Laos - The unheard and uncommon story

Tripoto
29th Sep 2018
Day 1

Mumbai - Bangkok - Vientaine - Vang Vieng

I took a flight from Mumbai to Vientiane via Bangkok. A total of 6.5 hour flight and 2 hours of halt at Bangkok. It can get tiring. The trip started at Mumbai airport where the Immigration officials did not recognize the place I was travelling to. This is a place now much travelled by Indians. It took them 20 mins to confirm if the place I was headed to existed or I had bought the right ticket. My heart kept pouncing till the time they did not give me a clearance.

On reaching Vientaine I had to take a bus to Vang Vieng which was a 4-5 hour journey.Buses are frequently available between 7:00 am to 6:00pm. You can enquire about the bus schedule at the airport. So reaching the Vientaine airport I headed for the immigration and Visa on arrival process and collecting my checked in baggage. Being the International airport I expected it to see people around with stores and food court lounges just like the others but to my surprise, this was the most quitiest airport I have  ever been to.

After completing my process an enquiring the routes to Central Bus terminal for a bus to Vang vieng. I got a local bus to the bus terminal where I took the bus to Vang vieng.

Reached Vang Vieng by the evening as the bus got delayed due to rains and checked into my hotel.  Next milestone was to find a restaurant where I could get someone me  Vegetarian food. Being a vegetarian person  travelling to South Aisan countries, food can really be a challenge. Eventually, since I had already researched I found the good place called "Space Bar" or the "Tifalcony Pizza" the served me a good pizza, this place has got some good vibes and great crowd. With wholesome food and small chat with people around I finally ended my day after a long journey.

Aircraft at Vientaine airport

Photo of Laos by Akriti
Day 2

Vang Vieng City Day 1

Planned for a 2 day trip to Vang Vieng
This place is set amid soaring limestone karsts, the self-styled "tubing capital of the world" gives a wonderful experience.

Spent time exploring caves that included the Than Jang Cave (8-11:30 am & 1-4:30 pm) - it's got a 107 steps to climb that are steep and high. Thank Phu Kham (8:30 am - 4:30 pm) - This is an interesting stop also known as Blue Lagoon 1, an azure of stream running in front of the cave.

The journey to Tham Phu Kham passes through stunning and majestic karst landscapes.
I happened to also travel to the Blue Lagoon 3 on a rough road and around 10 km towards the left of the blue lagoon 1. It is ideal for a refreshing dip. This place also has a water cave if you tend the go in deep, the path is not easily accessible and rains can make the road riskier even further. Since not much people know about the place and it's whereabouts, you will not find a lot of people crowding there. The place however is very relaxing with a bit of activities around. The lagoon is formed in such a way that after you swim you reach the edge where the water forms into a small waterfall. It's a beauty to watch it and get relaxed.

Back to the hotel, refreshed and headed to party with people from all around the world but, found no Indian  around the vicinity. There are 2 main places you must visit if you are in Vang Vieng. 1. Nana Backpacker's Hostel - To enjoy the chill vibes of the people partying and relaxing by the pool 2. Sakura Bar - To experience the nightlife of Vang Vieng and to set up a party mood. Others that you could go to are Gary's kitchen and bar and Viva Club,any others are just on the way.

Well that's how my evening ended, dancing and partying all along the night.

Day 3

Vang Vieng City Day 2

Today comes an exciting day of relaxing, enjoying and partying while floating through the Nam Song River. This is one of Vang Vieng's signature activity and your trip is incomplete if you haven't experienced this.
This takes place on hired inflatable tractor tire tubes which floats through the river. The starting point lies 3 miles (around 5 km) north of the town and the entire route is lined up with beer bars, playing music and hosting people around. Those who do not wish to take a halt at any of these bars can head straight to the bridge marking to the end stop of tubing.
The activity would be recommended if done in groups to enjoy the entire experience. If you are a solo traveller you could get in touch with the Hostel "Nana Backpacker's" where you can join the others for this activity - Don't worry all are welcomed here!

The activity cost is 65000 Laotian Kips and 20000 Kip deposit for the inflated tube which is refundable. If you are willing to stop by around the bars on the way and enjoy some drinks then ensure you carry some cash in a waterproof bag. Taking cell phones would be highly risky - A bad idea (as mine caught moisture during the activity and eventually stopped working). The crowd around will mostly be foreigners and solo traveller, sure to make some great friends around. The bars are also managed by travellers that come and stay there for a while, earn their living while exploring, partying, relaxing through the city.

The tubing starts at around 1-1:30 and ensure you reach the end before it's dark, the currents can be strong at times and visibility can be an issue.
I met a lot of people throughout this activity, made great and experienced some breathtaking views. The activity ended for me at around 6-6:30 pm. The end stop has a born-fire usually where you can sit and dry yourself along with others before you head back to your hotel.

Towards the day end in the late evening I enjoyed relaxing, talking and drinking along with the new friends I made.

Tube party

Photo of Nam Song River, Laos by Akriti
Day 4

Vang Vieng - Luangprabang

This day was mostly spent in travelling from Vang Vieng to Luangprabang. Since it was the end of monsoon the roads were a bit rough and a 4 hr drive took 9-10 hrs to reach the city as I encountered 3 landslides each blocked for an hour or so for clearance along the way and the route was through the entire mountain range as the main bridge connecting the 2 cities was broken too.

If you are planning to travel via the road transport then ensure you keep some butter travel time as road travels can be tricky at times. If you are on a time crunch then it is advisable to travel back to Vientaine and then take bus to Luangprabang. Since my trip consisted of covering only the north of Laos with very specific destinations to visit I did keep some buffer time.

The view through the entire stretch with the beautiful landscapes was just amazing, cutting through the clouds at some places and navigating through the mountain tops in some cases, it was very refreshing. I finally made it to the city at 8 in the evening. A tiring drive I must say but, an experience in it's own.

On reaching the designated hostel the only thing on my mind was the food, being a vegetarian this can again be a challenge in most of the Southeast Asian countries however, I came across a small cafe that looked very interesting from the outside called "Joma Bakery" this is situated on the main street opposite to the Luangprabang night market. I tried a vegetable sandwich here and it was loaded with cheese when I received the order, it was tasty for sure. The ambience was great and you must visit this place if you are in town.

I also happened to visit the Night market which was just across the street from my hostel "Downtown Backpacker's Hostel". This one is the most recommended than the one in Vientaine, you will find interesting stuff artifacts and handcraft items along with clothes and bags to shop for. You can bargain to some extent on bulk buys, the street is lively and colorful, alongside you can also find eateries and options for desserts, etc if you wish to try some not to expensive and surely give a taste of the local food.

Tiring but beautiful drive, good food, great dessert and a cozy bed ended my day here.

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