Cities visited: Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane
When I left off on my previous post we were heading towards the Thailand-Laos border, to get onto the slow boat. Thank goodness we made friends with the others in the Thai border city Chiang Khong, because our next two days were going to be spent on a boat with them. Yep, two days. The Laos slow boat involves a two day journey along the Mekong river, from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang with an overnight stop in a small riverside village called Packbeng. It was actually so much fun! We had formed a pretty big group of friends and with a few Changs, music, and a deck of cards, 8 hours a day on the Mekong doesn’t feel long at all. Just make sure you bring plenty of snacks (and beer!), as the on board concession is minimal and overpriced.
Once arriving in Luang Prabang, our group from the slow boat decided to all stay at the same hostel. What I loved about backpacking in Asia was that everything could be spontaneous. We would just show up at a hostel and ask if they had a bed available – if not no big deal we’d just keep walking until we found one. Our hostel had a pool, which was unbelievably nice after two days on a boat! We spent the next two days checking out the temples, the night market (vegetarian buffet for $1…), the bars which all shut down at 11pm, and the bowling alley where everyone goes afterwards to keep partying! The highlight of Luang Prabang was Kuang Si Falls. We spent the day exploring the area and the beautiful turquoise water, and of course climbed past the “DANGER Do Not Enter” sign to find the hidden waterfall. It was almost too beautiful to believe.
The next city we went to was Vang Vieng, which is well known among backpackers for it’s inner tubing down the Nam Song river. This isn’t just any tubing though. There are bars along the riverbank, which basically makes it a bar crawl on a river. We ended every evening the same way in Vang Vieng, at Sakura Bar with an hour of free whiskey shots. Yes you heard that right. Vang Vieng seemed very much like a party town, but after weeks of seeing temple after temple it was exactly what we needed!
Our last stop in Laos was the capital, Vientiane. We were only there for one night, as we planned to fly to Hanoi, Vietnam in the morning. Regrettably, we did not see much of the city. Vang Vieng wore us out and we were very much in need of an early night! We spent the evening in the hostel sorting out our Vietnamese visa, and by sorting out I mean we finally applied for one. We were a little worried it wouldn’t be approved in time but decided to take a chance. We showed up to the airport in the morning, an hour before the flight – and without tickets, because as Seán said “We’ll just go to the desk and get a last minute ticket, that’s what they do in the movies right?“. So reassuring. I’m pretty convinced we overpaid, but hey it worked and we did indeed get last minute tickets. We then said goodbye to Laos and hopped on a plane to Hanoi!