oh no... its been too long again... it feels like homework!
11.05.2008 - 20.05.2008
Arriving in Luang Prabang we set off with some of the people we'd been on the boat with and found a hostel right next to the best book shop and some of the bars. We showerd and changed and headed out for a drink in happy hour then on to another bar for dinner. Again happy hour on Lao Lao drinks so after dinner and the bar kicked us out we wondered where next to go.
Laos has a curfew of 11:30 so that you can be home by 12. However, it appears that in Luang Prabang a small bowling alley outside town has gotten around this and you can stay out till 3 AM!! We duly found out this was the only option and not being ready for bed jumped in a shared taxi with two english guys. They warned us to make our expectations as low as possible and we might still be dissapointed... they were right... THe bowling alley was an interesting place. 6 alleys and a bar and then some plastic tables and chairs and that is literally it. But never mind, there was beer or a wine cooler (awful - we didnt even try it but someone else did) and then eventually after getting bored of the bowling alley we headed home.. where the taxi was double strangely!
I woke up at about 8 then slept again till 9. Leanne was out cold so i showered and set off for some wondering about down the beautiful wide streets. EVentually i caved and went and sat in the book shop for a cold lemon juice. At this point i think i should introduce you all to my favourite discovery (number 2 is noodle soup from a street stall with lots of chili!) Lemon juice here is a bit like lemonade in england yet so so so much better. Maybe its the small green lemons (not to be confused with limes, though how you tell them apart i have no idea) they have a much stronger taste that is some how sharper and i dont know how the sweeten it but they do and it is just fantastic, not too sweet because there is still the strong sharp taste of the lemons. Poured over a glass of ice, its just the best thing in world (well except in bangkok where i got someone to put a bit of vodka in on the night before my birthday)
So there i sat with my lemon juice and slowley the rest of the group from the night before arrived and we decided to set off to the waterfall. Leanne had also surfaced so we grabed another shared taxi thing and off we went, it was truely one of the most amazing things i've seen so far on our trip. You walk through a park with a bear section and a tiger section that contain animals rescued from illegal trading and trapping and then head up to the first of the pools of blue blue water pouring over rocks, a few more up each increasing in size and you come to the top most one that is giant! With a due amount of posing for photos and climbing we returned to our favourite pool and plunged in, me from the sides, leanne off the top of the waterfall at that section (about 9 feet we think)
We arrived back in the town as the night market was setting up and strolled through that vowing to come back. AFter some restoring cake we headed back to our guest house only to be distracted by booking ourselves in for a massage and reflexology the next day. After dinner we found the night market shutting at 9:30 so just headed back to grab a drink while we read by candle light before bed. The next day we climbed the giant hill that luang prabang is built around to the temple at the top and the buddah's foot print there. As well as seeing some caves with a shrine in and a figure of a man painted in flesh colour that was just erie after all the golden buddahs.
We hit the night market after our relaxing treatments and picked up some paintings of the monks and a duvet cover set because we could.. We had missed the start of the film in the book shop so just read again intending to have an early night to get up at 5 to see the monks process through the town and give alms. however the alarm clock decided to chose this day to get tempramental so we missed the monks and morning market but were still up intime for our mini bus to Vang Vieng. A bit dissapointed but at least we were up for our bus!
Vang vieng is a resort dedicated to tubing and friends re runs on dvd, definitely high up on the list of fun activities. We settled in and strolled through town on our first afternoon decided to tube the next day. We were up and out and hired our tubes and got the tuk tuk to the start of the 4k run back to town (there is a hard core 10 k route but not many people do it) You arrive at the first bar and can stop for a drink before you even get in but we decided that some water sports were necessary so floated down the river inside a giant tractor tyre inner tube to the next bar where we scrambled up a scree slope to discover that the bar workers will throw out a line and bamboo pole to drag you in to the steps.. doh! Not being ready for the free shots of lao lao wiskey or a bucket (like a pitcher of cocktail) we just shared a beer. AT this bar there is the first jump, its also the biggest, 10m i think i read somewhere. Anyway off leanne goes to climb it and gets to the top and grabs the rope... and bends her knees... and stays there... and backs away... and tries again. Meanwhile i'm safely on the ground with the camera not even able to get up the ladder. She tries again but long story short she decided the ladder was the better way down so we floated onto the next bar where the jumps were lower. This time i decided i was going to try as it was less high so i got three steps up the ladder, took a look down, a look up, a look down and scrambled off the ladder asap! However my effort spurred Leanne in to action not to be outdone by me she took off this time and landed with a satisfying plop into the water below.
And on it went at all the future bars with her confidence growing and mine staying with me on the ground... eventually later in the afternoon near the end i decided now or never as if i didn't do one jump while we were there i knew i'd regret it. So grabbing the arm of pam, a canadian equally scared of heights, i set off up the ladder (her first)... At the top she goes so i have to.. but i'm wussing out big time, and shaking and sweating and shallow breathing and not even sure i can hold on the handle of the rope swing... so turning to the chivalrous gentleman behind me i requested a push. He offered to count me down first to see if i could do it and then promptly pushed me off the edge at 2 instead of 1! So i swung and screamed and shut my eyes... and didnt let go! so kept swinging on the end of the rope until i calmed down to hear them yelling to let go from the ground below so i did and dropped in to the water where i stayed for a good 10 minutes till i calmed down. The guy behind me followed into the water
"wasn't that the best thing ever, you enjoy it? gonna do it again now right?"
" no it was not the best thing ever, yes i enjoyed fearing for my life and no i will never do it again!"
Back into the tubes and off we floated, at this point we had bumped into the two women who had helped pick up Leanne in Bangkok when she became over heated so we floated on down the river with them in a big group at sunset knowing we would arriving in darkness as there was still another 45 mins to go. However in a group this didnt seem like a problem. Untill Leanne decided she had had enough and let go of us and set off on her own, i lost sight of her but wasnt too worried as we also knew the people ahead of us. Eventually we got out scrambled accross some reeds and got back to the tube return point. However leanne was not there waiting for me, nor had she turned in her tube but the people ahead had... There were still people coming in though so i figured she might have stopped off at another bar or something... Eventually while i'm imagining the worst and having to get a boat out to find her, she walks up from the wrong direction. She had floated 30 minutes walk down stream too far and had eventually got out because of the bugs and found a tuk tuk driver who directed her back for her 30 minute walk back into town... A hot shower and some restoring food later we were calmed down and metup with the canadians we had spent the day with.
The next day every muscle we owned ached from swimming, hanging, screaming, lying in tubes etc so we just watched the friends re runs during lunch and the morning and then sorted out our mini bus to vientianne before getting in some hammocks to watch the sun set and the tubers come in along the river.
We left on the morning of a power cut which made filling up with petrol intersting for the first section of the journey. Leanne was sat on the fold down seat so had a completely numb bum meanwhile at the back i'm getting rained on, all in all the best journey we've ever had! Arriving in Vientianne went smoothly in that we arrived not to a bus station but the centre of town so we grabbed a nice - ish, clean -ish but not cheap guest house before sorting out some washing from our delightful river'd clothes. As it turns out there really is not a lot to do in Vientianne and its really pretty dull... Luang Prabang had stolen our hearts and this newer capital didnt have a lot to say from its self, we managed to do the museum (great descriptions on the exhibits from the 1980s more communist era) the concrete version of the arc de triomph to those who died during the wars, never finished and just.. ugly, and the oldest temple that wasnt sacked during hte many invasions. And still had mornings and afternoons wondering around doing nothing till our bus was organised to get us to Vietnam and that is a whole other story in itself so given the time it will have to wait.. but its a goodun!
(we are now in Hue having been through ha long bay, hanoi and are on a sleeper bus open ticket south via hoi an, nah trang and ho chi min city - or saigon)