MP3 track of the day: cigarettes and alcohol – Oasis
Weather: Very hot but not humid
After another great nights sleep I was up, and awake, by 7:30am. I had plenty of time before I was scheduled to meet Joe and Rachael for breakfast at 10am. With two hours and thirty minutes to spare I got ready and went on the internet, looking at accommodation within Vientiane (Laos' capital) with no luck and also checking out whether it was feasible to fly to Kuala Lumpur for the F1 race. I could get a grand stand ticket for £41.00 at the Malaysia GP however flights could cost me over £200.00 … I'll have to have a think about this and luckily I have plenty of time.
I met Joe and Rachael at 10am and we went to the same bakery as yesterday. I even had the same cake as yesterday however, instead of a hot chocolate, I opted for a bottle of water. Joe had a decent map of Vang Viang and so, once back at our guesthouse, we plotted our next move. Like I said yesterday, I would like to see where the tubing took place and Rachael had heard of a mulberry farm which sounded interesting to visit. Luckily we were told that both sites were located near each other, about 3K north of the city center. We folded the map away and started to walk north.
The sun was beating down and 2/3rds along the way we stopped at a restaurant for a drink before continuing towards the tubing site. As we walked down a side road, to the tubing area, we could hear music being played before we could see the river. What I saw when I arrived horrified me.
Tubing (basically floating down a river on a rubber ring) takes place down the 'Nam Xong river' which is a chocolate brown colour (who knows what virus' lie within the water). The people who 'tube' float down the river stopping at bars to get completely drunk. There are zip lines, slides and rocks in the water. Out of the water bars line the river bank; each bar is constructed worse than most sheds I've seen and each one is full of white westerners getting completely drunk – or getting high on drugs – listening, and dancing, to the music that is being pumped out. I felt a shamed and totally angry with what I was seeing; it was made even worse because just across the river were the same mountains that I had seen the previous two days and this area could be such a beautiful place, however it's a disgusting dump where white people drink until they are sick and where they give no regard for the local culture of Laos. I have to say that Laos itself isn't totally innocent as it advertises Vang Viang as this type of resort; however it is perfectly understandable due to the fact that Laos is very poor country and that the money made here is needed. Oh, and to top it all off, we couldn't find the mulberry farm.
We left this area very quickly and returned to town. As I walked back into town I thought about what I had just witnessed; I was expecting a similar area to the waterfalls that I saw in Louang Phebang. Crystal clear blue water set within a beautiful forest with tasteful bars where people had 'A' drink, before floating down the water on a rubber ring. I would have though about the locational detail a lot more if a tuk-tuk hadn't gone past us. Within this tuk-tuk were ten westerners, all with their rubber rings stored on top of the vehicle. One said westerner though that it might be funny to throw mineral water all over us as the vehicle past us by. It kind of summed up this place though I wasn't that mad; firstly it was so hot here that the water would dry within seconds and secondly it was a lot cleaner than the water he was about to swim in (and hopefully he'll crash into a large, sharp rock along the way).
After a sandwich and a lovely coconut shake (coconut milk, sugar and ice blended into a drink … it's lovely and well worth trying) we all decided that we wanted to move onto the capital tomorrow. Joe still wanted to hire a bike and go for a ride today whereas Rachael wanted to read her book and I wanted to take some sunset photos. We all went our separate ways. At 6pm I took my camera and tri-pod into the fields that surround Vang Viang. Armed with a long shirt, trousers and mosquito spray I bared the insects and took my photos to return to base around 7pm.
I read my book until around 8pm where I met Joe and Rachael for dinner. We went to our favorite restaurant by the waterfront where I ordered another coconut shake (starting to get addicted). After dinner we walked back to our accommodation, stopping off at a banana pancake stall where we met the most friendly and happy Laos woman on earth. Considering see worked in Vang Viang, and that she worked between the hours of 7am and midnight everyday (she must have a break in the middle of the day, when it's too hot) I was amazed how happy she was. Once back at the guesthouse Rachael wanted to Skype her sister and so I headed to my room to check my sunset photos before going to Rachael and Joe's room to watch a little more TV. I left theirs quite early as we all need to be up by 7am tomorrow to catch the mini-van to Vientiane.
So my time in Vang Vieng is up, which I am very glad about. It's been a nice stop over however its a rather depressing place. I just hope Vientiane is the opposite of here!