It's SOO easy doing nothing all day...
14.11.2008 - 16.11.2008 28 °C
Vang Vieng. How to describe this place. It's not exactly a one street town, but its only got a few main streets. The colonial archatecture, columns, and french varandas are unmistakable, yet many home grown buildings line the street too. Pancake vendors are a bright light on each corner and every other building is a bar, restaurent, or guesthouse.
Vang Vieng from the Bridge
As you walk down the street it's impossible not to hear the "Friends" theme eminating from not one or two but many many restaurents. The idea is GENIOUS, actually. They have all these cushions you can sit upon, and you order your food and beer sitting in a little cot facing TV's with all your favorite characters doing what they do best. I swear, today I sat for nearly 4 hours watching non-stop FRIENDS action. No commercials, rotating fans, and the best smoothies and baguettes make for a relaxing afternoon getting ones fix for home.
A typical "Friends" Restaurant
A few other places show Family Guy, and the Simpsons, but I think I've actually seen every episode ever made of both of them. Friends I gave up on when all the "friends" become more than "friends"...so I'm getting all caught up on the whole Rachael/Joey, Monica/ Chandler, Rachael+Ross=Baby, Phoebe/Mike (who I LOVE by the way) etc etc. Sinful, I know.
Soon after I arrived I met Katie, who I'd had the pleasure of sharing a dorm with back in NATS guesthouse in Chiang Mai. We teamed up and did the next most amazing thing to do in Vang Vieng...TUBING!
Aw shucks, i NEED to go again tommrrow and get some photographs to post. I was afraid to bring my camera for fear of getting it wet, but wow, you guys gotta get an idea of how this works.
You're given a giant intertube and tuk-tuked up the river. The drop-off point is right next to an organic mulberry farm which sells...mulberry mohitos. Now I promiced myself that there would be no getting drunk on the river but I couldn't pass up an organic mulberry mohito (even made with the dreaded Lao Lao-Lao wiskey which is INTENSE) so despite being 11:30 in the morning, I had me a nice refreshing mohito.
The babbling river carried our tubes about 10 feet, when we hit the first bar. Literally, I wasn't in the tube for 30 seconds when Katie and the others getting hauled in by a frantically waving, Lao Lao enthousiast with a 20 foot bamboo pole. While Peter and Katie sat warming themselves in the sun, drinking Lao Beer and a bright red wine cooler, I sipped water and eyeballed the first of what would prove to be my "hang up" on this river.
High above my head, on a handmade platform built into a tree like some sort of incomplete tree house, a line of not-yet-but-getting-there-drunk folks were lined up to swing out on a trapeze over the river. It was about 30 feet up, and the trapeeze swung far out over deep (i hoped) water. It looked amazing.
So while my friends sat and consumed, I climbed the rickkity ladder onto the rickkity platform and adjusted my rickkity bangkok-bought bathing suit that clung to me by good graces of only a few strings. (I did my BEST to find a one piece, but I swear, bangkok doesn't have a single one piece in the whole city). The water looked an awful long way down, and the platform below me was packed with white pastey foreigners drinking beer bottles that looked bigger than themselves. Loud techno music pulsated from large mounted speakers. I couldn't wait to swing.
I held onto the swing, stepped forward, hesitated, and then swung...but not as fast as I would have liked, and went down and down and over and over and arched up and up and BOY was i HIGH above the water, but it was time to let go!! SPLASH! and my teeny-weeny bikini sort of stayed on too! yey!
It was so much fun I did it again, but this time, no hesitation. I jumped off the platform with all my might swinging in a huge pendular arch from 9 to 3 o'clock, and this time I dropped from even higher and might have inhaled a little bit of water. No matter. THis was going to be a fun day, for I'd heard there were much higher better things to come.
We floated for another 10 seconds, and I hoped we'd pass the next bar by. I could see in the distance MANY MANY bars, all blasting dance music, with their own enthousastic flag wavers with bamboo poles. We did thankfully, and the next bar we stopped at the other had a drink, and it being about 1ish, I had some veggie fried rice, and a beer to wash it down. Last drink of the day, in fact.
Not so for my fellows. There were literally hundreds of tubers, drinking probably literally hundreds of gallons of booze. It started to get a little silly. Still I enjoyed watching everyone. A couple bars down came the BEST place to people watch.
This bar had SO many good things going for it. It had a live DJ, who took requests. It had a bonfire, which came in really handy because the sun would be going down within the hour and it turned pretty cold pretty quick when that happens. It had not ONE but THREE types of insane, perhaps suisidal ways to enter the water at high speed and strange angles. First was another trapeze, which was much higher than the first. I did it. It was good. Next was a zip line...I heard people calling it a fox line. This thing was pretty crazy. It ended over the river, but if you didn't let go the thing would stop, your legs would keep moving foward and up, you're head would go back and down, and you were likely to land right on your back in a resounding SLAP that got everyone watching to cry "oooohhh!" at the same time. Finally, and most impressively, a giant waterslide had been built. It was constructed from large concrete supports and lined with bathroom tiles and then water was hosed up to the top. THe bottom of the slide slanted back upwards, launching you up into the air.
Oh god, such wonderful torture.
Sliding down the slide for the first time I thought "gee, this is fun...weeee" then as i neared the launch ramp at the bottom I thought "gee, there is no real way to control how you leave this thing...i could land...anywhere." As I launched into the air I pinwheels my arms to keep me more or less up right, as my inertia was doing everything it could to spin me backwards and land me in Ouchie Land.
I ended up hitting my side. Still Ouchie Land. I surfaced spluttering and laughing so hard I couldn't stop. And ya know what? I'm such a sucker for pain and humiliation, I decided to do it again, and try to do it right this time. I waited at the top of the slide to let a guy go ahead of me. I wanted to watch his technique and maybe apply it, to keep from landing..you know...in Ouchie Land.
He sat up backwards, and waved as he got farther and farther away from us. I looked at the Laosian that manned the slide. Good technique? I asked. Yes, he replied. Then I saw the boy, now about the size of a pea in the distance get launched off the bottom and roll backwards...NOOOO...SLAP!!! OUCH-EE-LAAAAND! I shook my head, I would NOT be trying that technique.
Instead I faced forward again, and tried to slide in the middle of the slide down down down LAUNCH and SPLASH! It still hurt though, and I think I called it a day at that.
I clambored back up to the platform where it was hard to navigate amongst all the beer guzzlers. Oh, and did I forget to mention...buckets of liquor are 10,000 Kp here. Thats like...just over a buck. They consist of ice, Lao lao, soda (usually coke) and redbull. And the redbull over here is SCARY. It's thick like cough syrup, and there's seriously a warning on the label that you shouldn't drink more than 1 a week...
It was a riot watching everyone go off the slides and swings and foxline. It was NonStop Entertainment. There were sooo many backflips and backflops. People went off the swings two by two, and one group of insane guys went off the slide four at a time....unbeleivable.
There were a few near misses too...A twosome coming down the slide got seperated> The guy was launched first, and the girl launched afterwards, landed just on top of him. Both survived without injuries. Another gal actully was set to do the fox line ahead of me. She was a big british girl who seemed quite nervous about it but gung-ho none the less. We told her to let go before she hit the knot at the end. She zipped. She ziiiiiiiiipped! LET GO LET GO! we shouted. She didn't. Her feet flew forward, and she let go just in time to land on her upper back and head. We all groaned on the platform. Ouchie Land, again.
But when she resurfaced she lacked an ability to swim properly. She bearly kepted her mouth clear of the water. A fellow travellers jumped 30 feet off the platform into the water to save her, along with a few others who saw what was going on. It appears she had too much to drink and the fall into the water had knocked her already senseless self into la-la-land. Turns out I would see her later, still partying and stumbling all over the place. I wonder how she ever made it back to Vang Vieng.
Lots of people were getting seriously inebriated and it was kinda sad to see girls sitting in corners, their heads lollygagging about. I'm glad Katie wasn't a big drinker, cuz I would have been a lost sober soul amonst all those party animals. Don't get me wrong, it was a killer time but...Its just a bit childish, i guess.
There were a few more bars past that one, but the sun had dipped behind the mountains and the air was noticable cooler. Some GENIOUS made it soo all the bars are at the beginning of the river, and then there is a long 45 minute section before you get home. I guess it IS a good idea, as it might help sobor up all the idiots, who knows. Goosebumps and chattery teeth accompanied us down the last stretch of river. Then we hauled out our tubes and headed for a hot shower.
Just down from the mainstreet is the street that paralles the river. Crossing narrow bamboo suspension bridges (I WILL get photos of those, they're pretty neat) is an island where the river divides and goes around either side. Built on the island are three bars. (maybe more, i dunno) Bucket Bar, Smile Bar, and Bamboo Bar. Being a bit set aside from the town, they're able to blast their music loudly, along with lazers, smoke machines, dance platforms, and bonfires.
Katie made our way after dinner (amazing french bread pizzas) to Island for a few drinks. It was a wild scene, people partying and dancing, or sitting in social clusters around several toasty campfires. I should mention also, that there is a fairly prevalent and open drug scene in Vang Vieng. (FYI, people). Many of the restaurents offer Magic Shakes, Special SHakes, Magic Pizza, Magic pasta, Special/Magic anything. According to the guide book in my bungalow, they are hit-or-miss, but its pretty remarkable that they're offered thusly!! I could smell lots of folks smoken herbs as well...pretty much everywhere, but you gotta be careful people, in a place where 6/10 people who sell to you probably work for the cops. There are as many people telling "busted"stories as those telling "we-got-so-messed-up" stories. The authorities are in it for a fine here and maybe a bottle of wiskey. Crazy town. OH yeah, and Opium, thats reportedly around here too. My hotel guidebook gives LOTS of examples of tourists binging on the stuff and dying...So kids, not only don't-try-that-at-home, don't try it ANYWHERE!
So, all that said, after a few drinks I walked Katie back to her hotel (which became MY hotel the next day, because I liked it), and then I met Peter, who I tubed with earlier, for some late night mango pancakes. OH MY GOD! When you're tipsy and starving at 2AM, there is NOTHING, I mean NOTHING better than a Vang Vieng just-off-the-griddle Mango Pancake.
Okay, so, the next day I checked into Katies room. We both felt tired from our long day before (and yes, I was feeling those few drinks I had--GOD i'm SUCH an OLD LADY!) So we sat and watched like 87 episodes of friends over breakfast. Then we rented motorbikes, which was a new experience for me because I'd never ridden a manual before. But it wasn't too hard getting a handle of shifting the gears, and Katie was doing great considering she'd never even ridden a motorbike before.
Of course they gave us the bikes on "E" so we had to find a gas station. Behind the mainstreet is an airstrip, and running parallel on the other side is another road with a gas station. I pulled up to the airstrip unsure of whether it was okay to drive right across it. But other people were. Lots of people in fact were riding bicycles, walking, and scooting across, so after double checking for incoming aircraft, Katie and I scooted down the tarmac and made it to the gas station.
We left town and headed over the river . Here is where we took pictures of us on the bridge.
We followed a ridge of mountains in a north westerly direction. To our left were large stretches of cultivated land. We passed many humble dwelling homes of the local Laotions. The road was dirt, and full of potholes. There were livestalk everywhere. We went around herds of cattle, passed water buffalo (see picture below) hanging out in...water. We swerved around chickens that apparently liked throwing themselves on front of our oncoming wheels. There were puppies, kittens, and ducks too!
We drove a lovely 7 Kms. The weather was really warm...okay hot, but dry. We walked the last 5 minutes on a road that ended at the base of a mountain that rose straight up from the flat valley floor. We walked down the lawn of a locals house following signs that read "swimming lagoon". We had expected a little bit more than the tiny pool but I was hot and the swing looked fun (and much tamer than the swings from the day before) and so I lept into the stunningly refreshing water.
Feeling invigorated, we decided to climb towards a cave at the base of the mountain. A gaggle of kids made to follow us holding torches. We'd just finished talking with some fellow backpackers who'd just been to the cave. THey said it was cool, except for the kids, who excected a fee for accompanying them. As we made to acend, i turned around and told one of the kids that we could go alone. He held up his torch pointing to it. I held up mine, pointing to it. He stompped his feet, but submitted. Katie and I climbed the steep pathway alone, without the rambuctious little fellows tagging along.
The cave was but a tiny slat in the rock. A few feet in, we decended a ladder. The darkness in the cave was complete, and even my LCD torch did very little to cut through the blackness. We climbed down to the first chamber and contented outselves to enjoying and photographing the cave from there. There was a much more cave to be seen, but I was not about to get stuck in that cave with a torch I had no back up batteries for. It was a pretty neat experience none-the-less.
We returned back to the sunlight. It was brighter than I remembered, and the colors of the earth more beautiful too. Here are some photos of the countryside I took in that area.
Great place for a TOILET, eh!??
So Katie and I had a quiet night that evening (watched..>FRIENDS!) She left this morning for southern Laos *sob*, but I know she's going to have a great time, and I might even see her in Cambodia...who knows!!
So I inherited her room. I love the Bungalow I'm staying in. (much like the one I stayed in, in Pai) I was feeling pretty menstral today, so I had a really lazy day. Yes, I sat for hours watching Friends. Sat in the same place for breakfast and lunch. It was super nice to zonk out and drink mint tea and watch TV. But gosh, its time for adventure tommrrow.
A few more friends have arrived (from the slowboat, remember?) so I might go tubing again tommrrow, if only for the swings and fox lines (and maaaaybe the slide). Plus I gotta get some pictures of this for you guys! UN-FREKKIN-BELEIVABLE!
Love everyone tons and tons! Hogs and Quishes!
And, is this a nice place for a toilet or what!??