I am currently submerged in the most Thai experience I’ve had my entire stay here, riding the public bus back from Laos to Bangkok. How did me and my roommates end up in this situation? Well part of it was refusing to pay tourist prices, another was our lack of logistical planning but mostly we had to get to BKK as soon as possible to make it to the one class we have this week. Yeah one class! I don’t know why teachers here reschedule classes so often. Anyways so far on the bus we are the only non-locals, everyone keeps looking our way curiously probably thinking we’re lost. We’ve made 4 stops so far and in every stop an influx of venders infiltrate the bus selling anything from fruit, rice, and a whole chicken. I thought the chicken was just impractical but apparently it’s the most popular item, for like an hour the bus smelled like a BBQ pit.
So enough of about the bus and how was Laos. Wow what can I say it’s probably one of the most un-tampered natural places on Earth. Like always we had to take a train, a few taxis and buses to reach our destination. Our first stop was Vientiane the capital but honestly there wasn’t much to see, we had dinner and then hit the road. Our next stop was Vang Vieng, home to the infamous Laos tubing. I think I have to break it down for you what use to happen little city. Along the Mekong River, Vang Vieng set up hundreds of bars, tourists floated down the river on tubes and took stops at these bars and either get completed wasted or purchase heavy drugs like opium. This resulted in 20 deaths in 2011 alone so the government shut down all the bars after the last death this year. Now Vang Vieng is a ghost town compared to the backpacker mecca is once was.
But if anyone in Laos skips this city in their travel agenda they are completely mad. Tubing is still open along the river and I think it is probably better without the bars. Me and my 2 roomies were the only ones floating down the river, there was no noise, no music, just the mountains and the sounds of surrounding nature. It was a completely unique experience for us since it just recently that the bars closed. I’m sure nobody cares about the scenery when they are hot-messes floating to their death. When we were reaching the end of the river we were approached by a group of kids offering to help us out of the river. Little did we know that they had mud balls to hit us with if we didn’t give them money. One the girls even broke my roommate Helen’s tube because we wouldn’t pay up. We ended up running away and finding a great place to have dinner and watch the sunset over the river.
Vang Vieng not only has tubing, it’s a place full of adventurous activities. All the organized tours are expensive but you can do anything on your own half the price if you find a local guide with a car. So the next day here we found a guide and went tubing inside an underwater cave, simply amazing. They’ve set up ropes so that you can pull yourself through the cave. It is completely dark except the flashlight on your head, when you look up inside you can see the rock formations and the stalagmites. Next we wanted to see the blue lagoon it was in none of the lonely planet books but all the locals raved it was awesome. In this secluded part of town lies this lagoon with beautiful aquamarine waters. There are ropes and trees to dive in the surprisingly deep lagoon. When we got there was a handful of hippie backpackers doing flips from the trees making the place ever more unreal. What we didn’t know is the lagoon is right next to another cave, we decided to check it out since the entrance was around $1. Turns out the cave was a very rough climb we were all dying by the time we got to the top but so worth it. Inside the cave is a reclining Buddha that faces the one spot of sunlight that reaches the cave.
After these adventurous days in Vang Vieng we headed to the quieter city of Luang Prabang. We decided to take a night taxi (now that was interesting). Luang Prabang is on top of mountains so for 6 hours we went zig zagging up the mountains ears popping and everything. Our driver decided to drive with the windows open so we were freezing the entire time but on the plus side we got to see the most beautiful sky full of stars. I have never seen so many bright gleaming points, they felt so close I thought I could reach out and touch them. We got to Luang Prabang around 5 in the morning and the streets were completely dead silent. Out of no where we hear loud drumming sounds coming from the sky, we were completely freaked out to be alone in a deserted street and then have this mysterious ringing in our ears. It turns out the noise was the monks in a temple nearby but that didn’t stop us from running to the first guesthouse we found.
The main attraction in Luang Prabang is the Kuang Si Falls. Just 40 minutes outside of the city is this multilayer falls hidden within surrounding jungles. The waterfall was magical, something you don’t want to take your eyes off because it’s just too beautiful. I loved the fact there weren’t a lot of tourists, actually it was mostly local people having picnics with their families. I stopped to think about how simple life was here but how fun. Something I enjoyed more than the falls was the ride back, behind a truck through the mountains we saw a perfect sunset. I decided to listen to my iPod so all of this to the backdrop music of Fleet Foxes, The Shins and even some Tallest Man On Earth. Music always makes everything so much better for me so this was a pretty impressive moment in my trip. I just had a chance to take everything in and realize all the stunning sights I had witnessed in Laos. The next day we were so sore from days of trekking we decided to have a chill day. We rented bicycles to go around the town, we visited the main town temple upon a hill (with awesome views), we drank some awesome fresh lemonade, we went shopping at the market and topped off our night with massages and Mani-pedis’. It was a simple yet awesome day. At night we got on our first bus and then began our journey back to Bangkok. All three of us couldn’t wait to get back and we started to realize that Bangkok was starting to feel like home.