It goes without saying that Noe was pretty stoked to see these crazy clowns upon their return from Luang Prabang. He was also very excited to find himself back in the land of BARCOS and AGUA (i.e. boats and water)!!! Runs in the blood, I guess.
Vang Vieng has been one big work in progress for the past year that we’ve been coming here. There’s always something being put up or torn down in grand fashion. The property in the pic above is a perfect example of this insanity. When we first came here in December 2016, this was a small island with a funky suspension bridge going out to a pavilion and a handful of floating eating platforms. By May, they had begun construction on this monstrosity of a block motel and added a huge floating barge restaurant. When we were here in November, the barge had suddenly become a seemingly permanent dock with concrete pylons and the whole nine yards. Now, two months later, the dock/barge is gone and so is the suspension bridge!
We opted to return to Thavonsouk Resort where we stayed last May. We were prepared for additional crowds in town during peak season, but not the large groups we encountered at the resort. When we arrived on the first night, a whole peloton of cyclers had taken over the premises. Then, the next night, an entire staff of a Laos bank and their families took the party baton and ran with it. As we were out and about most of the time, it didn’t bother us too much. Breakfast, on the other hand was a bit of a battle, particularly with the cycling team that was very obviously carb-loading. Seriously, who loads their plate with five eggs, five pieces of bread, three hot dogs, and a big bowl of fried rice AND noodles in one go-around at a hotel breakfast buffet??? A dozen Korean cyclists, I guess.
Noe loves the sunrise. He loves it so much, he demands waking mommy and daddy up for it EVERY DAY. Even on vacation. We’ll be sure to remember that when you’re a teenager, Mr. Noe.
As has been the case on these Vang Vieng weekends, Saturday was our big day out. Lately, we’ve really been enjoying taking people to Ban Nadao (otherwise known as the Elephant Adventure Village). It’s a different experience than what most visitors get when they come to the area, albeit still a bit kitch and touristic (but that’s next to impossible to escape in Vang Vieng). Hiking, swimming, tube caving, zip-lining, and a tiny Buddha cave — what’s not to love?
After a fun and frigid (for us!) float through the underground river, we head to Spring Blue Lagoon or Blue Lagoon 3 or that blue lagoon down the road or whatever you want to call it, where 5,000 kip (US$0.75) gets you in with unlimited access to all the fun things the lagoon has to offer — without the crowds of the other “Blue Lagoon(s).”
Who says you have to pay big bucks in Laos to zip-line???
Or “kayak,” for that matter…
In Elephant Adventure Village, the journey to the toilet is even an adventure! Hopefully, you aren’t in a hurry.
By the time we wrapped things up at the lagoon and hiked back to the car, we were pretty hungry — particularly given that the snack shack at the lagoon was closed today! We high-tailed it down the road to the organic mulberry farm for a tasty breakfast of local cheese and — of course — MULBERRY PANCAKES. We also learned an important lesson: The fresh cheese is WAY tastier than the toasted cheese.
From here, we sent Dan and Lauren down the river on a couple of tubes and the rest of us headed back to the hotel to try and put Noe down for a nap — which wasn’t so successful given the big bank staff party with DJ just outside our room.
Three hours later, we met Dan and Lauren at the exit point in town — FREEZING. Temps had been in the eighties all day, but an hour after putting in, the sun sunk behind the towering limestone cliffs and things apparently got very cold on the water, very fast.
Before hitting the road the next morning, we paid a requisite visit to Jang (Chang) Cave, just south of town, and I got to try out my new GoPro. Yep, I’ve officially become one of those dudes.
With all the water activities we’ve been doing with Noe, it was only a matter of time until we got ourselves a waterproof camera. I started to shop and research online but quickly came to the realization that a GoPro would be cheaper and more versatile for capturing all of Noe’s (and our) all-weather antics for the folks back home. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that GoPro recently came out with a $150 entry-level camera (GoPro Hero Session) with all the specs I required in a waterproof camera. And, unlike most other GoPro’s, it’s completely waterproof (to 33 ft.) right out of the box! So far, I’m pretty happy with this compact and versatile addition to my mobile gear bag. Expect to see lots more ultra-wide-angle shots in and around water in the future!
The view from our covered rear patio, just before check-out. Welp, I guess we best be gettin’ back to the capital now.
Seeing songteau drivers napping in a hammock in the back of their rig is a common sight in Laos. Seeing one napping while rolling down the highway is not. Must be one of them new fangled self-driving songteaus.
Tracing our favorite route back to Vientiane (Road 10), we stop at the floating restaurants at Tha Ngon for an early dinner and 30-minute cruise up/down the Nam Ngum. Come to think of it, we haven’t taken the main route (Road 13) in well over a year as we love this route too much.
Lori and I were sure the Mekong, more than any other river, would characterize our time here in Laos. After all, it runs the length of downtown Vientiane. But that distinction surprisingly goes to the ol’ Nam Ngum…Vientiane’s other river, which has also become the gateway out of town for us. Once you cross the bridge at Tha Ngon, you leave the nuttiness of Laos’ capital behind and immediately enter back into the real world, so to speak. We’ve stayed along the Nam Ngum (river and reservoir) more times than I care to count right now, and have ridden up and down and across its waters numerous times. And every time we head north, we trace and cross the river at various points for a good portion of the journey.
This afternoon, we’re enjoying Lao food with family puttering along on our favorite dinner barge, soaking up the perfect January weather.