Foregoing the opportunity of travelling by local bus because it was described as ‘too bumpy’ – I, of course, would have preferred this as providing ‘local colour’! – we took the ‘smoother’ option of a shared mini bus. As the other occupants were already on board when it arrived to collect us, we took up the four seats in the back. Our luggage was hoisted on the roof and we were off.
All went well until we got out of Vientiane. Our route took us down to the Mekong River where we took our last look at Thailand before turning away and heading out of the town. There was a short stop at the bus station when we feared that more passengers would be boarding (the mini bus was full in our terms!) but thankfully this was not the case and we were soon on the road to Vang Vieng. It was not long before before we realised that the suspension in our ‘smoother’ vehicle was more or less non existent. In these circumstances the back seat was probably the worst place to be. The road, although mostly tarmaced, had obviously been very badly affected by the rains, to the extent that there were vast tracts of just compacted stones and major pot holes. Before long we were being tossed around, leaving our seats and then descending back on to them with something of a bump (for which read thud!). We were hanging on to the handle on the seat in front for dear life as a way of containing our levitation. The journey was to take three and a half hours. The driver was obviously keen to get on (😳) and seemed to gleefully look upon every opportunity to pass the vehicle in front as a challenge to his standing in the racing world. We hurtled up behind things and just before the oncoming vehicle was perhaps a few yards away from it, he would overtake. This added lurching to the bouncing. People were beginning to look rather uncomfortable and I was just thanking my lucky stars for the gene pool that gave me a cast iron stomach.
After an hour we stopped at the local ‘services’. I denied myself the opportunity to use the facilities and instead took a few pictures, it not being possible to take any on the bus as the windows were dirty and I am lacking a sports programme on my ‘phone, which would have been the only thing to accommodate the movement!
On consulting our guide we were reassured that we had done the easier part of the journey. The road was going to get really bad now. And so it did. For the next 2 hours. However, what it was getting was higher and eventually we were in the mountains and despite the discomfort of the ride, we had to acknowledge that the scenery was quite beautiful.
We arrived at the hotel about 1.30. We were stiff from the journey and collapsed on the seats provided outside the hotel, thankful to have arrived in one piece. Shoes had to removed before entering, but we were eventually safely in a beautifully sunny room, where we munched a few nuts and rested until 2.45 when were off out again, this time to a cave.
Vang Vieng seems more of a village than a town and nestles in a valley more or less surrounded by mountains. We wandered down the main street where there was a lot of building going on. I thing Vang Vieng has been discovered and is building to accommodate the inrush of guests. I am glad to be here now. I think putting your rice out to dry in front of your house could soon become a thing of the past.
Turning off down a side road towards the river, smoke spiralled up from a bonfire in a lush green landscape whiile jagged topped, grey mountains loomed overhead.
The rice harvest is now over and the rice straw remains….
We continued down the track until we reached the river, here a wooden bridge with bright orange paint took us wobbling across the river, it’s wooden slats showing varying degrees degrees of spring, making walking a little uncertain, but the views were amazing.
The air is clear and crisp and everything feels so much fresher. The humidity is gone and though it is still very warm, it is much more comfortable. As we neared the cave there were the inevitable food stalls. You could graze here all day! Some of the things we tasted. All seemed very sweet versions of rice.
This one involved bee larvae……..
….. and these were medicinal mushrooms. It is alleged.
I have to admit, with apologies to any cave dwellers or potholers reading, that caves do not do a lot for me. I am sorry but there it is. I particularly don’t like those with fluorescent lighting of various hues rendering them more like Santa’s grotto than a wonder of nature. This one had the added disadvantage of being reached by a large number of steep steps. Nevertheless, in the interests of the party, I duly clambered up – with, I have to say, more zeal than some of my compatriots which is pleasing in my old age – and joined in the outing.
Nature at its best!
The reveal at the end of the tunnel was a wonderful panorama…..
We returned through the tunnel and out to the river where there was a lady fishing.
We wandered back up the road towards the town….. please note the elephant clothing. Local brew!
On the way back, Bruce purchased his favourite variety of pancake – banana, cheese and egg. Not a combination I would recommend!!
The sun began to go town as we wandered up the town and a few balloons appeared overhead. We went to sit on the balcony of the Elephant Crossing Hotel to watch the sun go down over the river.
It seemed rude not to take advantage of their ‘happy hour’ offer – two cocktails for the price of one. I had two ‘Frogs’
Which was a combination of cucumber, mint, gin and tonic, all taken through a very eco friendly bamboo straw. All very satisfactory……
Tomorrow it is the cycle trip to the waterfall. Perhaps I will and perhaps I won’t!