Archive for April, 2010

In Vientiane part 1

I wake from my deep sleep and find it odd there is no sunlight lighting my room.  How long have I been asleep?  My stomach aches from the lack of food I have had over the past two days and my head hurts from sleeping all day.  I turn and see Mia lying naked next to me.  Her beautiful slender body glowing in the dim light from the window.  ‘What the hell is going on’? How long have I been in Vientiane? How long have I been partying?

My friend Hugo had left some time ago, and it was my intention to catch him up in Hue on the coast of Vietnam where we would continue our journey south to Saigon.  I had lost my cards long ago in Hanoi and had been funding myself from Western Union transfers and with the occasional help from Hugo in some of the remotest places.  Vientiane, the capital of Laos was the perfect place to have my cards sent, post restante to the main post office here.  It was to take a little over a week for them to arrive and so there was no reason for Hugo to hang around with me.  The night he left would be the start of a whole new story for me in the Capital and If only I had known in hindsight it would mean my staying here for some time to come.

Outside a small Mexican style bar on a street corner and by the Mekong would be the first time I would meet Mia.  I had just finished my meal when two beautiful Laos girls took the table next to me.  ‘Sorry do you have a cigarette I could have?’  Her English was good.

‘Sure of course’  I let her take one from the packet and then lit it for her, I was now expecting the usual banter that goes before you asking how much for the night but this was not what I was interested in or wanted, so I was trying not to  seem interested in a conversation.  We spoke a little more when she asked where my lady was.  ‘I’m traveling alone’ shit! why did I say that.  When she asked again why I didn’t have a lady I made a point of telling her I was not interested in paying for the company of a lady.  She gave me a look that indicated to me she seemed a little insulted, ‘Not every lady here is after boom-boom, some of us might just be looking for a nice guy’  That had me told.


The Storm

“You in room 14 yeah”

“err yeah”

“Oh problem with room”

Heading out the hotel on our way into town passing the lady boys hangout just at the end of our road,  (me love you long time — err nor thanks) we were heading out to a popular bar along the Mekong in Vientiane.  Borpangyang has a pool hall on the second floor and a large bar at the top with open sides all around displaying an incredible view of the Mekong River.  Here we were drinking beer, playing pool and talking with the other ferrang and flirting with the local working girls through out the night.  Just another normal night out here until the whole sky lit up with an intense flash.  “Storms on it way”  Then the thunder belted out furiously.  Sure enough there was a storm on the way but when it hit, no one was expecting it.  The open bar very quickly turned into a scene like a bomb had gone off.  There was glasses flying off the holders and the wind and rain came whooshing through.  I looked down to see some of the staff and locals cowering behind a pool table as if the whole place was about to be carried away in the wind.  It was a funny scene and I thought the whole thing brilliant.  Hugo suggested we make a move, I thought staying would be the best option and it was fun anyway, why go out in that.

The storm lasted around 20 minutes and departed as fast as it had arrived.  Back to playing pool and drinking beer.  We left some time later to grab some more money from the hotel to go back out again.  At reception the night clerk approached us. “You in room 14” he said


“Oh problem with room”

He escorted us to our room on the top floor, and opened the door.  “Oh my god”  the ceiling in parts not far from my bed had completely collapses.  The wall around the roof had fallen over and come through our ceiling.  The floor was soaking wet along with all our clothes.  Same with the room next door to us only worse.  He moved us into the adjacent room which was fine apart from the floor was still a bit wet.  It was incredible, he offered us the night free but I managed to get three nights free and of course all our washing done at no charge either.  Although we were still on the top floor of this shitty dilapidated hotel it was sure there would be no other storm that night.  So we stayed put.

Vang Vieng

Arriving here you could soon tell this was a party town, there were tourists everywhere.  Bars, restaurants and guesthouses up and down the streets. Today Vang Vieng is essentially a backpacker town, the laid back atmosphere and the potential for extreme sports around the area make it a very popular place to stay.  

The airstrip in Vang Vieng was used by the Americans during the war and was at that time named Lima site 6 and then during the 1980’s became popular with backpackers.  One of the main activities to do here now is tubing down the river.  During the wet season the river becomes fast flowing with rapids but like now in the dry season it is shallow and slow-moving.  Ideal for tubing and swimming.

Along the river there are many bars and restaurants most of which have bamboo scaffolding leading to a wire swing over the water.

Okay So we had heard one of the best places to stay here was over a rickety wooden bridge to some bungalows on the other side of the river from town.  After some lunch and a well deserved beer we took the bikes precariously over the dodgy looking bridge to the Otherside bungalows.  50 Kip for one with two beds and a bathroom was not bad.

A quick relax and it was off to the river.  We met up with an english couple we had recently met in Luang Prabang.  Everyone payed what I thought to be an extortionate deposit for their tubes.  I decided not to bother with a tube but upon arriving at the first bar on the ‘tubing’ river I managed to acquire one for free.  Good for me.

The river has a party atmosphere, you tube from one bar to the next where someone will through a line out to you to pull you in.  We made it to the first four or five bars drinking whiskey buckets and getting free shots.  As no one else I saw tried the swing upside down I of course had to give it a try.  Apart from cutting and bruising my ankles it was pretty fun and got the crowd going.

On the night we headed over to an island across a bamboo bridge from the town, a little way down from our bungalow.  Here is where the night life goes on till the early hours.  The bars here were amazing, all built out of wood and bamboo, hammocks everywhere, open fires and music pumping out.  The bucket bar was always the first stop, as before 9.30 you get a free whiskey bucket.

After two days of partying however I hit the wall.  In fact I went through it.  I was a sick puppy for a night and the rest of the next day.  And the day later once recovered and after one last night out we were hitting the road again.  Next stop the capital Vientiane.  I really enjoyed Vang Vieng and almost stayed to work in a bar here for a while, yet after four days It was enough and time to move on.

Hanging by a thread

The road to Vang Vieng was yet another squiggly line through mountains, my front brake was not much use at all so the back brake was all I had to slow me down.  So with the run of bad luck I have been having on this trip surely the back brake would not fail on these treacherous roads.  …Yeah

On a downwards sloping bendy road all of a sudden I had no brakes.  FUUUUUUUCKKKKK!!  Using the gears I managed to slow down but not before getting my knees down on a few bends.  To say my arse was twitching would be an understatement. 

Again stuck in the middle of nowhere in some small village with no mechanics to be found we were again stuck.  Because of my bike again.  Seriously I need some good karma coming my way. 

After about 20 minutes or so of trying to work out what we were going to do, I suddenly remembered I had a whole bunch of para cord in my rucksack.  It was a last-minute resort but IT WORKED.  The little bit of para cord got me all the way to Vang Vieng where before we would leave I could find a mechanic and get the brakes working again.