Sunday, 13 February 2011

Laos instead of Tet celebrations in Vietnam

It all started with a spontaneous decision on Sunday afternoon as the weather in Danang was freezing cold and no sunshine seem to come through at all.

We had Tet in Vietnam – Lunar New Year Celebrations! Which means that everybody is off work at least for 1-2 weeks.

So here I was booking flights to Luang Prabang, Laos for Tuesday morning.

Arriving in Luang Prabang I already met the first person at the Visa application office - German girl who worked in Hanoi and is going traveling now. So I already had company on my way into town. I found a lovely hotel near the Mekong River for the first night.

I spent my first afternoon walking around town and figuring out which tour I actually would like to join. I couldn't really make up my mind somehow, so I didn't rush into anything.

After having some dinner I decided spontaneously to leave Luang Prabang to heading down to Vang Vieng which is known by all the backpackers as the famous "Tubing" place...bus trip takes up to 6 hours I was told - ticket bought and now I had a Lao Beer! I didn't take long until I bumped into the German girl again which I had met at the Visa Office. She was with another traveller from Israel. We decided to go for a drink in a bar, which was recommended, called Utopia. Took us quiet a while to find it so as there were at least 5 signs which always confirmed "50m Utopia", but actually you had to walk around another corner and another one and so on ;) very Asian so and entertaining too! The walk was all worse it as we arrived at a gorgeous place right next to the river with a cosy seating area with a lot of pillows etc.! The guy from Israel said he will come down to Vang Vieng on Friday and we might see each other there.

What a first night in Luang Prabang!

Good night sleep, lovely breakfast – I had a warm croissant with pineapple jam ;) It was ages ago I had eaten one.

Then the minibus picked me up from my hotel to drive to Vang Vieng. There was one seat left next to a guy, which looked pretty friendly. We actually got talking and it appeared he is from Brighton and traveling through Asia. We chatted the whole trip about Ireland and back home and Asian culture and so on. The bus trip flew by even if it took 7 hours!

Vang Vieng has beautiful stunning scenery. Limestone’s, caves, rice paddies, rivers and gorgeous sunshine :) What else can you ask for?!

I stayed for 3 nights in total, found a very nice Riverside bungalow for the first night and moved after that as the Chinese invaded the town due to Chinese new year ;) but found another lovely room which even served breakfast on a terrace with the magnificent view onto the mountains!!

On my first evening I went to a Riverside cosy Lao's bar/restaurant called “Otherside” with a great book I got from a friend called "EAT PRAY LOVE”.

It didn't take very long when a nice guy came past and ask if they can join me. So instead of sitting by myself reading a book, I was surrounded by 8 other travelers from the UK and Australia! We had a lovely time and so much fun :) We decided to go tubing together the next day at 1pm :)

And there I was at 1pm, renting a tube and got on a tuk-tuck with the whole bunch.

The sun was blazing from the sky and we arrived at the first bar...I have never seen something like this before. So many bars along this river and so many young people already drinking...oh well, so let's start.

What an afternoon we had! I tried to start with a beer so at least I will last a bit longer. Other people started with spirits straight away drinking out of buckets ;) So we went tubing from one bar to the next for 5h!!!

Bar No. 2 had a swing high up (around 5-6meters from the ground) where some people were swinging over the river and jumping into the water. I really liked that idea and it looked like fun :) what can I say…I ended up persuaded by Joe to jump with him…so I walked up with him on that small little wooden plateau and almost died…it was so bloody high!!! Joe tried to calm me down and there we were both hands on the swing and down we went…oh mine god!!!

What an adventure – my rips are still sore ;) But it was all worthwhile as I will never forget it. Tubing to the next bars we were dancing, drinking out of buckets and did some skipping rope. What great day we had an what fun!!! Back in town around 6pm I had to sleep for a bit. We all met for dinner again this evening, but this time no alcohol anymore ;)

Next day all sober again I decided to rent a bicycle.

I cycled around town and 15km from Vang Vieng there was a famous cave called “Poumkam Cave” with a blue lagoon in front of it.

Gorgeous looking really! I stayed there for a while reading my book and just relaxed. Then when more tourists arrived I decided to give it a go to walk up to the cave – another adventure I can tell you. Kerstin had her new Flip Flops on and hiked up the stairs to the cave. Some local family was with me and they had a torch with them ;) So I followed them into the cave. It was amazingly huge! We walked deeper and deeper into the cave which I didn’t really realize until we were so deep in the cave that we didn’t know anymore where the way to the exit was…just a little bit scary I have to say. Kerstin with Flip Flops in a cave with a Laos family which couldn’t speak any English whatsoever. It took us over an hour to see the daylight again…oh mine god – I was so relieved…and the Laos family as well for sure!!!

Back in town I gave back my bicycle and decided to walk a bit around town. If you believe it or not but I bumped into Philip again, the English guy from Brighton which I met on the bus ride 2 days ago. We decided to go for a coffee and had a lovely chat.

In the evening I met the Tubing crowd again for dinner and on my way back to the hotel I met the guy from Israel again, which was looking for a room with his other travelers. I walked with them and after a while they all had a place to sleep. We decided to go back to the restaurant again, where I had been earlier on. The evening was so nice – I met more new people as usual: Another guy from Israel who works in China, an Irish girl (Yippie!!!) Finally an Irish accent again ;) We had a brilliant time!

Next morning I had to go back to Luang Prabang on another 7h bus ride. But well it was all worthwhile ;)

Back in Luang Prabang I went up the small mountain in town to watch the sunset.

I bought some presents for my friends in Vietnam at the night market. Next day my flight was leaving in the afternoon.

The weather was still gorgeous and I had a lovely walk down the river and relaxed in another lovely cosy place along the river.

What a great vacation this was :) I can dearly say “I love Laos” and the people.

I am soon going to make a decision what to do next until I will return back to IBM in April 2012.

Have a few ideas in my head, but nothing which I can blog about yet ;) Will let you know soon when the plans are more concrete – promise!


  1. Nice Post :) Keep Writing your experiences - may motivate someone else to embark on a similar journey!

  2. I love your storytelling and the fact you post so many pictures. I am going to spend a usual sunday in balbriggan but for a few minutes i was transported in another magical part of the world!

  3. Hi Kerstin, good stories. I will be in Chiang Mai the week after next and then going to see Nicole in Singapore. Not going to Vietnam this trip ;-(.

  4. Thank you so much for the comments :)

    Greg, have a brilliant time in Chiang Mai - I am planning to got there during April/May too ;) And enjoy Singapore!

  5. Another exciting trip!!! Laos seems beautiful! Big hug!

  6. Wow, looks like I need to add Laos back to my list to visit. Sounded like a fun holiday and some great photos xoxox