A four hour bus ride from Vientiane found me in Vang Vieng on Tueday afternoon, arriving in the middle of a monsoonal downpour. The drive there was just gorgeous and I can see exactly why so many travellers have been raving to me about the beauty of Laos. The scenery is incredible, very mountainous and completely picturesque.
I had made a reservation a a guesthouse earlier as Fran was arriving on a later bus than me and we needed a meeting point. The guesthouse was decidedly dodgy and exceedingly dirty so we spent a night there and moved to another one along the river.
Vang Vieng is funny little place that is almost a bit surreal. It is a town that sort of pops up out of nowhere in the middle of all these mountains, nestled in alongside the Nam Song River and bursting to the seams with backpackers. The restaurants are all open air and offer a plethora of western comforts. This even extends to reruns of 'Friends' playing in at least a dozens restaurants/bars complete with mattresses to lounge on while you watch.
Whilst in Vang Vieng I had to go tubing, as its probably the biggest attraction in town. I expected a little more action (of a different kind) than what I found; virtually still water, barely a ripple. BUT bars on either side of the river blaring music deafeningly loud and hundreds of drunks lining each one, floating between bars in tubes and jumping from water swings. You have to see it to believe it. So, whilst not what I expected, when in Rome....
I also did a kayak trip 8km along the Nam Song and it was gorgeous. Tiring, but gorgeous.
I had a very brief look at the Water Cave, caving being very big in Vang Vieng but not that popular with me, and a more leisurely look at the Elephant Cave (being bigger and well lit!).
When Fran and I headed out about 10pm for a couple of drinks we were astonished to discover the whole place packs up shop about 11pm and by 11.30pm the bar owners were setting up their beds around us! Even the dogs had their little sleeping spots picked out; in the middle of the road.