Vang Vieng is billed as 'Koh Phangan on steroids' but I think this is unfair as its also kind of quiet but also stunning. It reminds me of Yangshuo, except Yangshuo hasn't been discovered by all the knobheads yet. The town itself is quiet because the main activities happen further up the river or an island in the river next to town. It is a town almost solely revolving around backpackers. The main activity is to 'tube' down the river, in an inflatable rubber ring; however this is for amateurs or 'noobs'. I did it once and I went all the way down, I mean its why I came here, right? - to quote a friend of mine "Nobody does that!" Which is true, most people don't even bother with the tube and just drink at the many bars along the river.
This is where the infamous "Phangan on Steroids" is located. Every bar gives you a wristband and usually a free shot of god awful whiskey. Each bar has a slightly different gimic, from zip lines to water slides, one bar even had some puppies (the Drum n Bass bar actually). However most people just drink an play the usual silliness of beer pong or dance that silly inbetweeners "Bon Bon" dance (as it is apparently known) as demonstrated by these drunk idiots. Having mentioned the idiots and stupid water features, this place apparently has a death rate of 3 a month, you can see why: alcohol + water + stupid water features = Damage. Not being that stupid I stayed well clear of the zip lines etc. I saw plenty of people on crutches and lots of cuts and bruises. Despite this the vibe is good and I met people I'd met in Cambodia, Vietnam and a few new people too.
In the evening the party moves over to the Island next to town and usually starts with a free bucket at the aptly named "Bucket Bar" before that closes around 12am and moves to Limbo bar, where people fail to pull off a simple duck under, It was no Koh Phangan effort I am sad to report. This carries on around the fire until it is time for bed.
When everyone is done partying the town is so geared towards backpackers they only play two tv shows in the restaurants.... Family Guy or Friends. I got kind of ill in Vang Vieng (No, not hungover ill) so I spent a day watching like 3 whole seasons of Friends, a feat E4 manage is about the same amount of time. Anyway party time over I headed off to Luang Prabang but not before taking some pictures of mist around the mountains.
|Vang Vieng and the misty mountains|
|Bridge to the Otherside|
|A view from the Bridge|
Luang Prabang is a pretty town with UNESCO World Heritage status. It is easy to see why, it is quiet, laid back and houses much old style buildings as well as newer French colonial buildings which sit surprisingly well amongst of the temples, of which there are many. It mostly lies on a peninsula formed by two rivers (one the Mekong) and has a small hill protruding in the middle of which three temples sit atop.
I spent my first day here wandering around the old town, climbing the hill and taking in all of the temples as physically possible before the heat got to me and I was reduced to figuring out what to do with the rest of my time. I booked my ticket to Chiang Mai (a day earlier than 'scheduled') and a two day Biking/Trekking/Kayaking excursion in to the surrounding countryside.
|Temple of Circular Gold|
The first part of my two day excursion was biking through the hills, not so strenuous we stopped at a few local sites, temples and local trader stalls where they also had looms to make the fabrics I see in the markets. On one hill we came past a Snake, a guy had pulled up his truck and subsequently threw a big rock on its head, an then a second time to make sure before picking it up and taking it home, presumably to eat. We eventually reached our first destination, Elephant Village.
Laos used to be called 'Land of a Miliion Elephants' (hence the blog title) and although the amount of elephants alive today may have significantly dropped there are still plenty. Elephant Village is a combined project that aims to give homes to older/ill elephants once they have become too useless for the logging industry. In order to facilitate this, there only current duty is to ferry tourists around at their own pace a few times a day. The logging industry is unfortunately a terrible life for an elephant and much work is being done to reduce this, what you can do if you want to help is a) not buy any wood products that come from Laos or b) buy an elephant (The village can afford to look after them but not buy them from the loggers as even an ill elephants has a worth due to its meat value.) Information on all this can be found at Elephant Village. Anyway here are some pictures of happy elephants free from logging!
|Petting the Elephant|
|Reaching for food!|
|Exploring with their trunks|
|Tad Sae Waterfall|
Bye for now.