Activities all round!
Well, after placing our bets on how long the bus would take, getting hold of some Valium, and making immediate friends due to the fact we'd been allocated the back corner top bunks of the bus, we were on our way to Laos! The bus took a whopping 27 hours however I managed to stay passed out for almost the entirety of the journey , only waking when we were off loaded at the border and made to walk up hill through the mist between countries at 5.30am. It was interesting.
We had turned up at the border with only Vietnamese Dong on us and crossing countries - one of which is Vietnam, you'd think you could buy a visa in this currency right? Wrong. Don't be so silly. You can only use Laos Kip, which incidentally you can only get once inside of Laos itself. Of course! This IS Asia. Luckily you could also pay in US Dollar. Only problem being the currency exchange isn't open at that time in the morning. This is where much waiting around happens while everyone tries to pay in whatever currency they happen to have - one fantastic English girl even asked if they took Brazilian. Worth a try, however for everyone's future reference the answer was no.
Maybe this was why the bus took so long? Anyway, we eventually arrived in the Laos capital of Vientiane and everyone was exhausted. We were dropped off in a pretty random place so a group of about 12 of us looked at each other and pretty much without a word decided pub was the only answer. No one had a clue of the time, the day, anything, it was just unanimously decided that beer was needed.
After this we all managed to get rooms and hung around in Vientiane a couple of days just getting our bearings, making plans, and visiting Buddha Park! I LOVED this place it was fantastic! Okay so it was kind of like a garden centre gone wrong, but there were hundreds of statues of different forms of Buddha and various Indian gods too, in all shapes and sizes. Some were so big you could climb up (health and safety would definitely not like this place) and others were teeny and sat within the larger sculptures. It was cool. Tacky and funny, but cool. And we got to chat to some real life monks who wanted to practise their English. That was cool too.
We headed north from Vientiane to Vang Vieng - a place known amongst the backpackers of the world as THE place to go tubing. There were once countless bars along the banks so everyone made it into a huge party while floating along the river however after numerous injuries and deaths of travellers these were all torn down in the summer of 2012. And to be honest, although I didn't see it before, it was still fantastic. We went as quite a big group (told you we made immediate friends on that long old bus) had a few drinks each, and had a great time floating along. The scenery was beautiful, you could still take beer, it just meant there wasn't awful music as we went along. We then of course had a big night out so it all worked out well!
The next day we went climbing which was such good fun. The mountains and rock faces of Vang Vieng are limestone so the climbing possibilities are awesome. It was in fact so much fun that me and Olivia, one of the girls we met on the bus, went back a second day to learn lead climbing which was terrifying but fantastic. And better than the first day in so much as there were only us two, not ten people.
I would love to go back to Vang Vieng and spend more time climbing and maybe doing some kayaking too. It was such a beautiful place with so much more to it than the reputation it has as a boozy backpacker town. Sadly due to the tubing bars being closed down, tourism here has fallen drastically. I just hope people continue to visit for the many other reasons.
From here we were heading north again, up to Luang Prabang in the mountains, so of course we had another big night of dancing in a fantastically awful club, Star Bar or Moon Bar or something just to prepare us for the journey....