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Vang Vieng to Vientiane

storm 28 °C

There's two sides to Vang Vieng - the first is the godawful bacchanalian backpacker tubing buzz that exists within a couple of blocks in the centre of the town, the second is the immense beauty of the area on a five minute cycle in any direction out of town. After hmming and hawing as to whether we'd even visit the place we ended up staying for three days. The first day was a bit of a write-off. We arrived on the dusty main street and were immediately greeted by the sight of cut and bruised 19 year olds fresh from a day of tubing on the river. The tubing experience involves being dropped off a couple of miles upriver and floating downriver on an inflated truck-tyre inner tube. As you float past the river bars you are offered shots of lao-lao whiskey and various other alcoholic beverages. The ensuing bedlam sees the tuber lose their footwear, money and dignity and in extreme instances, their life. Apparently around thirty tubers have died over the last twelve months. I didn't believe this could happen until the second night, when sitting on the outdoor area of a hotel, I saw a yong guy drift past in the darkness. He'd missed the finish line by about 1.5 km and was floating away downstream. I guess if he didn't find land he's somewhere in the Mekong delta at this stage.

The second day was infinitely more fun in Vang Vieng. We hired some bicycles and headed out of town to a small lagoon where the kids could have a swim. Our third day was by far the best and made our visit worthwhile. Once again we hired some bikes and cycled 7km out of town to the now famous Blue Lagoon and Phankoum Cave. The scenery on the way there was breathtaking. Massive limestone karsts jut from the newly planted paddy-fields. When we arrived at the Blue Lagoon it was as if Harry's dreams had all been answered. A crystal blue pool with rope swings surrounded by a green area in which to picnic. The kids were a bit slow to get in but once they were in they were loving it. Soonafter a bunch of what looked like Thai twenty-something daytrippers arrived and gave a daredevil display of diving. It was a great buzz for both them and us as they would climb about twelve metres up into an overhanging tree and proceed to do an array of back-flips and sometimes belly-flops into the water. We also checked out the cave. That involved a steep climb up a rock stairwell and once inside the entrance it opened up into a massive limestone cavern. We only went in about fifty metres but you could have kept going through a long dark tunnel for another few hundred metres. The kids decided against proceeding on through and I was happy enough to turn back too.

We arrived in Vientiane, capital of Laos, this afternoon. It's a bit of a soulless capital city to be honest and a bit grubby around the edges if the truth be told. As I write this I had considered staying up until 1.45am tonight to see the Euro 2012 fotball final but we're leaving here tomorrow afternoon in order to make our way further south to Tha Khaek. The draw of the far south is becoming stronger and I'm eager to get there with enough time left on our visas to enjoy it. Tha Khaek doesn't appear to be much of a town but it looks like there's plenty of nice stuff around it. I was trying to book accommodation in advance but it looks like we'll have to just wing it when we get there. Despite it being low-season the guesthouses there and in other places we've been aren't too keen on discounting. It's a little harder to bargain with them with four kids in tow as you really just want to get your head down for the night rather than traipse about looking for the best deal in town.

It's been a month on the road for us today and the experience has been both trying and rewarding thus far. The intimate living creates strains on the family dynamic. When you're at close quarters you see eachothers foibles and follies at a microscopic level. Throw in a bad nights sleep and someone is likely to snap. That said, days like the one at the Blue Lagoon will be remembered for the rest of our lives. Thirty days down. Forty or so to go. I'm already looking forward to the memories I haven't even experienced yet.

Posted by goldenmaverick 19:21 Archived in Laos Tagged tubing blue_lagoon Comments (3)

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