To travel south in Laos, we knew the road would pass through the rural mountains. That means switch backs and narrow passages. We are traveling in a mini van but this time we get the rear seat. We decide to split some Dramamine before the trip starts and also roast from the heat in the van while waiting for others to load. The rear hatch is up, and we think we hear the hail of our names. We look back but no faces seem familiar, then Phet and Carson step up. We are always glad to see these young men who we met on the slow boat. They get the last seats. We also have Aussie Keith from the boat join us. An unusual wrinkle in Asia are the two American gals who ride with us. They work for the World Health Organization, had just finished an assignment in Africa, and were taking a holiday. They were from Cleveland, Ohio. Coincidentally, we had just read that the WHO had just appointed the new worldwide director, Dr. Tedros from Ethiopia . So we had stuff to talk about when we were not listening to our newest Audio book.
We knew that Vang Vieng was a naturalist area with kayaking, tubing, swimming, caving, mountain biking, hang gliding, and trekking. It had cleaned up its reputation for drug use and hedonism. We planned ahead, deciding a 6 hour van ride was a sufficient day of travel. Our place, the Laos Haven, was basic but had a pool and had decent Aircon. (PS. In Asia, no one says just AC). After our pool time, we had dinner at the #1 restaurant in town according to Trip Advisors—that would be Gary’s Irish Pub. This was only the first or second time we ate cheese burgers on this trip, and drank “Mexican Beer” with lime.
We went kayaking on the ”Nam Song” river. It was a beautiful coarse snaking through the mountains with just enough rapid water and boulders to make the trip more fun. We had a group of 4 two man kayaks. We travelled about 11 km, watching the native Laotians fish and swim in this very blue mountain water. Frank and Janet teamed up and rocked along by pushing out say 5½ horsepower. The group took an unofficial break and docked at a waterside open air storefront for some cold beer. We've got to thank our group Chinese guy for leading the way to the bar. As we got closer to town we noticed many new hotels being built. This place is going to explode with tourism. We came at the right, rustic, time. We finished at about noon. We did not want to be on the river during the high heat of the afternoon. When the temperature is at 96F, the humidity makes it feel like 104F.
We then chose to go to the Blue Lagoon. This place is a natural Laotian water park—rather small, but with rope swings and jumping platforms in giant trees for some cannonballs into the cool waters. You can also zip line, repel, and explore caves. When we arrived our guide gave us a tasty box lunch. We sat at a table under a shady tree and just then were joined by the gals from Cleveland who came from zip lining. These girls were fearless and jumped from the highest platform. Not wanting to show them up, we jumped in from the lowest platform.
As we took another break in the shade, to our surprise the slow boat guys, Phet and Carson, showed up. They had been motorcycling around the city and area and decided to see the Blue Lagoon. We all joked around. The weirdest thing was we asked how they liked their Hostel, “Backbackers I”. They really liked it, except for the fact some one had stolen several peoples valuables because there was not nearly enough safes. Also, one of the perps was captured after he crawled into bed and groped a female traveler. With small hotels costing less than $30 a night we think we will stay out of hostels in SE Asia.
At 2:00 we all headed back to the hotel. The guys still had some motorcycling to do. Phet promised to contact us for the MSU/Penn State football game. Hope he does. We were certainly cooled down from the Blue Lagoon, so did not need the pool. We sat on the open air balcony and worked on travel plans. The hotel was nice enough to set up a fan next to us. We finished the evening by eating at an open air restaurant near the river that served Thai food. It was really, really great, and for both of us with beer and a pineapple shake totaled $8. Tomorrow, we head for the Capital of Laos, Vientiane. We paid for the VIP transport—hope there is some aircon and leg room.