The next stop was Vang Vieng. We took a minivan for about four hours from Luang Prabang. The scenery was beautiful- rice fields, villages, and mountains. We started seeing the limestone karst mountains that push dramatically out of the ground into the clouds and the blue sky:
Vang Vieng itself was dusty, full of tourists, and under construction. It was small and easy to navigate, again with the easy food like fruit shakes, baguette sandwiches, and crepes.
We crossed this small river to get to the larger one, the Nam Song:
I do want to mention that Vang Vieng has had a reputation as a backpacker party town, though they say this has lessened over the years, especially in regards to drugs. There are a lot of bars, however, and tourists who disrespect local modesty norms by being loud and drunk, wearing revealing clothing, etc. I’m all for flaunting what you got, kids, but not here; they actually have signs, which get ignored, asking tourists to cover up as they walk through town. When we first got on the inner tubes, there were so many Beerlao-drinking, European looking college-age kids, I felt like I was in Fort Lauderdale on spring break! Also, there are bars along the river as you float along. They will actually toss you a rope and pull you in if you like. Luckily for us, these seemed concentrated at the beginning of the river ride, and we quickly put them behind us and enjoyed peacefully floating downstream. At the end, we stopped and sat on hammocks and had fruit shakes at a riverside cafe while sitting in hammocks. Later, we carried our tubes back into town. We crossed this bridge back to the town:
I got up early the next day and watched the town wake up. Here are kids heading to school in the morning:
I loved seeing these ducks in a submerged boat:
This was our favorite place to eat. A lot of places had these low tables on platforms where you remove your shoes, relax with a pillow, and enjoy. They had fruit salad, yogurt and meusli for us tourists, along with delicious shakes like coconut, mango, and pineapple.
One day we got motor scooters and went to the ‘blue lagoon’ swimming spot. I was proud I could drive this thing, though Cleverly loves telling me how slow I went! We wanted Fiercely to try, but she was sick that day and stayed in the hotel room. We had planned on rock climbing but Fiercely did not feel up to it, so we went swimming.
Here are the twins jumping off the high tree branch- the crowd loved this! It could get crowded with tour groups, especially Korean tourists. We ended up staying in a bungalow here (see next post) so we swam here a lot.
Lao bathrooms were strange to us at first. The shower is not a separate space, rather the floor is tiled and has a drain. The nozzle is on the wall and you just shower right there. There is a second, lower shower nozzle next to the toilet (we saw this both with sit toilets and squatties) in most bathrooms to be used in place of toilet paper.
While scootering to the Blue Lagoon, we stopped for fruit shakes at this inviting cafe and learned about their community projects and their volunteer program.