We have spent the last week or so travelling around North Laos. After the chill out place that was Luang Prabrang we had a 6 hour ride from hell to Vang Vieng, adult Disneyland as someone put it.
Vang Vieng is a small town next to a river which has been transformed into an 18-30s party zone. A section of the river is laid out of people to tube down in rubber rings, jump off trapeze rope swings and generally drink a lot.
We did a great trip which got us away from the madness and into the countryside. We tubed in a cave, trekked a bit and ultimately kayaked through beautiful waters. All peaceful until you get to the otherworldly tubing section.
People at the bars throw in bottles on rope to pull you in. Every bar has different drink buckets, and even offer mud volleyball. Vanessa went on a rope swing. At first a good idea, she swung all around at dropped into the river gracefully. However on her second attempt she slipped off within 2 seconds. After seeing her emerge and a quick inspection she had just a cut inner lip. Some others werent as fortunate. We saw many people on crutches.
Vientaine the capital was just too hot. Every day despite tropical storms were 35 degrees. We did manage to get around a bit of the suprisingly modern capital. One of the best things we did was visit the excellent COPE center for unexploded bomb victims. Laos is the most heavily bombed country on Earth. During the Vietnam war the US ran secret carpet bombing campaigns all over Laos for 6 years. Even today people, especially children in rural areas find cluster bombs and the slightest of movement can explode them. COPE provides support and awareness for children all over Laos.
As I write we are currently nearer the end of a horrible 24 hour sleeper bus to Hanoi, Vietnam. There are 7 of us foreigners and we have all been put at the back of a bus which wasnt what we paid for. We all were promised a VIP bus with toilet, instead we have a old bus with a leaky roof. An Irish guy travelling with us had to move as it was dripping on his lap. We eventually taped up the hole only for the driver to rip it off at a stop. Luckily the rain stopped. However we had fun at the Laos Vietnam border. The corrupt Vietnam border guard demanded $1 per Westerner for a stamp. A whole bunch of about 40 people were fuming and refused to pay. Then these two English girls paid them, so left us with no choice. That guy must make several hundred dollars a day, a huge amount in Vietnam, and there is nothing you can do. Thank god for the EU.
Vietnam is known for scams and extortion of tourists. Nice to know the border guards are in on the scheme.