Flashback Friday: Vang Vieng, tucked along the Nam Xong River in Laos. The passing months have polished away all of the annoyances of the city to just leave the beautiful memory of watching the setting sun color the mountains, clouds and river. It remains as one of the most beautiful cities visited.
We were only there for one day and perhaps that also allowed it to stay pure in my mind and overlook the tons of bars and other wear-and-tear on the city. We’d arrived on the suggestion of a friend that a bus from Vientiane straight to Luang Prabang was just too long. In stopping, we were able to take in the beautiful town, that’d been forced to grown up a little.
In its heyday it was a mecca for expats drawn in by the drunken tubing and partying. That mix proved deadly for many, so the government put a stop to it. Tubing is still available but there has been a sharp decline in tourists. We saw a copious amounts of bars and restaurants but they were virtually empty. It was also off-season but the streets were surprising quiet, besides the sound of the Friends sitcom or reggae music.
Armed with a recommendation, we stayed at one of our most interesting accommodations. The bungalow was near a river, accessed by steep stairs and a mildly sketchy bridge. The attendant who lead us to our room, took the stairs at a normal pace as if they weren’t just random planks with slots large enough to take a leg. She quickly got ahead of us and turned to find us holding onto the railing, descending slowly, and taking photographs (all while balancing our luggage.)
Without falling through, we made it to our room and a part of me screamed ‘no!’ when she opened the door. The bungalow had matted walls, wood planks for flooring and no AC. I was worried about creepy crawlies but mosquito netting was draped over each bed. The room was quite large too consisting of two beds: a single and double and an attached (sort of) bathroom with shower and toilet. My initial reaction, of course, necessitated that we stay there for the experience. It’s not like I wanted to slug my luggage up the stairs again anyways.
The bathroom was attached but had a gap between the bungalow that allowed me to successfully chuck the soap through it later, as I tried to toss it to James. I figured ‘new soap it is!’ but James took his headlamp and found it underneath, so industrious he is!
We wandered into town slathered in bug spray and went down to the river to have a mediocre dinner in a truly beautiful setting. I think my smoothie may have introduced the parasite that would knock me down the rest of my time in Laos but I will never regret being able to see the river and mountains at sunset. I would absolutely recommend it! We saw a few boats pass slowly across the river to another set of bungalows and kayakers paddling by. It was truly relaxing and we soaked it in until the sky was dark.
We took off to explore the town and debated staying a few days to do trekking. Rain was promised though so we opted to move on to Luang Prabang. We celebrated our remaining hours with crappy massages, to the soundtrack of our masseuses (word used generously) talking to each other the entire time. (This is a common theme with every massage though for they always pair us up.) A Laos massage appear to consist of just various pushes on the skin versus any actual massaging or the various stretches of a Thai massage. They are probably best avoided in tourist areas.
Underwhelmed, we headed back to our bungalow, down the stairs slick with rain and I felt very grateful to not have my luggage. We sat on the patio while the rain picked up, beer in hand, but only mildly enjoying it (as my sickness was seeping in). The storm delighted though and enticed me to join it. I stepped off the patio to be instantly soaked by the downpour. It was a fantastic finale to our night there (especially as the shower was heated!)
The next morning we left about 8:30 to catch our next five hour van ride to Luang Prabang. The morning proved equally beautiful with low clouds dancing across the mountains in the distance.
I would definitely love to return to this city and spend more time with the mountains. I see a paddle or a trek through the area in our future!