Friday, April 9, 2010

Travels: Luang Prabang & Vang Vieng

Our first day at the waterfall left us with the impression that we'd found a pretty place to cool off and beat the heat. We weren't aware how much more there was to see!
A few people had told us to climb to the top, through a stream, past some wooden stairs, that it would be totally worth it. We set out to discover this less frequented area of the waterfall and were not disappointed.
After climbing up some trails, and then some stairs, we had to wade through a tiny branch of the waterfall ... over trees and rocks, which luckily were not too slippery. We were rewarded by reaching one of the coolest places I've ever seen. Near the top of the waterfall there is a large, deep pool, surrounded by more waterfalls, and cliffs perfect for jumping. It was exhilarating to jump into the cold water, and realize what an amazing place we'd found. One by one, people leapt in, and without fail surfaced with huge smiles on their faces. We spent the majority of the afternoon there, and it was definitely on of the highlights of our trip so far!

The rest of our time in Luang Prabang was spent eating good food, relaxing, and checking out a few temples.
On Wednesday we took a mini van to Vang Vieng ... the site of the infamous Laos tubing. The ride was about 6 hours long, and the winding, narrow roads made it quite stressful. Luckily it takes a lot to make me carsick, so I was able to read and ignore the bad road conditions. However, when I did dare to look up from my book I was rewarded with some absolutely stunning scenery.

Vang Vieng is basically a party town. It is filled with foreigners and bars. The major draw is tubing ... you rent an inner tube and float down the river, stopping at bars along the way. I was really excited to be in the water all day, but it turned out that most of the bars were in a small stretch at the beginning of the route, so after 2 hours we'd only moved about 100m. After that we skipped the bars, and just enjoyed the ride downriver, amazed at the scenery (if you haven't picked up on it already, Laos is gorgeous!). The tubing was fun, but there were so many crazy activities taking place that I was nervous the whole time that I'd have to put my expired first aid skills to use. Most bars have giant rope swings for customers to swing on. However, the river is so shallow in places that I was terrified watching people swing. Also, drinking and water sports is never a good idea, but Vang Vieng seems to take it to a whole new level!
Overall, a neat idea, but maybe I'm just a worrier ... it scared the $&@$ our of me!

Tomorrow we're moving on to the capital city - Vientiane for 2 nights, then onto Southern Laos.

So far I've enjoyed Laos so much more than Thailand. The atmosphere, natural beauty and the people are amazing. I'm really looking forward to the rest of our time here!

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