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Luang Prabang to Vientiane Trip Report Dec '06

  • marianwarren

    Joined Travelfish
    12th March, 2006
    Posts: 270
    Total reviews: 13

    Hi Again

    A frantic start to the morning, as our tuk tuk arrived 30 mins before the arranged pick up time to take us to the mini bus station. The free pick up is included in the LP – Vang Vieng ticket (100,000K 9.00 – 14.00). It looked like it was to be a squeezey journey as all 13 seats were taken and we had some very wide and tall passengers but after our first pee stop we were able to rearrange ourselves as there were 3 mini buses and the last was only partly full. So we ended up with 7 people and heaps of room to spare (this has to be a miracle in Laos where jamming every vehicle to the max is normal).

    The scenery on this trip is awe inspiring, the freestanding limestone karsts, some with clouds clinging to the top are amazing. As we descended into the Vang Vieng valley, our 3 bus convoy was following a goods truck that was trundling along on shredded rear tyres, you could hear the thud, thud of the wheels. We drove through a small village where there was a police check-point, a policeman indicated that the truck should stop, instead of obeying, the truck driver flattened the accelerator and hightailed it out of there, so the cop let off 4 or 5 rounds into the drivers door in a attempt to make him stop. 3 cops pulled over the bus behind us and jumped in with their AK47’s. The bus overtook us and several km’s down the road we saw the truck stopped, the driver prostrate on the ground with a gun to his head while his wife was being restrained by another cop. Drugs, smuggling? It seemed rather heavy-handed for a traffic offence but maybe commonplace in a country that carries and uses guns. The rest of the journey was uneventful.

    Vang Vieng; hmmmmm! With all that I had read, I envisioned some sort of rural, leafy, unpaved Khao San Road but nothing prepared me for the incongruity of the town with its surroundings (and I live near a backpacker town). And if I thought it strange during the day, I was flabbergasted once the neon signs, blinking lights and tvs started. Maybe my reaction would have been different had we not spent the past 2 weeks in low key and tv-less Nthn Laos. I respect that others love it; one girl from the Gibbon X had been there 5 days, tubing 3 times and loved the cafes. We’re all different.

    We stayed at Maylyn GH in bamboo rattan huts ($3 each with cold shower ensuite) – nice spot with great gardens – Joe, the owner, is an interesting guy to talk to. The tubing was great though we would have liked to start an hour earlier than we did, as it was getting pretty cold towards the end when the sun went down behind the karst. We cracked up when we saw a floating bar capsize, complete with patrons. The owner had to dive to retrieve his beer stock. The kids that jump on your tube for the last kilometre or so, expect money for their ‘assistance?’ and refuse to give back your tube until you pay up. A firm ‘no kip’ at the beginning shifts them pretty quickly.

    There are plenty of simple bamboo bars down river for a quiet beer. Le Jardin Organique was a peaceful spot for dinner.

    VV – Vientiane mini bus (70,000K 9.00 – 13.00), no gun toting excitement this time. Stayed at Saysouly GH ($9 triple, share bath), which was ok but not wonderful, just 3 beds and A/C. I would have looked for something better but our travelling companions were on a tighter budget than us and it was only for a couple of nights.

    We ate at the Mekong Riverside (pretty good but not cheap), PVO (very good and cheap, but only open during the day) Dok Champa – lovely place but it took 3 attempts for our vegetarian friends to receive their spaghetti order without meat. The menu had the wrong descriptions on the photos. Nok Noi’s food was mediocre.

    We caught the local bus (4,000K) from Central bus station out to Buddha Park (5,000K entry 2,000K camera fee) with helpful advice from other passengers as when to get off. The huge sculptures are surreal especially the ball representing Earth, Naraka and Nirvana – well worth a visit.

    Visiting Wat Ong Teu, we asked for directions and were very surprised when the monk replied in a Oz accent - His parents are Lao and he was on retreat for 2 weeks during his Uni break to gain merit for his parents, only two weeks but he still had to have his head and eyebrows shaved.

    We leave Vientiane tomorrow for Savannakhet.

    Bye for now fishies.

    Marian

    #1 Posted: 14/2/2007 - 09:11

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  • canucksinas-
    ia

    Joined Travelfish
    13th February, 2007
    Posts: 15

    Thanks again for the wonderful reports Marian. It just so happens that you are reporting your trip itinerary as I am planning ours and the two coincide perfectly - so I hope you don't mind my questions (and know that I truly appreciate you taking the time to answer them).

    I was sitting here in front of my computer, with my travel books open, trying to decide whether or not to skip Vang Vieng on our way from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, when your most recent report showed up. After reading your report I am certainly leaning towards skipping Vang Vieng and perhaps spending an extra day or two in Luang Nam Tha, Luang Prabang, Vientiane, or later in Vietnam. My hesitation is in getting from Luang Prabang directly to Vientiane. My options seem to be flying (fast but on the cusp of being outside of our budget envelope), bus (relatively cheap but 12 hours of - I'm imagining - grueling travel), or boat (taking days out of our already somewhat cramped itinerary). I'm wondering after your experience what you might do if you could do it again? Is a day in Vang Vieng a necessary evil, or should I fork out the extra cash for a flight, or tough out the grueling bus journey? How's that for a loaded question!

    Thanks,
    James & Lindsay
    Canucks(about to be)in Asia

    #2 Posted: 16/2/2007 - 06:26

  • marianwarren

    Joined Travelfish
    12th March, 2006
    Posts: 270
    Total reviews: 13

    Hi James or Lindsay

    I assume I'm talking to Lindsay as the planning stuff is very female.

    Unless you intend on tubing, I'd skip it. I think the price for minibus LP - V is 130,000K and should take around 9 hours. Once you reach LP the roads are pretty good and the minibuses travel reasonably quickly. I was concerned too, about how arduous the trip would be and found it not as bad as expected. You'll still get the fantastic scenery whether you stop in VV or not.

    I intended for us to fly from Vientiane to Pakse but as we were travelling faster than planned we ended up taking the bus - even the public buses are good and more fun than the rarified atmosphere of a plane and when you factor in the time you need to be at the airport before the flight, it's not that much faster.

    I love observing, don't read while travelling and rarely get out the MP3 player. It's the sights and sounds that make a country real for me, you see so much that others miss as they cushion themselves with familiarity or sleep.

    Enough raving, hope this helps

    Regards

    Marian

    #3 Posted: 16/2/2007 - 07:01

  • somtam2000

    admin
    Click here to learn more about somtam2000
    Joined Travelfish
    21st January, 2004
    Location Indonesia
    Posts: 7047
    Total reviews: 24
    Places visited:
    At least 113

    Hi Marian -- great report - keep em coming!

    #4 Posted: 16/2/2007 - 07:19

  • canucksinas-
    ia

    Joined Travelfish
    13th February, 2007
    Posts: 15

    Hi Marian! Actually you're talking to James - this obsessive planner is male! I couldn't agree more about watching the scenery go by. Generally I enjoy the ride from town to town be it by Songthaew, Minibus, bus or train. However, two bus rides from my last South East Asian adventure left me wary. The first was an incredibly cockroach infested bus with a latrine in the back to rival that from Trainspotting from Bangkok to Surat Thani. I've since practically memorized the Thai train schedule! The second was a lumbar lambasting ride from Poipet to Siem Reap on a bus that looked to have been stolen from a Soviet auto graveyard, that left two passengers throwing up and all of us covered head to foot in thick orange dust. But you've put my mind at ease. Thanks for the good news.

    James & Lindsay
    Canucks(who can't wait to be)in Asia

    #5 Posted: 16/2/2007 - 09:10

  • marianwarren

    Joined Travelfish
    12th March, 2006
    Posts: 270
    Total reviews: 13

    Hi James

    Am grateful that I have never experienced the bus from hell you describe (well ... India but different subject). My experiences with buses in S.E. Asia have been favourable. I have experienced travel-sick women who constantly threw up out the window, and on the Thai side of Poipet (Ary something - Poipet is easier) - some guy threw up in the toilet and missed!, which made it out of bounds to everyone else for the rest of the trip to Bangkok.

    Siem Reap to Poipet take a Camry - they all think they're Michael Schumacher.

    Hey! thick orange dust is a positive feature - where else can you experience this? - remember the smiles and waves you will receive as you pass through the villages. If you intend to visit Siem Reap by tuk tuk then you will be breathing thick orange dust - or if you travel by Camry you will be creating thick orange dust.

    It's the journey - not the destination -- that's why we love it.

    Travel well

    Marian

    #6 Posted: 16/2/2007 - 15:55

  • marianwarren

    Joined Travelfish
    12th March, 2006
    Posts: 270
    Total reviews: 13

    Hi James

    Am grateful that I have never experienced the bus from hell you describe (well ... India but different subject). My experiences with buses in S.E. Asia have been favourable. I have experienced travel-sick women who constantly threw up out the window, and on the Thai side of Poipet (Ary something - Poipet is easier) - some guy threw up in the toilet and missed!, which made it out of bounds to everyone else for the rest of the trip to Bangkok.

    Siem Reap to Poipet take a Camry - they all think they're Michael Schumacher.

    Hey! thick orange dust is a positive feature - where else can you experience this? - remember the smiles and waves you will receive as you pass through the villages. If you intend to visit Siem Reap by tuk tuk then you will be breathing thick orange dust - or if you travel by Camry you will be creating thick orange dust.

    It's the journey - not the destination -- that's why we love it.

    Travel well

    Marian

    #7 Posted: 16/2/2007 - 15:57

  • marianwarren

    Joined Travelfish
    12th March, 2006
    Posts: 270
    Total reviews: 13

    Sorry Somtam.

    Ditch the repeat. Sometimes hand/ brain co-ordination just doesn't jell.

    Marian

    #8 Posted: 16/2/2007 - 16:00

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