Going north! Back to the mountains and for the first time, towards Thailand! Our days left in Lao are really few, but we were ready to make them memorable, so we left Vientiane with great expectations!
Quite easily we reached Vang Vieng in two days. This place is famous for its tubing, so we were not sure we wanted to spend time and money there. But at the end we decided that we could give it a try, mainly as it was on our way.
Tubing was fun. This is floating down the river with a huge tractor tire. At certain places there are some bars and the workers there “fish” you by throwing a rope with a bottle that you hold on to. It was a bit expensive but it was really enjoyable, plus the views while floating down were amazing. Just the end of the ride was a bit tricky and for moment there we thought we were not going to manage to get out and that we could keep floating till the sea!
And as it always happens with us … we stayed longer! But I didn’t mind at all! At the beginning I didn’t realize, but I think it might be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. It’s a pity that this place is such a huge tourist party place, full of bars selling drugs. Luckily as it was still the rainy season, we only experienced the “light” version compared to how horribly wild it can turn in high season.
As much as I liked it we had to leave. My idea of opening a nice guesthouse overlooking the river will have to wait a few years …
We had checked the profile and we knew what was coming: an incredible high and steep mountain pass, but we thought that it couldn’t been harder than some of the mountains we’ve climbed before, but … we were wrong! It can easily be one of the hardest climbs since we left Bilbao 15 months and 16.000 km ago!
We camped half way up to the mountain. Yes, we camped! Last time we actually set our tents could be in Nepal, it’s been so long I’m not completely sure. We found a quite nice place, easy to reach but hidden from the road. It even had a little stream where we bathed.
The only thing we didn’t like were some motorbikes parked there. When we were having dinner and actually had forgotten about them two guys came to get them. And they were carrying huge shotguns! They were friendly and they left quickly, but it’s never comfortable when people come to your camp with guns in the dark.
We continued and after the huge climb there were many other small ones, but also some down hills (these last ones too short and few, in my opinion). We were tired and bored of going up and down (especially up), but many kids followed us, some biking some running, and that made the way more bearable.
The last night we got invited by a schoolgirl to stay at her place. And her whole family was fine with having us there, even if at the beginning we were not sure what the parents would say. Half of the town came say hi, and probably most of the kids. It’s was nice t see how the family relate with each other and how they cut the bamboo to make baskets.
And from there straight to Luang Prabang, and the for the first time we needed a pullover! Winter is coming!
We heard many great things about Luang Prabang and … it’s ok, I guess. The surroundings are nice and the Mekong next to it makes a nice view, but it’s not that especial. Lots of temples, lots of monks, lots of shops and lots of tourists.
I really felt like a tourist again. Nowadays the monks still leave the temples at 6 in the morning to beg for food (all over, we’ve seen it in Lao and Cambodia so far), but here are there are so many of them, it’s quite interesting. Or at least it would be if there where not more tourists watching them than monks begging!
It was so ridiculous and people were so rude taking pictures a meter away from their faces that I felt ashamed of being there. I took a couple pictures of the tourists taking pics of the monks, and left back to sleep.
We stayed here two days and it was enough. Unfortunately it is also enough not to be able to make it on time to the thai border before our visas expire, so we have to take a bus out of the country. I feel a bit like cheating, but I also feel like this way we used our time here as well as we could.
Next stop: Thailand!