He says, she says – Laos

3 March – 20 March 16 days

Places visited: Pakse, Don Det – 4000 islands, Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang

Most favourite place:
Charlie: This took me a lot of thought but i think Don Det, but a close second being Vang Vieng. Don Det won because of its amazing waterfalls and the natural aspects. Vang Vieng is also amazing with its monstrous mountains and the sleepy rivers running through them.
Lisa: Don Det was a really interesting place for me. On arrival I was really confused at why people visited for long (some people stay weeks there) but once you got used to the really laid by vibe and explored the surrounding areas it was a really great place to spend your time.

Least favourite place:
Charlie: We passed through Pakse for one night and didn’t really get a chance to see if and judge it too well, but having said that, it seemed a bit characterless to me.
Lisa: Pakse was pretty unimpressive but we only spent one night there between crossing the Thai border and getting to Don Det, if I had to pick another place then I would say Luang Prabang. Whilst the town is quite a lot nicer than the others, I felt it was also the most developed and there wasn’t as much to do or see there. Don Det and Vang Vieng had the most beautiful scenery around them that I didn’t feel Luang Prabang could compete with.

Most favourite dish:
Charlie: The crispy pork! I discovered it too late and only managed to have it a couple of times though. I had something similar in Thailand, so maybe its not a great answer but i still miss that stuff!
Lisa: The Luang Prabang sausage was my favourite, although I only had it once. It’s filled with loads of herbs and the one we tried came with a really nice homemade eggplant chutney.

Best experience:
Charlie: We did so many cool things that this is hard to pick just one! I think the sunset bar in Don Det was awesome, jumping into the river from a high drop. We met the cutest little girl there too, who we spent a sunset with too which was so fun!
Lisa: I really enjoyed floating around the Mekong in Vang Vieng, especially at the Smile Bar where they had tied up tubes so you could get a drink and float there without moving whilst the sun set.

Worst experience:
Charlie: I think the night bus was probably the worst. The length of the bed meant we both had to sleep on a 5 ft single bed in a cramped spooning position. i need space to sleep so this meant i didn’t get much shut eye. Lisa of course managed to doze off well before me, but even she struggled!
Lisa: Our journey from Don Det to Vang Vieng which took a long 28 hours. Not only was in uncomfortable, we had a lot of waiting around, being messed about a little and were 4 hours late.

Something you will miss:
Charlie: The natural beauty of the country. Even with it being the dry season, we got to see some awesome natural landmarks. Waterfalls and dolphins in 4000 Island, towering mountains and cliffs in Vang Vieng, and swimming in the Mekong in all the places as it stretches the length of the country!
Lisa: The landscapes in Laos were beautiful, especially the Mekong and the mountains as they provided amazing sunsets.

Something you won’t miss:
Charlie: We’ve noticed it a lot on the second half of the trip. When you take the buses, they seem to drive you right through town, often past your hotel and back out the other side of town. Funnily enough theres a crowd of Tuk Tuks waiting for you in this random car park, charging huge amounts (in relative terms) for you to be taken back into town. It always frustrates me!
Lisa: Nothing seems to run on time in Laos. It’s a very sleepy place that seems to run on its own time which can be annoying when getting between places as you are always told the journey will be much shorter than it actually is.

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Floating down the Mekong in Vang Vieng

We had a bit of a mammoth journey ahead of us to get from Don Det to Vang Vieng. Most people stop in Vientiane but we weren’t really interested in going there so we decided to skip it. This meant that we had to get a boat from Don Det to the mainland, followed by a 3 hour bus to Pakse where we would wait 5 hours for the night bus. The night bus would then take 10 hours to Vientiane where we would switch buses onward to Vang Vieng. Sounded annoying but simple enough. Sadly it didn’t go so smooth.

Our boat and bus to Pakse was on time and as comfortable as it could be. We then spent 5 hours having some lunch and using the wifi in a cafe before a tuk tuk showed up to transfer us to the bus station. At the bus station our bus hadn’t arrived yet but we had hope for a comfortable bus journey as the buses that were there already looked quite nice. Some even had TVs and wifi. When our bus showed up we couldn’t believe it. Not only was it ancient compared to the other ones but the windscreen had a massive crack going all the way through it. When we went to get on the bus the driver ran back over with about 10 air freshners to put in there before we got on… great! The bus of course wasn’t comfortable, we were on the top level in a ‘double’ sleeper bed which was really made for just one person. On arrival to Vientiane we got off the bus very tired after an awful night sleep to be told the bus to Vang Vieng leaves from a different station. Lots of tuk tuk drivers were trying to get us to pay them to take us there but we refused and went looking for more information. The man at the ticket office told us to wait in a corner and that a bus would come to get us in an hours time. 2 hours later a minibus showed up to collect us and some other confused tourists, we thought finally we were on our way… wrong again. We were then dropped off at a booking office where we had to ‘check in’ for the bus. Another hour later we were finally on our way, running very late. We were obviously relieved when we finally arrived at Vang Vieng 28 hours later.

Once we arrived we set off and found a place to stay. Diandra and Luigi who we travelled with in Myanmar were in Vang Vieng too so we had a little rest in our room before meeting up with them in the evening. We caught up on each others travels over dinner before heading to one of the bars that was serving free beer and whiskey for an hour. After a couple of drinks there we said we would head out for one more drink before going back to our rooms. Once we were there though the drinks kept coming and all of a sudden we were in a tuk tuk heading to a jungle party. To call it a jungle party was a bit odd, it wasn’t really in the jungle and was just 4kms out of town.17349837_10155252190234994_2433548817344771691_oIt was still interesting to see, there were lots of fire performers but also a lot of drunk people and although we were a few drinks in, we really weren’t at the level of the people there. We stayed for an hour or so before heading back into town, getting some more food and back to our rooms.

The next day we decided to go with Diandra and Luigi as well as Jacob and Mary (a dutch couple we met the night before) to the Blue Lagoon. We arranged a tuk tuk to take us there, wait 2 hours and bring us back. The lagoon was really nice but as it was a weekend the whole place was filled with locals and tourists and it was just a bit too busy for our likings.17240485_10154241449876176_89713688454132799_oWe found a restaurant and got some lunch whilst dipping in and out of the lagoon to cool down. There was a tree you could climb where you jump off one of the branches into the water which some of the group enjoyed and we found a huge spider on one of the trees. 17218524_10154241450111176_6545286749251876047_oOnce we got back we got showered and then headed out to meet Diandra and Luigi at a place called Smile Bar. The walk there was really nice as the surroundings of Vang Vieng are beautiful and there was a really cool wooden bridge to walk over.17192257_10155252186344994_5747845346511900950_oOnce we arrived the bar was awesome, it is full of open wooden bungalows with hammocks along the riverside and you can lay in the tied up tubes in the river. 17240032_10154241948546176_1670597535839720330_oAfter a drink there we all went out to dinner in town before heading home.

Mike and Becki arrived in Vang Vieng and the four of us decided to go tubing. The tubing was pretty famous here because it used to be a huge party the whole way down the river with loads of bars and rope swings for people to spend the whole day at. It got a pretty bad name as there were quite a few deaths and they shut it down for a few years however the town experienced a massive decrease in tourism so they opened it up again with restrictions. The restrictions are that now there aren’t really any rope swings, there certainly weren’t any when we were there as it was dry season and the river was quite low. They only allow 2 bars to be open on the whole river which is an attempt to control how drunk people get although after experiencing it, it definitely isn’t working as people just spend more time getting drunk at the first bar. We arrived at the first bar only 50 metres down from there they drop you off with your tube and it was again not really our thing, there were lots of very drunk people (at 1pm) all playing drinking games and being generally a bit annoying. The four of us found a table outside the bar and enjoyed a beer there whilst chatting to some other people who were seated outside. In an attempt to get to the second bar before the crazies came we left and floated down to an almost empty bar, which was annoyingly only another 50 metres down the river.17310956_10155252186484994_3507257563814973762_oWe enjoyed about half a beer before everyone else started showing up. We got chatting to a few other nice travellers before I got kicked in the face by a flying soccer ball. Some drunk fool had decided to kick the soccer ball into the bar as hard as he could and unfortunately the whole left side of my face stopped it. We finished our drinks and floated down the Mekong until dark.17218688_10155258380929994_4247567372016192202_oOnce we got back into town and dropped off our tubes, Charlie and I decided to get some take away food and take it back to the room. I ordered a soup which came in a plastic bag, the way locals get theirs so it was quite amusing to try and eat my noodle soup from a plastic bag in our room.

The next day we got up and had a late breakfast in town where Mike and Becki met us to make plans for the day. We decided to walk to Them Chong Cave just out of town. We all walked there in the mid day heat which wasn’t the most enjoyable but luckily it was an easy enough walk. The cave was quite impressive, it was really big inside and where villages used to hide during the civil war.17310193_10154241945596176_1217687440336846128_oIt also had a pretty impressive viewpoint inside the cave.17239988_10154241945586176_5840941825137689207_oAfter the cave we headed to Smile Bar to float in the tubes and relax for a couple hours.17434916_10155283472144994_3723592316952725641_oMike and Becki had an amazing hotel where you got a great view of the town during sunset so we got a beer and headed there to watch the sunset. While we were there we got to witness hundreds of bats flying out from one of the mountains which was a great surprise!17218691_10154241985906176_4543959023061185007_o The view was amazing but I started getting a really sore throat so Charlie and I headed out to grab some food and got a bus booked for the next day to Luang Prabang.17218579_10154241987326176_7886527520437737243_oWe had a great time in Vang Vieng. We had been warned that it was just a party town but you can definitely go there and make it how you want it. The scenery around the town is stunning and we could have easily spent more time there.17349827_10154241947986176_3407801589507525568_o17240610_10154241945016176_2091503313908978893_o