieng was the stunning scenery that provides a backdrop to this little town. The second thing i noticed when i left the bus station was that i’d walked on to a construction site! This is 10 times worse than what i saw in Luang Prabang : there are huge gaping holes between the road and the pathway (if you can call it a pathway!), there are huge piles of rubble, half-dry cement, and the continuous noise from the construction vehicles which occupy every road in this very small town.
The town is a strange mix of traditional village life and extreme urbanisation and westernisation : almost every cafe (and there are plenty of them) is advertising western food and when you look inside they are filled with Westerners fixated on the T.V in front of them, watching endless episodes of Friends. Lonely Planet did not lie!
Seeing not a lot else to do in this town other than join this zombie nation, i decided to take a walk over to the other side of one of the bamboo bridges that cross the Nam Song. For this priviledge i had to pay 2000 KIP! Over the other side of the bridge was a sign to Lusi cave (2km). I followed the arrows directing me on a pathway through ricefields and towards the limestone mountains that surround Vang Vieng. After approximately 30 minutes of walking i came to a small opening through some trees. I paid my 5000KIP to the guy at the entrance and proceeded to begin a very precarious climb up some rocks and very unstable bamboo ladders. In parts there was a sheer drop below the rocks and no safety fence, and if i’d have lost my footing i may not be here to tell the tale.
At the top , yes there was a stunning view of the countryside surrounding Vang Vieng but not a cave in sight. I’m not sure what kind of con was going on here with the non-existent cave but it certainly wasn’t a very safe one!
This evening i followed Lonely Planet’s recommendation to eat at The Organic Mulberry cafe. However, not only had they run out of mulberry shakes at the Mulberry cafe but the waiters didn’t seem to know whether they were coming or going : i ended up with about 4 drinks when i’d only ordered one! Moreover, the food took about 40 minutes to arrive, although it was very tasty when it did eventually do so.
After eating i booked a caving, tubing a trekking excursion for tomorrow and went in search of a bar that didn’t have a T.V, and a very empty search it turned out to be. All the pretty little drinking establishments i’d seen earlier on down by the river seemed to have already said goodbye to their last customers. My best option seemed to be the Keomani Restaurant, a popular bar with seating on the floor, mood lighting provided by little paper lanterns, and the words Magic Mushrooms grafitied flamboyantly on the wall. However, what really sold it to me was the fact that the chilled out music was playing loud enough to drown out the football on T.V.
I spent the evening in the Keomani getting drunk to the sounds of The Red Hot Chilli Peppers with a long-haired German hippy called Dominic, and eventually stumbled back to my guesthouse at 3am, contemplating the fact that i had to be awake for an activity-filled day within the next 5hrs!
Photo is a view of Vang Vieng’s limestone mountains, as viewed from the other side of the bamboo bridge.