Category Archives: LAOS

Delays In Vientiane

The next day we were picked up by a minivan to go to Vientiane. The journey cost us £3.50 pp. As the minivan pulled up we were both confused and laughed as if to say, ‘Imagine if they put our bags on the roof’, then the driver climbed onto the ladders and asked for us to pass our bags. They actually were on the roof (thankfully strapped in). As we were the final pick-up we were stuck at the back of the van and it was so bumpy you could quite literally feel every twig and stone we’d drive over, I’m still convinced we should have been provided with helmets, to be honest.

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We made it to Vientiane alive… and in one piece. We made some more friends on the bus who were lovely and they didn’t have any accommodation booked so they joined us at our hostel. We spent the day with them and went to do some sightseeing.

We went to Pha That Luang, a golden temple which sits at the heart of northern Vientiane,

The Patuxai, which seemed to be a representation of the ‘Arc De Triomphe’ from Paris,

And an unnamed temple near the Pha That Luang.

It was an enjoyable day in which we were able to enrich ourselves within the Laos culture. We went back to our rooms to freshen up and then went for some dinner with them. The plan was to get some street food, but nothing really tickled our fancy. We went to a restaurant instead which seemed to be where the locals would go. There was a live singer, and the meals were still reasonable price paying a small amount of about £4 for 2 of us.

We wandered around town and then decided to head back for the evening. We sat around and just stayed up talking until we all looked like we were about to fall asleep, that’s when we realised we should call it a night.

Our final day in Laos we were hanging around. We booked a flight to get back to Bangkok because we really didn’t fancy sitting on a 20-hour bus journey when a flight would take less than an hour. It was a little more expensive by about £20pp. We hadn’t flown much and were doing well on our budget so decided that we would treat ourselves and travel via plane. The only problem was the flight was 21:30 so we had to wait around all day.

It wasn’t too bad though because we did some blogging and went to the Lao National Museum. It cost about £1 pp entry and I can understand why. We wouldn’t recommend visiting because it was pretty boring, the museum mostly consisted of photos with descriptions in their own language and whilst we can just about say hello in Lao, we certainly can’t speak it fluently. We were in & out within about 20 minutes but at least we did something with our day.

We attempted to join our friends to the museum but the plans fell through so we ended up meeting them afterwards before saying our goodbyes. It was sad saying goodbye yet again, but unfortunately, that’s all part of travelling. We jumped into our tuk-tuk and was on our way to the airport.

Vientiane airport is tiny, we had quickly checked in, gone through security and was waiting around. James went to check our flight and was walking towards me with an un-amused look on his face – uh oh. We were delayed by 2.5 hours.

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We were so annoyed considering we had paid extra money to travel by air hoping to get there sooner but after waiting around all day, waiting at the airport and then getting delayed we would have been better off just getting a 20-hour bus. What made us laugh was within the flight cost we got a meal included. They made an announcement to inform us we were delayed and that they would give us a complimentary meal and drink. James went off to claim our ‘meal’ and this is what we got

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A custard roll the size of half my palm & a drink. At least they tried I suppose and it’s the thought that counts. 2.5 hours waiting and watching a lot of Orange is the New Black it was finally time to board. We flew with Thai Airways and it was really comfortable, it certainly put Easyjet to shame. It was a big plane with TV’s, cushions & food and for less than an hour journey, I didn’t feel as though I had enough time to get my money’s worth of the facilities. We were on our way to Bangkok, and it was quite a relief to be leaving Laos.

The Sleepy Town of Vang Vieng

The journey to Vang Vieng wasn’t too bad considering we were stuck on a minivan. However, the driver was fairly good compared to other drivers in SE Asia. When arriving it was, of course, raining, as usual, it was like wherever we would arrive we were always greeted by rain. Vang Vieng is a strange, small city. We were staying the other side of the old airstrip which kept us away from the chaos, only a 10-minute walk from the bus station so we walked. We arrived at our hotel and it was lovely and even better we were upgraded for free.

Unfortunately, due to the fact the exchange rate increased, we did have to pay a little more than we would have wanted at £16 per night, but again we had breakfast included so we didn’t have to pay out for that. The resort was called Vang Vieng Boutique Resort with a beautiful swimming pool. Unfortunately, I don’t think countries such as Laos have quite mastered drainage systems. The road leading out from our hotel was flooded nearly every day we were there which wasn’t very pleasant to walk through (especially with flip flops). I would always walk away with more mud than I wanted up my leg!

We then had to walk across the airstrip which looked like a boot-sale carpark which was also flooded. But once we had practically swum through the puddles we were only a 5-minute walk into the town. We discovered an Irish bar called Gary’s Irish Bar which was fantastic! Whilst we are both up for trying local dishes and sticking to their cuisine, there is only so much rice & noodles one’s body can take. A Western dish would always go down a treat, especially spaghetti Bolognese, although it never tasted as good as home.

The day after we explored the area and took advantage of the warm swimming pool overlooking the fields. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a huge amount to do in Vang Vieng so we just had another chilled-out day in the pool and at Gary’s Irish Bar. We booked a tour for the following day for about £8 which was tubing in the cave and then kayaking down the River afterwards, also including lunch.

We woke up and took full advantage of our free breakfast. We got picked up ready for the tour at about 9 am and we were with a group of Korean people again which is a shame because of the language barrier. We were taken to the river and walked through some rice fields to get to the cave. We put on our gear and jumped in our tube and it was so much fun!

We had a rope which we would use to pull ourselves through the cave. I didn’t get any photos of us in the cave because it was too dark. We were in there for about 45 minutes before coming back out and being blinded by the brightness of the sunlight. We walked back through the rice fields and went for some lunch which was delicious. Everyone had finished eating and we clambered into our kayak. Comparing our kayak adventure to when we took them out in the sea it was a completely different experience. The kayak down the river would just flow with the current which made it a lot easier, and much more fun!

The river we were going down was the same river where they do the tubing. This type of tubing is where you sit in a rubber ring and flow down the river.  Along the river banks there are many bars and the workers would throw out a rope and pull you in if you wanted to visit that bar. A few years ago, there were many deaths from this activity because people got so very drunk and drowned. They have now limited the number of bars that are allowed to be open so that people don’t get as drunk.

Our only advice is if you plan on doing tubing just be sensible, have a good time but just have your wits about you. We got talking to a couple who were on their way back from doing tubing and they were so drunk; they had 5 buckets between them which is a crazy amount. We stopped off at one of the bars during our kayak trip and indulged in a beer to share (we were sensible).

It was an incredible experience with the music blaring and the incredible views. We had a great day & we would highly recommend it, especially for the cheap price.

That evening we decided we would go out for some drinks. We met (another) really lovely couple from Scotland and ended up spending the evening with them enjoying a bar crawl. It was an enjoyable day, but it got to 2 am and we were so ready for bed.

We woke up, feeling slightly fragile but laughing about the night’s events. Another warning is to be very careful of drinks in Laos, we have heard many stories about people getting so overly drunk because of their bleach-tasting vodkas etc. The people we were with that evening, unfortunately, experienced it because they were battered, me and James proudly played mum and dad.

We had a relaxing day but ventured out to book our bus ticket to Vientiane for the next day. We grabbed some food and had a night in whilst enjoying a chip butty. A good night’s sleep was calling our names.

Not So Welcome To Laos

We checked out of our hotel which was called Baan Malai Guesthouse. This was great accommodation in a decent location, the hotel also offered free breakfast which was a lovely incentive.

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We would definitely recommend this hotel – it was a decent price costing us £12.00 per night for the both of us.

The bus wasn’t due to leave until 12:30, we booked our tickets at the Transport Co Ltd. (a couple of doors down from the 7/11 near the bus station). We went for the sleeper bus option as the whole journey took us around 18 hours. We got to the station in good timing and a glamorous double decker turned up, obviously we got our hopes, up only to be incredibly disappointed. A ‘cargo’ bus then arrived – yep, this was obviously our ride. With only a few beds slightly bigger than a single bed which we were supposed to share. Luckily the bus was nearly empty so we had a bed to ourselves. They loaded the bus up with goods to import to Laos and it was almost like we were just an addition to the journey. We couldn’t believe we had to sit on this bus for the next 18 hours surrounded by vegetables and bottles – it was a similar experience to Dagenham market. There was also no toilet. We even specifically asked the lady before booking if there was a toilet on board and she said yes. That’s another thing we’ve learnt, never accept their answer to be a true one.

We drove about 3 hours to the Laos border, went through immigration and Visa control and then we waited about an hour for our bus to drive back around to get us.

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We had arrived in cloudy Laos and still about 15 hours left of the journey. We were ready for some more sleep. The journey was going pretty smoothly until we came to a halt – there was a huge pile-up of trucks, it was then that I thought we had done a toilet break so I asked the driver and he just pointed outside. There were 2 lovely Korean girls on the bus with us and they also needed to go. So there I was, peeing on a highway with a stranger holding a towel up to cover me at 8pm at night – I felt like a top traveller. After about an hour we began to move again and we stopped off for dinner after a bit more driving.

Travel sickness started to kick in but I decided to just overdose on travel sickness tablets. We both surprisingly managed to get to sleep (although I probably just drugged myself) and then we were woken up at 6am by “LUANG PRABANG” being screamed in our ears. We hopped on a tuk-tuk and was taken to our Guesthouse, the dreaded Guesthouse. We clambered through the door waking the poor Receptionist up, we followed him to our room. We were greeted by ants in the bed and all over the floor – not the kind of greeting we desired. We told the man and allowed us to move rooms and it was insect-free! We crawled into bed for a few more hours before then going out to explore the area.

We went out to get some food at a small cafe and then walked around for a while exploring. The cafe we went to was called Indigo Cafe where there is a rooftop bar you can doss around in whilst enjoying a nice refreshing drink. The first day didn’t consist of much, just looking around and booking a day tour for the following day.

That evening we went to a bar called Utopia and it’s apparently the ‘place to go’ and we can completely understand why.

Hosting a chilled-out vibe with fantastic views across the Mekong River – we could have stayed all night. As expected drinks are slightly more expensive but you pay for the views.

We walked back to our guesthouse and got some sleep ready for the tour the next day.

We had booked a tour to go and see the *** waterfall. We went to the booking office and was picked up by the minivan and off we went. We drove about an hour out of town and made it to the waterfall. When walking in there is a bear sanctuary to see which is a great addition.

We continued walking up to the waterfalls and then went for a swim.

It was so unbelievably cold it felt like the Ice Bucket challenge all over again, it was quite literally breath-taking. After swimming around for a while we discovered there were fish in the water that clearly thought your feet were food. We practically got a free fish pedicure.

We had about 3 hours at the waterfall which was more than enough time to enjoy our surroundings. The entrance price for the waterfall was 20,000kip (about £2.00) which included the bear sanctuary. For the whole tour (being taken there & back and also the entrance fee) we paid around £5.50 pp.

The rest of the day we just chilled around and visited the night market that evening

The next day we had a productive day of booking our journey to Vang Vieng, catching up on the blog and also doing some research for future journeys. Despite doing a lot of research that day we said we would walk the Mount Phou Si which is renowned for its fantastic sunset views. We got there at 5 pm and sunset wasn’t until 6:50 pm but we wanted to claim a good spot.

It was truly spectacular and the views were out of this world. About 10 minutes before the sun went down, a massive herd of tourists stood in front of us. It was a shame but we still got to see unreal views.

The evening quickly came around, we went to our regular street food stall (which was super cheap and delicious).

We went back to the not-so-lovely guesthouse and got some sleep. After a lot of debating which company to use to book to travel onto Vang Vieng, we stupidly booked with our hotel. As I get bad travel sickness with the roads out here we wanted a bus rather than a minivan. We even paid a little bit extra for a bus. The Receptionist told us that we would get a bus ticket off the tuk-tuk driver who is going to be taking us to the bus station. We got onto the tuk-tuk and we were taken to a minibus. We were so annoyed because not only did we pay extra, but our Receptionist blatantly lied to us!

Tip: If anyone is travelling to Luang Prabang, AVOID Mano Guesthouse at all costs. As you can see we had nothing but trouble from them!