Jan 31- Feb 4: Hanoi to Vang Vieng

Sabaidee! Hello from Laos!

Oh boy, I’m already getting ahead of myself! Right now I am sitting in an internet cafe in downtown Vang Vieng, Laos, where it is hot and humid. I, for one, am happy to have left the cooler weather of northern Vietnam behind, although I had a great time. I have a lot to say about my experience in Vietnam, but little time to write a new post, so it will have to wait until after tomorrow’s tubing excursion down the Nam Song river…

Our tour leader, Dat, and I on Australia Day

On Saturday we said goodbye to two members of our tour and our leader, Dat. It was really sad, because we all got along really well with Dat, and he was an awesome leader. I don’t think anyone could have been more welcoming and knowledgeable about their own country as he was, and he made our trip a true experience. If it wasn’t for his expertise and calm under pressure, we surely would have been lost on many an occasion. Dat managed to locate a lost camera, an impounded motorbike, and retrive one motorbike from a police station. Certainly, ours was a tour group he will not soon forget! And nor will we soon forget him. Thanks, Dat, for making our trip to Vietnam unforgettable!

Sunday we met our new tour leader and the new members of the Laos leg of our tour.

Our Laos group at Patuxey, the Victory Monument in Vientiane

Our leader is Thai, and her name is Ae (pronounced “Eh”, which makes it very confusing for her, as anyone who knows me knows I say “eh” like a real Canadian, which is to say ALL THE TIME). In addition, we have five Australians who joined the tour, one family of four and Kim, a mother of two who loves to party!

In all, there have been eleven of us from the start: Courtney, myself, Emina, Christina, Genevieve, Lisa, Adam, J.Y., Bonnie, Drew, and Dan. Hannah, Emma, Hailey, and Eloise left us in Saigon, where Allie and Eugenie joined us, and we picked up Kim, Mila, Andrei, Polina, and Alina in Hanoi. It’s been a great group, and I’ll be sad to see us part ways next Saturday.

Anyway, back to the point of this post…

On Monday, after a leisurely morning breakfast and a mad dash around the old quarter of Hanoi looking for the perfect baguette for our lunch on the bus, we departed Vietnam’s capital city for Vinh. There is NOTHING in Vinh, except for it being a stopping over point for the border crossing between Laos and Vietnam. There is a crossing further north, but it would have taken us far north of our destination, Vientiane. The drive took close to seven hours, and by the time we got there, all anyone had energy for was dinner and bed.

Lao jungle scenery

Tuesday we left the hotel around 630AM (Asian time, of course) and began the three-hour journey to the border. Laos requires all tour groups going through Laos to have a local Lao guide, so we picked up Salee, our local guide until Vang Vieng. The border crossing was relatively quick and painless (once the paperwork was done and fees had been paid) and then we were off on a painful 8 hour drive to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. I say it was painful, because there is no other way to describe sitting in a bus for 8 hours, despite three stops and a lot of snacks. Because Laos is largely mountainous, and the roads are not the greatest, the drive takes a lot longer than it would in Canada, or even in Vietnam.

Wednesday I discovered two things which are essential to travel in Laos: a traditional Lao massage, and the Scandinavian Bakery. Since I plan on writing a post to compare the merits of the regional massages I have had since being on tour once I get a Thai massage, all I’ll say for now is that it involves a lot of bending. The bakery is another story: the secret to being Asians being thin, is that Asians eat a lot of rice, veggies, and lean meat, and that they don’t put sugar in ANYTHING. A banana is sugary enough over here, and it’s been an ordeal trying to find a decent brownie or cake over here, what with the lack of baking with sugar. The Scandinavian Bakery, however, had the most amazing cakes, croissants, and iced coffee I have had since crossing the Pacific. Amazing. Anyone who knows me knows I like to have dessert after every meal (dinner, lunch, and breakfast, if possible 🙂 so I was in pure sugary heaven!

Wednesday morning we did an orientation walk through Vientiane, including a visit to the national Temple, the market, and the Lao version of

Me in a "Jumbo"

Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, called Patuxay. We also had our first ride in a “Jumbo” which is like a tuk tuk, but with the benches positioned so that you are riding sideways, instead of front/back. I’ll post photos for comparison soon. I adore how every southeast asian country has it’s own “national” mode of transportation. It’s hilarious every time we get on something new.

Today we rode a bus full of tourists for only 4 hours, to arrive in Vang Vieng, party town of Laos. The town is filled with more white people than Asians, and more drunk people than sober. The streets are studded with bars, internet cafes, convenience stores, and clothing shops, and reminds me a lot of the backpacker towns along the east coast of Australia. There isn’t much to do here but drink, and do some of the extreme activities available from most guesthouses.

Tomorrow we will do a tubing trip down the Nam Song river, which is a necessity of a visit to Vang Vieng. I will report back later (hopefully tanned and slightly tipsy) but I’ve heard that it is a lazy, two-hour glide down a river lined with bars, and finishes with a zip line over the river. Should be fun 🙂 On Saturday a few of us have signed up for a rock climbing course, which I think will be awesome, because we will be climbing one of Vang Vieng’s limestone karsts. Since I’ve only climbed indoors before, I’m looking forward to my first taste of real climbing!

Anyway, the party is raging on next door, and I’ve got some buckets of vodka, redbull and coke waiting for me.

So long, and Kop Jai Lai Lai for reading!


1 Response to “Jan 31- Feb 4: Hanoi to Vang Vieng”

  1. 1 Livia (baxter)
    February 4, 2010 at 2:45 PM

    PAPA Burgundy you are having too much fun there. Today we had our last graduation fund raising the trip to India. So exciting, I am here still and there was the Career Fair too. Anyhow have lots of fun in the sun and come back for the party.

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