Kayaks, caterpillars and inner tubes. What a way to spend one's birthday
19.06.2012 - 22.06.2012 19 °C
Day 264: Vang Vieng, Laos 19/06/2012
After a great few days in Vientiane we prepare to move on. Gemma runs out to get some breakfast whilst I shower. Hearing a knock on the door and assuming it was Gemma, I answer the door with my towel loosely draped over me. Turns out to be a member of staff. Quite a sight for him...
Leave the hotel with the staff on their best behaviour, yesterday's very public dressing down from the old West Indian woman who owns the joint (very funny to watch) was probably still ringing in their ears. We are taken to our Vang Vieng bound bus by a pick up truck, the bus being, to our distinct displeasure, full of drunken, gap year Khao San Roaders, high in number, high in spirit and highly annoying. Posh, hormonal, sweaty, intoxicated eighteen year olds are not what was particularly wanted on the eve of my twenty fifth birthday. Call me a grumpy old man but I'm sure many of you out there can sympathise. To appease me the bus takes more than a fair amount of time to leave, before the air conditioning duly packs up shortly after departure.
We arrive in Vang Vieng quite a bit later than expected with the drive taking in some seriously spectacular vistas and some seriously poor road surfaces. A short journey to the hotel G has booked as a little birthday treat and she has done well to be fair to her. A beautiful room, very luxurious with some nice facilities on site. We head for lunch across the road and wait for an hour and twenty minutes for some burnt chicken and cashew nuts and a salad. Poor. Probably won't take one of the cooking lessons they offer.
A quiet afternoon and evening - a bite to eat at the hotel restaurant, which was nice and a night in front of the telly before England play the Ukraine.
Day 265: Vang Vieng, Laos 20/06/2012
Happy birthday to me! Twenty five today and I don't look a day over thirty. Up early, some pressies and breakfast downstairs before we head out for a fun filled day of trekking, caving and kayaking. We end up in the back of a pickup truck with a couple who have graduated from Manchester. Turns out he has even come up against the mighty Hulme Hall Baa Baas in his fledgling rugby career. Small world.
We have a great morning caving - some huge caves under the limestone mountains with some stunning stalagmites and stalactites inside the mysterious, dark cavernous rooms. From here onto some water caves, where we follow the caves round in an inner tube, our first taste of Vang Vieng's tubing scene. Following the rope in the semi-darkness (just a small head torch each) with our bodies in the water and our noses at times just millimetres from the roof of the cave is not as easy as it sounds. From here we have a fabulous lunch on the go - barbecued skewers with sticky rice before we head off in the kayaks down the Nam Song River.
An incredible afternoon, paddling down the river amidst some absolutely stunning scenery. The mountains rise up vertically either side of the river, which is flowing rather fast due to the recent rain, making life considerably easier for me as Gemma sits back and relaxes. We pass through the tubing area, bars a-pumping and tubers a-drinking and back to Vang Vieng town.
Have a drink back at the hotel and head out for the afternoon/evening. We run into the Manchester students on their way back from the river and they join us for dinner back at our hotel before we have a couple of drinks before the 11.30 closing time of the town's bars.
Day 266: Vang Vieng, Laos 21/06/2012
After a very nice birthday we awake and head for breakfast downstairs, where the first bacon sandwich of the year is served and eagerly consumed. A couple of hours relaxation time ensues before we head out for a bit of tubing. We line the stomachs with some pretty ropey Pad Thai whilst watching the rain teem down. The river is gonna be high...
We get our gladrags (well swimming stuff) on and pick up our tubes. Some Irish guys in the tuk-tuk who have been tubing for four days on the bounce. Reach the river and head into the first bar. Everyone seems so young to the new old me. Have a few drinks and a couple of buckets before being dragged out of the river in the dark, cold but merry and all in one piece (bar my flip flops, which Gemma helpfully lost). A bite to eat covered in UV paint and in need of a shower, ready to check out and move on tomorrow.