As we arrived in Vang Vieng we crossed the famous airstrip that put this place on the map. This was the staging area for the CIA and the secret war in Laos. In the late 1990’s early 2000’s young backpackers turned this place into a giant rave on the river. Heavy drug use and a high flowing river are not two things that should be mixed. After many young Australian deaths the Australian government demanded the Laos government crackdown on the area and regulate the multiple bars and raves that lined the river. Now only 2 bars per section can be opened each day.
The group of tubers from my hostel had already left for the river by the time I had arrived. I had met three really amazing girls from Quebec who needed a fourth person to head out to the river. So I joined them. It was absolutely breathtaking tubing down the river surrounded by lush cliffs and caves. The first bar we reached was mellow. We had a beer that came with a free shot (that I gave to a group of Koreans) then moved on. I could honestly float down this river all day. When we reached our final destination a bar full of the people from my hostel we were in shock. It was like watching a car accident and wanting to help but not knowing how. Everyone was wasted beyond comprehension. Free buckets of whiskey were given to us and we were too scared to drink anything from this place. People were doing whip it’s from balloons. They were drinking mushroom shakes. Everyone was playing volleyball in the mud. One girl pulled down her bottoms to show me and everyone else looking her special place. We finally decided it was best to go back. So we get on a songthaw full of drunken idiots and there wasn’t anywhere to sit so some drunk guy pulls me on his lap. He try’s to “cop a feel” (which I learn is a very American thing to say) so I decided to sit on the top of the tailgate the entire ride back to town. Praying I didn’t fall off the back going 40 mph. The drunkest guy happens to be a Brit and my roommate. He comes stumbling into the room after I had showered and was trying to change his clothes. Being a mum I tell him to shower first since he’s covered in mud. He tells me to F*#k off! So I leave to get dinner and go dancing with the girls I met earlier. They are extremely mature and we had a lot of fun. I decided it was time to go to bed pretty early as I had booked a tour for the morning.
The next day I was put on a tour with a Korean family of 4 and 6 Thai women on vacation from Bangkok. None of these people could swim or had ever been on a Kayak. And couldn’t speak English. It was going to be a long day.
We first hiked to Elephant Cave. A cave that is now a shrine to Buddha. Then we trekked to a cave that we tubed into. There were hundreds of Asian tourists with life jackets on and hard hats. I opted to go it with only a head lamp. Imagine a dark cave full of stalactites and a river flowing through it. Then imagine a 40 terrified Asian’s screaming. I managed to be the caboose and let a rather large distance form between us. I turned off my headlamp and just floated for a while in the dark. If I ever come back I would rent a motorbike and come alone real early before the tour groups got there.
We then went Kayaking. As I didn’t have a partner I was paired with the guide who had to wait for everyone. So I just relaxed on the kayak most of the day. We made a stop for beer then back onto the river.
After kayaking we went to the blue lagoon. Which sounds more spectacular than it is. It’s basically a swimming hole turned into a ghetto Asian water attraction. I was hungry and decided to retreat into an air conditioned restaurant. The pizzas smelled wonderful so I ordered the combination. Next time I should read what’s on a combination as I had to pick all the hotdogs off. The driver came and fetched me at 4pm when I was time to head back.
I took a much needed nap and shower before going to the Irish pub with my British roommate who apologized for tell me to F off the night before. Everyone was sad for their friend who was busted for smoking pot outside. They took his passport and gave him two options. 3 months in a Laotian prison or a fine of 500 pounds. They escorted him to the ATM where he gave them 500 pounds and they returned his passport. Now he is trying to get home early as that was a month of his money now cut short. There are signs everywhere saying there is a zero tolerance for drugs. Along with signs saying no sex in dorm rooms. If you want sex get a private room. So he knew that it was illegal to smoke pot and he did it anyway. I don’t really feel sorry for him. So I just listened and drank me lovely pint of Guinness that tasted so good after two weeks of shit beer.
I decided to get some sleep and pack as I was moving on the next morning.