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Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang

sunny 38 °C

Yesterday we had a very chilled day. Like most of our days in Vang Vieng it was spend doing nothing. We decided to go to the Luang Prabang bakery for some breakfast. We both ordered a salami and cheese sandwich and it was really delicious. Chelsea had an ice coffee which was yummy and we decided to have some dessert. The bakery is full of gorgeous baked goods, cakes, biscuits, cookies, donuts and Danish pastries. We settled on a chocolate cookie which we were so full we had to save after only eating half and take the rest with us.

After our indulgent breakfast at our posh café we booked our bus to Luang Prabang. We booked on the VIP coach for 10am the next day. We had heard stories of how bad the journey was so decided to book on something big and comfortable.

We spent the rest of the day lounging at our riverside spot taking in the views, drinking and talking. It was lush, we wrote our blog from the day before and replied to our emails until the sun was creeping in and we had to retire back to our room to cool off. The late afternoon was spent relaxing also. Chelsea sat on our balcony and painted the view and Liam sat and watched James Bond. Sorry everyone...... were not that exciting we know.

After a cold shower and a change of clothes we were ready to go back out. As it was our last night in Vang Ving we went out for some cheap food and went back to our riverside spot and had some beers.

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Since we have been there several times everyday the waiter brought us over a vat of complimentary 'cocktail'. It was lethally strong, the colour of pond water and in a 2 litre water bottle with the top cut off to make a MASSIVE glass. were not sure what was in it as all we could taste was whisky and lime but it was strong. We managed half of it to be polite, said thank you very much and stumbled out.

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On the way home we decided to call into fat monkeys a bar on the way home for a nightcap as it was really busy. We shared a beer and watched a bit of beer pong as there was a tournament on. We would have entered if we would have been earlier. We walked home and had to pack ready for the next morning. We were both tipsy so just shoved everything in.

The next morning we were up bright and early for our bus. Since we had packed after so many drinks we weren't sure where anything was but checked out and went for breakfast. A fruit shake and a baguette sorted us out and we went to wait for our bus.

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We had a slight scare as the VIP bus that we had booked pulled up and it was a dilapidated mini van with bench seats. We looked at each other an laughed imagining six hours drive through the mountains but it was just the shuttle to take us to our coach.

The drive wasn't too bad. Everything you read about the journey from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang says that it is terrible. Apparently half the bus will get travel sick and the bus driver hands out sick bags as you board. It wasn't that bad. Yes it is very bumpy and very very windy up and down twisting mounting roads but the coach was comfortable. Only a few times did we feel sick and even though most of the bus were popping travel sickness tablets like they were going out of fashion no one was sick to start the chain of sickness that would have then occurred..... thank the lord. The views from the bus in between sleeping were stunning. mountains everywhere, farms and tiny villages, nothing else for miles.

We arrived at the bus station at 5pm and shared a tuk-tuk with some French people. It didn't take us long to find somewhere to stay. We only looked in three places and the third one was lovely. We are staying at Kinnaly Guest House or 50000 kip a night (under £5). It is right in the centre, has its own bathroom, is spotless and decorated beautifully. It is in an old building and is a steal for the price. Even though the weather is more hit an miss we are enjoying traveling in low season.

We freshened up and then went for a little explore. The main street at night gets closed off to traffic and open up as a huge night market. It is incredible and sells all sorts of handmade wares and handicrafts. Silk scarves, jewellery, clothes, paintings, bags, antiques an more. It is beautiful.

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We had a look around the vast amount of stalls and went to a food stall. We ate at a place where you serve yourself. it is 10000 kip for a plate and you can eat as much as you an fit on it. We filled our plates and bought some grilled chicken. The food stalls are really interesting to browse. You can buy all sorts of bbq food, dumplings, spring rolls, salads, fruit and dried good.

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After we has a walk around the streets and went to a beautiful bar and shared a beer. The streets are gorgeous, old colonial French architecture mixed with traditional Laos style. Old wooden shop fronts dominate the streets and they have all tastefully been transformed into shops, bars and travel agencies. We can see why it is a UNSCO sight, it is unique and amazing. We cant wait to get up and explore.

Posted by Chelsandliam 08:11 Archived in Laos Tagged laos prabang luang vang vieng Comments (1)

Tubing in Vang Vieng

sunny 40 °C

Today we got up, had a nice breakfast/ dinner at our guest house and then walked into town but not before putting our money in two plastic freezer bags to keep it dry. We decided to have a drink before we collected our tubes and headed to the river so sat at a bar and had a drink. We didn't want to arrive too early as we had read that it doesn't really kick off until between 12 and 2pm. At half 12 we couldn't wait any longer because we were excited so headed to the tubing service in town. You have to pay 55,000 Kip to go tubing, This includes a tuk-tuk to the river and a tube. You have to sign a disclaimer stating you can swim and to say you are turning down the offer of a life jacket as well as loads of other stuff stating that if anything happens to you to is not the fault of the tubing services. You have to leave a deposit on your tube of 60,000 kip. This only covers damage to your tube, if you loose it you have to pay an extra 70,000 kip. The only other rule is you have to have your tube back by 6pm otherwise you are charged an extra 20,000 kip. We thought that would be no problem as that gave us 5 and a half hours to get down the river. In dry season it takes four hours but in wet season (like it is now) it only takes one hour. We met some people at the services and shared the free tuk-tuk with them to the start. They drive you 4km up the road so that you can tube back into town on the river.

Bare in mind that we didn't think that tubing would be any good. We thought it would be full of drunk idiots thinking they were cool but it is actually awesome. You just have to take it for what it is. A really fun afternoon, drifting, socialising and drinking on the river.

When we arrived at the river us and all the people on our tuk-tuk wet our tubes and stood in the river laughing, no one wanted to be first as the current was stronger than we expected. Liam was the first in and he set off down the river, Chelsea didn't want to be left behind so she was next. We floated down the river for approximately one minute before the first bar appeared and we decided to go to it. There are people at the side of the river working for the bars who hook you in and pull you to shore with half full water bottles tied to a rope. As soon as you enter the bar you get a free bracelet and a shot of Laos tiger whiskey. We had a beer, sat with our tuk-tuk friends and talked. Our money was soaked within the first 30 seconds of tubing but it doesn't matter, we still spent it and as our change was also sodden we assume everyone's money is soaking wet. The bar was quite full to say it was the first one and they have music on. People lay sunbathing and talking, it was nice. After we finished our drink we were eager to get going. We set off back down the river and floated for around approximately three minutes until the next bar.

This pattern continues down the river until you get to a bar called 'the last bar'. At each bar it was really busy, music was playing and there was loads of people socialising and drinking. We played table tennis and volley ball, sun bathed and played beer pong against other couples. At one point we were a team of three with a German lad in an illuminious vest who had been tubing for three days in a row. With every drink you get a free bracelet and you get as many free shots of whiskey you can manage. It is really fun. Chelsea was surprisingly good at beer pong and at one point we were playing against a German couple when a lad came over to cheer us on. Chelsea was ecstatic when she made the winning shot.

At the last bar we played volley ball with a huge group of people. it was really fun and every time the ball went into the river a Japanese lad saved it as if it was more important than his own life. He ran down the hill, jumped in the river and saved the ball, was pulled back to shore clutching the ball with everyone cheering him from the side. it was like something from total wipeout as he face planted the river every time. Liam apparently has a hidden talent for volley ball which Chelsea seriously lacks. She was so bad the two times she managed to hit the ball everyone cheered.

The bars are fun but the floating in the river is peaceful and beautiful. There are mountains either side and it is quiet and tranquil. It is a beautiful setting and even in wet season the river is still a smooth ride. Liam however managed to loose a flip flop and his St Christopher on the last leg of the drifting as well as capsize and have to be hooked out by a man on the side.

When you reach town again there is a sign which says 'stop tubing' where you have to get out and walk back to the tubing services. We were having such a good time us and another hundred people were late taking our tubes back and had to pay the fine. It was definitely worth another two pound though. Although it is popular and everyone comes to Vang Vieng to tube we can see why. It is a really really fun day. As long as you are not stupid and don't get totally wasted it is awesome. The bars are great and the tubing itself is lovely, floating down the river on a giant tractor inner tube sounds ridiculous but don't judge it before you try it, its worth every penny of the seven pounds it cost us.

P.S we have no photos because we didn't want to ruin our cameras so here's a random one from the day before :)

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Posted by Chelsandliam 23:05 Archived in Laos Tagged laos tubing vang vieng Comments (2)

The second leg of our Adveture - Leaving the Safari

sunny 40 °C

So that is it. After 5 months, dozens of new scars from tiger bites and leopard scratches, blood, sweat and the occasional tear, countless bottles of whiskey and beer, and many many new friends, we have left the safari. Although we are ready it was very hard to leave, we have been treated like family by the boss Joe and the Thai staff, everyone was upset to see us go, all they asked was ‘When are you coming back?’, ‘You travel quickly now an come back’.

Our last two weeks there were a definite mixed bag. When we arrived back from our break in Chiang Mai, the first thing we did was inform every one of our decision to leave. This was taken better by some people than others. Our first few days back were difficult to say the least, but thankfully certain people left and took the bad atmosphere with them. Our last ten days have been a total contrast, for a couple of days we were alone with B, a vet from Brazil who become our new drinking friend and then we were joined by two new volunteers Sean and Carris. We had a lot of laughs and the fun of volunteering at the safari returned. It was perfect for our last week. We got a lot of things done and put lots of things in place with the boss and the Thai staff to ensure the project will continue even if there are no volunteers. Chelsea wrote to-do lists for the staff and a rota so that any volunteers can experience all aspects of the safari even if they just come for a week. One of the highlights was taking Latte, the baby leopard we helped raise onto the safari. She is now almost seven months old and is ready. Chelsea has been weaning her off milk and Monday walked her round and handed her over to Mr Num, the leopard keeper. She was afraid and managed to climb into the roof which we had to deal with but once she gets used to it she will have a great life in the huge safari enclosure. The cherry on the cake, as far as we are concerned, is that for the last two days we had the lion cub to take care of. She is incredible, very cute, very grumpy and so big for only two months old. We spent the majority of our last days playing with her and laughing at how grumpy she is. On our last afternoon Sanapong took us in to the safari where we got to walk and hand feed all the animals, deer, giraffe, flamingos and zebra. We got to see the lions and tigers up close on the safari and it was a really fun, perfect way to end. On our last night Sean and Carris presented a bottle of rum and beers which we had fun finishing, playing games and talking.

We left on Tuesday morning; we exchanged a few good bye gifts, a lot of tears and took one of the safari buses into Kanchanaburi. It was hard saying goodbye to YaYa our seven and a half month old tiger but she will soon be on the safari and have a fantastic life. Tuesday was a long and hot day. We took a minibus to Bangkok after breakfast and this took an hour longer than normal. Liam was seated next to an American man who lives in Thailand and right from the word go he was talking to Liam and did not stop until we got off in Bangkok. Chelsea slept for most of the journey, although Liam is fairly sure she was pretending for half of it. In Bangkok we were just waiting for our train. It did not depart until 8pm so passed the time with a bit of retail therapy and then a couple of beers while researching our new destination. When it turned late afternoon we made our way to the train station, bought our ticket, ate dinner and washed it down with a couple more beers.

We are very excited to be travelling again, the last time was in Myanmar, and although we have had fun little trips whilst at safari we always knew we were going back, or we were spending days getting visa’s. To not have any plans again, and no time restraint is great. Our first stop is Vang Vieng, Laos. Apparently it has changed recently from a bit of a party mecca to a more relaxed vibe so we are looking forward to it. Having been to Vientiane for the visa a couple of month back Vang Vieng is the next stop on the map at this particular border crossing. Same as Vientiane we caught the night train to Nong Khai which is really easy to do and costs around 700 baht, and then catch a smaller train across the border to Thanaleng for 20 baht each.

The border crossing was quick and simple and in no time we were in a taxi on route to the bus station. All was going well but then the taxi driver pulled over to tell us that the bus to Vang Vieng was expensive and we should get a minivan. After a short debate where it looked like he wasn’t going to take no for an answer ‘Ok’ we said; ‘take us to the bus station anyway’. We are used to people trying to rip us off. The bus station was usual south east Asian chaos, no signs, people everywhere, no clue as to where we were supposed to be. On top of this people kept approaching us to sell us things we did not want. Welcome back to life on the road. We eventually managed to get a minivan to our hotel of choice in Vang Vieng for only £1 more than the public bus, this would also save us having to pay for a taxi from the bus station once we arrived, and is quicker. The public bus costs 40,000 kip and the minivan cost us 50,000 kip. Our train into Nong Khai was late and by the time we had sorted all this out, and grabbed a quick lunch it was nearly 1pm.

The journey to Vang Vieng was not great. The road conditions in Laos are poor, you practically bounce up and down in your seat the whole way. Most of the journey is in the hills, which although makes great scenery, the road is forever meandering. It was all too much for one woman at the front who started to vomit, first into her coat, and then into a plastic bag. It took longer than expected but we arrived around 4pm in Vang Vieng. We managed to book into our guesthouse, Nam Song Garden, a nice, cheap and clean little place on the Nam Song River that runs through the town for 40,000 kip a night.

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Our first impressions of Vang Vieng are good. It is very quiet, being low season, which we like and the surroundings are beautiful, large green mountains and jungle sit opposite the river. The town is small but is definitely catered to western tourists. There does not seem to be much authentic Laos remaining but it is very beautiful and it seems a great place to spend a few days relaxing and figuring out where we want to go during our time in Laos.

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Posted by Chelsandliam 21:18 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand laos volunteering vang vieng Comments (2)

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