Georgios and I took a minivan from Phonsavan to Vang Vieng, which, quite surprisingly, didn't take that long (5-6 hours). Immediately after we were dropped off at the bus station I ran into Jesse and Sabine, a Dutch couple, who I'd met and hung out with in Luang Prabang. It was so random running into them there. I mean, when we were in Luang Prabang we discussed the possibility of meeting up in Vang Vieng but I didn't think we would arrive at the exact moment! Strange. So the 4 of us began looking for rooms. Georgios and I looked a bit longer in order to find cheaper accommodation, which we found (30,000 kip/per person/per room).
After we got settled into our rooms we anxiously hit the streets to see what the city had to offer. I've heard many things about this city. Vang Vieng seems to be a city that is either loved or despised. It's a fairly small town with various restaurants and bars (where reruns of Friends and The Family Guy are played throughout the entire day), guesthouses, and expensive Internet cafes. The city center shuts down between 11-12 pm, but the bars and clubs located across the bridge stay open until the roosters crow.
Vang Vieng is really known for its tubing. That's right... tubing. If you were to tell someone that you were going to Vang Vieng it's highly probably that you'll be immediately asked if you're going tubing or not. So the 4 of us (Jesse, Sabine, Georgios and I) went out to experience this seemingly Laos phenomenon. When the tuk tuk dropped us off at the river, with our big tubes in hand, I noticed that hardly anyone had a tube. From the looks of it, everyone was pretty blitzed and had stationed themselves at the bars located along the river. I felt like someone who thought they were attending a costume party, only to find out after arriving that everyone was dressed in their normal clothes. Wa Wa Waaaaaa.....
It was a bit disgraceful, really. I mean I was standing beneath awesome, gorgeous scenery with massive green limestone mountains towering over me; natural beauty I couldn't wait to tube along side of. It was a pity to see people choosing to ignore something so amazing, only to choose to get completely intoxicated and loaded up on whatever drugs people were taking. Now I'm not knocking the whole partying scene or anything, this is something I did every night in Vang Vieng. I'm just saying it's a shame that people choose to ignore Vang Vieng's natural beauty. Isn't this what drives people to travel to Laos, for its nature, wilderness, wildlife, vegetation, for its... for its geography, essentially? Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now.
One of my favorite places to chill out and relax was at this restaurant (sorry, I forget the name of it) where you could watch any movie that's in stock upon request--and on a big flat screen television, I might add. The place was co-owned by an American named Steve, who Georgios and I always referred to as Burt, as in Burt Reynolds. I forgot to take his picture but this one should suffice. I mean the guy looked exactly like him, only, well... a gayer version. Again, as I mentioned before in my earlier blogs, not that there's anything wrong with that!
We never had solid proof that he was but there were a number of reasons that we felt he was: (1) he never spoke about women, (2) he continually made jokes that referred to a significant member of the male anatomy, and (3) one day he entered the restaurant wearing this open leather vest, something straight out of The Village People, the disco musical group. I could hear the song "Y.M.C.A." as he entered the restaurant.
"Okay. There's no more discussion about it anymore," Georgios said to me, as Bert walked in wearing the leather vest.
As I mentioned before, Georgios and I went out every night.
We spent our last day riding bicycles through the countryside where we visited a blue lagoon and a cave, both of which were highly recommended by Burt. The countryside was so beautiful, too. It was amazing how far away I felt from Vang Vieng's town center once we crossed the bridge to explore its countryside. Literally, I felt as if I'd been teleported a hundred miles away once we crossed it.
All in all, I had a really good time in Vang Vieng. There's more to the city than its social scene if you're not into that sort of thing. There's plenty of beautiful scenery and nature to be explored just minutes away by bicycle. The city is essentially what you make of it. For me, it was nothing but good times.
Next Stop: Vientiane