After a twelve hour bus journey through the night we arrived in Vientiane; the capital of Laos. Immensely smaller in size to that of Bangkok and with very few tourists you immediately notice that Laos isn’t as popular on the tourist trail as neighbours Thailand and Vietnam. Laos is one of the poorest countries in the World and this is reflected in the structure of its capital as it is in great need of renovation. It is also the most bombed country in history mostly due to the Vietnam War. Many people don’t realise the impact the war had on Vietnam’s neighboring countries- Laos and Cambodia; yet with the friendly charm of its people it seems to be as though these scars have vanished.
Opting to only spend two nights in Vientiane due to there simply not being anything to do apart from eat and sleep we paid for the bus to Vang Vieng. On immediately leaving the City the roads become obsolete- part gravel- part sand- part concrete. This bus journey was not going to be fun; but at least we could see what the real Laos has to offer?
And that’s simple question to answer as you can immediately tell: Its all about the magnificent scenery! Rolling mountains with staggering peaks surrounded by a tropical jungle of Banana and Coconut trees; home to some of the planets most exotic animals; the Tiger; Leopard; Gibbons and many more. After four hours of this breath- taking yet uncomfortable ride we arrived in Vang Vieng- a place sat comfortably with in these mountains.
A beautiful township surrounded by lush grass; rice paddies and mountains full of caves there is plenty here to keep you entertained; especially the ‘Tubing’. Most tourist’s come to Vang Vieng for this one reason and its great fun. Its basically the same as kayaking or rafting down a river but instead you sit on a rubber- ring. With families- elderly people and the young all giving it a crack its defiantly worth doing when visiting the area. A tuk- tuk takes you up- river to the starting point where there are a few bars- rope swings and slides into the river. At least one person dies here every year but that is generally due to drinking excessive amounts of alcohol- as the tubing experience is generally safe all round. You then sit on the tube and let the river wind you through the mountains till you arrive back in Vang Vieng.
Other than Tubing the mountains around Vang Vieng offer great trekking and caving opportunities. We decided to hire mountain bikes for a day and do it that way.
We cycled out of Vang Vieng west and into the mountains. Following the dusty rocky roads with the grazing cows- pigs and children fast asleep in the little shade they could find the heat became unbearable! Loosing immense amounts of water as the sun beamed through the crisp blue sky’s we enjoyed the uniqueness of Laos green ranges. As if surrounded by giants the thin pinnacles of the mountains seemed to watch us along with the locals in despair as we struggled to cycle along. Arriving at a place nicknamed The Blue Lagoon we were able to shade and bathe in these clear blue mountain waters and enjoy this relief from the heat. With rope- swings into the water and the hundreds of fish visible through it- it was defiantly worth the stop! At the Blue Lagoon is a cave named Tham Phu Kham of which a Golden Buddha lies inside. As the sun shines into the cave it lights up the Buddha. Leading up towards to cave is a very steep 200m climb though the jungle; watch for the snakes and spiders! The cave system here is stunning. Even for the claustrophobe’s you can’t help but be drawn into this world that’s like no other unless you have seen the film ‘The Descent’. We spent an hour without a guide exploring the cave as its all very simple to follow the cave routes by yourself. But there was one tiny part that even I wouldn’t dare squeeze myself through (I’ll leave that one to Bear Grylls).
All in all get out of Vientiane like all other major cities just so you can see what the country really has to offer. If you want to find it in Laos head 4 hours north to Vang Vieng and you find a small piece of what Laos has to offer here.
*Next stop Luang Prabang and Luang Prabang Orphanage