Woohoo! Spring Break Laos!! Vang Vieng was a lot of fun and we met some some great people and an old favorite: John McKinney.... You may remember him from such appearances as: Wesleyan: freshman/sophomore year hijinx or Wesleyan: the Chi Psi years. Vang Vieng is a very western sort of town in the middle of northern Laos. It caters to all the backpacker/tourists travelling on the north-south (or vice versa) Laos circuit. We met people that had just come to Luang Prabang or who were headed there on their way from Vientiane or the 4000 islands all the way in the southern tip of the Laos. We regret not having enough time to go all the way down there because we have loved Laos immensely. But the main attraction/activity in Vang Vieng is tubing down the Nam Song. You rent a plastic tube for a few bucks and head down the river stopping at any (or all) of the bars that have been built right on the riverside. They serve a free shot of Lao Lao (the local whiskey) with every BeerLao purchased. Spring Break City!!! I wonder what the locals think of Falang.
But still they have fun with us, especially the bartenders and the restaurant owners. The town is completely built around the tourism industry, so it's not very Asian but what're you gonna do...? They had made a pretty fun town for us Falang and we stayed a day or two longer than we expected, mostly because we were having a blast and had met some fun people. The tubing was fun and going caving was pretty wild. We didn't realize we'd walk about 3-4 Km into the inside of a mountain. We had visited some caves previously, and they were little caves with Buddha statues and some interesting stalagmites and stalagtites. But then we got to this big cave (the one in the pics) and a guide had to take us in, as there was a sign saying we were prohibited to enter without a guide. At first, my skeptical self thought that was just a way for some locals to make some money, but after being in the cave for about 20 minutes, I realized that was really for our safety. The cave was huge and pitch black. Our guide provided us with some flashlights that were powered by a huge battery pack which we had to carry over our shoulder. If we hadn't gone with our 15 year-old guide, we could've made some wrong turns and gotten lost pretty easily, especially with my horrible sense of direction. So our guide brought us pretty deep into the cave and we had to walk through water, under rocks, between rocks, and around rocks. At times, we had to crouch down and manage our way through some tight squeezes. At one point, I looked back and saw nothing but black.....That was the last time I'd do that: forward looking only from then on. :) We heard some noises and couldn't be sure what they were. We didn't see any animals (which was not disappointing) except a shrimp or two, which our guide picked up and carried with him until we exited the cave. I can only assume he was going to eat it later that night. Why else would he have carried it with him? And he showed us how it had bitten him too. At the end of the cave, there was a pool of water, which Laurie slipped into and I declined to enter. We managed our way back out of the cave; returning seemed much quicker than heading into the dark abyss. There were tons of cool sights (though only when we shined our dim lights on them or when the flash from the camera lit up the cave), including stalgmites, stalagtites, graffiti, and other strange shapes our guide showed us. He also banged on some stalgmites that made a gong type of hollow sound. While our guide was fully competent at leading us around, Laurie suggested that next time we trust our lives to someone who does not point out every stalagmite that is shaped like a boobie. Sounds about right to me, but seriously though, he was a good guide.
The town was fun, we had some good drink, food and met some good people, but it was really a party town and didn't have much to offer other than that. Not that we're complaining--we stayed a day or two longer than we had planned. One thing that was very strange in the town was the "Friends Phenomenon." At one point, we were standing in the street, looking into various restaurants, and we saw about 5 places all playing different Friends episodes. Tons of Falang sitting around eating and drinking and watching Friends. There were also some places playing Seinfeld and the Simpsons. Of course, we had to have a meal in one of the places and watched an episode or two. But we were looking forward to getting to Vientiane, the capital city of Laos, not enough to leave when we planned but enough to leave at any rate. So we caught a bus and got on our way as we only had a few more days until our flight to Ha Noi.