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October 08, 2003 : Lao adventures, part 2

Lao adventures part two

The journey in Laos continues with adventurous busrides and traveling down rivers...

A busride over the mountains

View from the bus
View from the bus
We go with a local bus to Vang Vieng - the bus had seen better days, and so had the tires... It's not very far from Luang Prabang, but it takes a long time anyway, the road is over the mountains, which makes is so much more interesting! Lovely views, but you can't help it when you feel your foot trying to use the breaks you unfortunatly don't have in front of you...

You also hear some stories about the road not being safe because of people robbing the buses. After a while we are joined by two military guys with machineguns though, so if someone is going to rob us they will have to work for it...

The fact that we had met people in Luang Prabang that had been robbed in Vang Vieng a few days before we got there didn't help either, so we didn't want to stay very long. We stayed for two nights, and did pretty much all the town has to offer anyway.


This feels damn good...
... and now it feels even better!
GB glass, three flavours
After breakfast the next day, we decided to go tubing - you borrow a tube and float down the river. It's really fun, trust me! After five minutes the first guy selling beer shows up on one side of the river - he just throws out a stick to you, pull you in and lets you buy cold beer lao, and then you keep on floating... brilliant!

On the way over there, I had a t-shirt on, but I removed it when I was in the water. I had only put sunscreen on parts of my arms though, and the life vest didn't cover the rest. I looked really funny for a few days after that :)

... and cavin'

Beautiful blue water
Later the same day, we went to a cave near the town. The cave itself wasn't very impressive, but you could swim into it from the side - that was cool. The water was very blue and the stream made it quite hard to swim into the cave - but very easy to get out again. The fact that you have to swim with a flashlight in your mouth to see anything at all just makes it more fun, but since I had my camera with me I couldn't get very far - swimming against the stream with a flashlight in your mouth and a camera in one hand was harder than I expected.

The other guys swam in about 35 metres, but it was still a long way to go... I think it's about 80 metres deep, but it would take a braver man than me to go in that far... :)

Anders doing his Elvis impression?
The guys coming back out again
After our swim, we walked back into town, and got to see some of the real Vang Vieng, where the locals lived... needless to say, it was a bit different there.

... and some kayakin'

The morning after, I packed my bag again and got on the back of a truck with the other guys. We were joined by some other people, and the ones that sat down next to us were of course swedish...

After an hour or so, we stopped by a river where we stuffed our cameras and such in a waterproof bag, got a short introduction to how to kayak and what to do when we fall off the kayak in the streams, and then we were off. I joined a nice english girl, since they were made for two people.

... gently down the stream
After 10 minutes we get to the first rapids, and we see the ones in front of us go down with a scream. We manage to navigate through it though, so while the others tried to get back on their kayak, we paddled around a bit.
We actually managed to get through all three rapids without too much problems, although it was very close in the last one, with "waves" that were over half a meter high! We got very wet from the water that splashed over the kayak, but damn, it was funny! Decided right away that I'm going to do some white water rafting somewhere else.

Frank doing his supertwist-thingy...
After the rapids, we stop for lunch and a swim, while drying up some of the clothes. Then we keep going south, but now the river is a lot wider, and you get no help at all from the stream, which made it a bit boring.

After an hour or so, our arms where getting sore, and we finally got the end of it. Unfortunatly one of the trucks were broken (yeah right... they put all the kayaks on that one and went back to Vang Vieng with it) so all of us had to go on one truck the last hour down to Ventienne. That meant that two people sat in the front with the driver, two people on the roof with all our bags, two people hanging on the back of the truck, and the rest of us, eleven people, in the truck itself. That was cozy...

They dropped us off in the middle of Ventienne, and the place where we had decided to sleep were just a few minutes walk away. Got there and after a bit of trouble got a room that the swedish girls had fixed for us. Cheapest place in town, so it wasn't luxuary... but what can you expect when you pay $1.5 a person?

Ventienne is boring...

Since our visas for Vietnam didn't allow us to enter the country for a few days, we had to spend them in Ventienne. That was a big mistake, since that city is a very boring place.

We went to the swedish embassy the first day, and spent a couple of hours reading up on what's going on back home, the rest of the time in the Lao capital, we pretty much just walked around and did some shopping (there was a small supermarket with Wasa knackebrod and, believe it or not, Kopparbergs appelcider), when not sitting on the scandinavian bakery eating something...

Weird thing in the middle of a roundabout
Scandinavian bakery... mmm!
What is that sign doing there!?

A lovely busride to Vietnam

After a couple of days in Ventienne, we can finally keep on going. We get a busticket to Hanoi - a nice 24 hour ride in a Lao bus, without bathroom and reclineable seats, but with AC. Yeah right. At least it worked for about five minutes...
Luckily, we are among the first to arrive, so we get good seats, and the bus is just half full so everyone get a double seat to themselves. Doesn't help me much though, the roads are really bad, and I haven't been able to sleep in buses or cars since I was a small kid. Good thing I have my minidisc with me...
We left Ventienne at 7pm or so, and we spend a few hours talking, and then the others go to sleep, and I slumber for a while. At 02.30 we stop about half an hour from the border, and wait here to 07.30

Damn commies...

We arrive at the Lao side of the border, where we get a stamp in our passports, then we walk a few hundred metres through no mans land (?) and arrive at the Vietnam side. First we have to go to one room, get an arrival card, fill out the form, go to another room, fill out a health form and pay them 2000 kip or dong for that (luckily I had exactly 2000 kip left in my wallet), go to the counter and leave our passports and arrival cards, pay the obligatory $1 bribe, get another stamp in the passport, and then we go back to the bus. Then they start searching it. Ten vietnamese guys spend more than half an hour searching it, very thoroughly. Then they bring in the biggest dog I've ever seen to go through our bags. After that, we are finally able to leave the border and enter Vietnam.

We don't get very far though, because they are doing some kind of construction along the road. The first two places we just wait a while for them to clear the road, but on the third, we get a bit to close... Suddenly there is a huge amount of rocks and sand falling down just in front of the bus, and more is coming down! The busdriver tries to back up, but there is of course another bus just behind us, so we can't go nowhere, except downhill, and that's not a very good option considering the current altitude... The driver starts using the horn like a madman, and after a little while the driver behind us starts backing up... about time! The road fills up with rocks, so it takes them quite some time to clear the road so we can keep on going.
We continue to Vinh, where we stop on a really bad restaurant... the menu is written on the back of a cigarette carton, and the only thing on it is items like "rice", "noodles", "vegetables", "chicken" and so on... no prices. Great.
The driver has been using the horn all the way from the border to Vinh. All the time. No, seriously, ALL the time (I really can't emphasize this enough). In Vinh I'm just about ready to kill him, but after the dinner we change to another driver. No change in behaviour though. Crap. Good thing I have my earplugs, because the bus is old and the horn sounds just as much in the bus as on the outside, which is why everyone is going nuts. Anyway... After a really long day on the roads in Vietnam, we arrive in Hanoi. On the busstation, a girl called Moon joins us on the bus and tries to get us to go to her hotel. Since we are really tired, and just want to sleep, we agree to come there with her. This is probarbly one of the best decisions so far on this journey, because I fell in love with the place, or at least the staff there... it was brilliant! But that is, as they say in the fairy tales, another story...

Construction work
Don't want to fall down to the left...

Posted in: Laos , Travel by mdk @ 12:55, October 8, 2003 | TrackBack


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