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Entries about kayaking

Vang Vieng - Laos

Adventure awaits....

all seasons in one day 30 °C

We took a minibus from Vientiane to Vang Vieng at around 9:30/10am, which cost 45,000 kip each ($5.40/£4) and arrived in Vang Vieng around 1pm.
The road between the two towns was long and winding going up and over a large mountainous range and sections of the road were missing, replaced by rubble and what looked like clay, from what I can only presume was the result of a landslide.
If you suffer from travel sickness, stock up on pills and pop them all because that journey will send your stomach through an assault course of internal anguish!

We arrived in Vang Vieng and luckily for us, our accommodation was only a few doors down from where the minivan dropped everyone off so we collected our suitcases and walked the few metres to our room.
Our accommodation was a 'guesthouse' apparently but in actual fact was more like a stable behind a restaurant. I'm not talking Mary and Joseph style stable of course but almost like a converted stable with a bed and bathroom inside.
It wasn’t horrible but for the price was acceptable. The whole town wasn’t of a particularly high standard anyway so the accommodation available seemed to follow suit.

We paid for a standard double which apparently means fan-only and to have use of the aircon would have cost us a further 120,000 PER DAY ($14.50/£10.80) so naturally we stuck with the fan and were lucky that Vang Vieng was not as hot as Vientiane had been.
We went for a walk around but to be honest there isn't much to see.
It appears that Vang Vieng is nothing more than one major road, full of restaurants and tour operators and some side streets of much the same.
However there is a nice view of the small river with the backdrop of mountains, but that was it really.

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There is also a large number of Korean establishments, which isn't an issue unless you're not in the mood for kimchi!

We stopped in to a few tour operators to see what kind of activities were on offer and there were many!

Vang Vieng got a bad reputation not too long ago for tourists getting drunk and rowdy by the river and then going tubing where they ultimately met an untimely demise.
However, the town has closed nearly all of the illegal pop-up bars by the river and everything seems to be more regulated now.

We booked an all-day tour of tubing through an underground water cave, kayaking and to visit the blue lagoon.
This should have cost 200,000 kip each ($25/£18) but instead we paid 120,000 ($14.50/£10.80) as he needed to fill seats - always look for a good deal!

For dinner we bought some sandwiches which were hardly in short demand as there were at least 5 venders within arms reach of each other offering the same food at the same price!

Now these sandwiches were only 10,000 kip ($1.20/£0.90) for a basic chicken with salad, fried onion and fresh garlic but they were some of the best and most filling sandwiches I've ever eaten.
We had one every day because they were the cheapest food available that would keep us full.

Ever since we spent more than a reasonable amount in Thailand we've been trying to tighten the purse strings in Laos, which is inherently difficult as you don't get as much money per exchange and everything is more expensive than most Asian places.

With 1,000,000 kip ($120/£90) we managed to buy food (not even expensive or fancy meals!), some trinkets from the night market, a boat trip and some entrance tickets to things like a museum or temple.

With the same amount in Thailand or Vietnam we'd have lived like kings.

Anyway, we got some rest before our adventure filled day the following morning.

We were collected in a tuk tuk, complete with a roof rack full of kayaks, at around 9am and after picking up others on the tour we made our way out of town towards the water cave.
It wasn't a particularly long trip and as we'd become accustomed to, bumpy, pothole filled roads led us to the river.
We put on our life jackets and accepted our free water with gratitude as the morning was already warming up under the suns powerful rays and we walked across a wood and rope bridge, over the river, towards the mountains.

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Our guide led us through a quiet, little village with locals observing us as we passed, their internal monologues most likely commenting on how ridiculous we all looked trudging along in life jackets despite not being near water yet!

After walking through wheat fields and climbing over what looked like and reminded me of old school gym apparatus (particularly the 'wooden horse' you had to jump over during gymnastics!) we arrived at a welcoming pool of water and settled down on the benches provided.

Our guide advised us that we'd be there for a while as after going tubing inside the water cave we'd be having lunch before moving on with the day’s activities.

As a larger woman with even larger breasts, life jackets are incredibly annoying as your ample bosom can go one of two ways, down towards your belly button and putting a strain on your chest muscles, or, as was the case for me, up into your throat.

I looked like a male bird of paradise attempting to attract a mate with my bulbous uni-boob protruding from atop the life jacket opening.

Ridiculous.

We were given head torches and advised to leave our things on the benches as they were ours for the morning and no one else would be using them (I'd have liked our own flag or something to put on the tables to indicate ownership but it doesn't work like that anymore…!).

We made our way down to the water, silently wishing we'd bought some form of water shoe with us, either a thin, porous trainer or even jelly shoes would have sufficed as tiny pebbles and unseen rocks are a foot's worst enemy!

The water was colder than I was mentally prepared for but on the plus side I got a free fish pedicure from the little bastards nibbling away at my feet and legs!

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We were each handed our tube (the inner tube of a tractor tyre) and hopped on, before grasping hold of a rope that would lead us inside the water cave.

Although not connected to each other, our whole group moved as one along the rope-system within the cave and slithered our way deeper inside, marvelling at the vastness around us.

At one point we had to abandon our tubes and wade through the shallower waters within, lest our backsides be grazed and nicked!

A large stalactite hung down, bathing us in fresh water as it poured from an unseen opening above.

Upon reaching an expanse of 'open water' (still within the cave and quite deep under the mountain) our guide instructed us to turn off our headlamps.

Complete blackout.

I wish we’d have a waterproof camera or go-pro as we’ll only have our memories of that adventure when we’re old, but alas, what better way to witness these wonders of the world than with your own eyes.

After making our way out of the water cave, we went back up to our benches and settled in for lunch.

Now anyone who’s been on one of these organised tours that include lunch are probably aware of the usual spread, a little bread maybe and some fruit?

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Well, we got a small baguette each, 2 large chicken kebab skewers and a banana leaf package of rice and vegetables as well as a huge platter of fruit.

Everyone in the group was pleasantly surprised, no doubt from having suffered previous ‘included lunch’ before and we were all happily stuffed by the end of lunch.
This was both a good and bad thing, as we weren’t really hungry for the rest of the day, but after lunch we went kayaking and it put quite a strain on our digestive systems!

Now I’ve been kayaking before in Halong Bay, Vietnam on my previous visit, but the fiancé had never done it before.
If you’re also a first timer for kayaking and you’re considering it, make sure you get some kind of tutorial beforehand or it can be a little scary when your kayak starts veering off and you instinctually choose the wrong side to correct it – as my fiancé quickly learned!

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Luckily for him, I deliberately sat at the back of the kayak as there is more power and control from there so I could correct any issues with our trajectory.
That didn’t stop him from ferociously trying to paddle on the wrong side causing us to change direction, despite me telling him which side – sometimes his listening skills are somewhat lacking…!

We stopped after about 1 hour and lord knows how many kilometres for the others in our group to do a zip-line course (something they’d paid for but we had opted out from).

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I’m sure after my acrophobic fiancé got over the volume of distance between him and the ground he may have enjoyed the adrenaline from such an activity, but given my density I felt being suspended metres above the ground by nothing more than a wire was probably not the best move and that I should never be suspended in mid-air, other than on an aeroplane!

The rain has been following us from country to country and true to form, an unholy downpour was released, masking out the distance mountains and thoroughly drenching anyone caught in it.
Including but not limited to the people from other groups still kayaking on the river and the apparently blissful people gracefully floating down the river on inner tubes.

The fiancé and I sought shelter at the starting point of the zip line and were graciously received and given chairs out of the rain, when the fiancé noticed a small black and yellow banded snake creeping out of the wooden boards beneath us.

Now anyone who knows me will know that snakes, lizards, anything reptilian or amphibious, anything with scales or crystal eyes, does not bother me, in fact I think they’re beautiful, unlike spiders which are nasty little 8-legged demons straight from proverbial hell!

I digress, baby snake – the fiancé has a deep and often comical fear of snakes, including ones in the zoo and fake ones… he really is an amusing man!
I’m in no way belittling his fear, as if you tossed a decorative spider at me, I would most likely soil myself. Fear is real people!

But this snake that decided to join us out of the torrent of rain was:
1) no longer than my forearm
2) as thin as a pencil or one of those thick straws for drinking smoothies
3) at least 2 metres away from us, also heading away from us

It was so insignificant in size that when fiancé first pointed it out, I thought it was a big worm.

I’m the inquisitive type that gets killed by animals for getting to close to them, I’d be one with my face chewed off my chimpanzees or the one destroyed by a hippo for encroaching on their territory, so naturally I got up to get a closer look at the beautiful serpent.

Black with yellow stripes.

Stunning.

It slithered away out of the rain, up a bamboo pole and inside through a little hole at the top.

When I turned around to return to my seat next to fiancé, he had both feet up off the floor and was wildly searching around the base of his chair for any other guest that may join us.

Other than the biggest toad I’ve ever seen, there was nothing else from the natural world coming anywhere near us.

As the rain began to settle, the zip-liners returned and we went back down to the kayaks and continued on down the river.

The fiancé seemed much more suited to his kayaking on this second leg of the journey and we were frequently working the paddles in unison, moving effortlessly along the river.

  • Side note – there was an awful lot of effort, I felt like the hulk by the time we were done, definitely arm day in the world gym!

We got back in the tuk tuk that was waiting for us by the edge of the river and made our way to the blue lagoon which I’m sure would have been more beautiful had the sun been shining but I was grateful for less UV rays attacking me after I felt my shins burning from the first kayaking leg.

I thought the river had been cold but this lagoon, this was ice water I was sure of it and after jumping off of a tree branch and plunging into it, I ultimately felt refreshed and contemplated opening a glass-cutting business with my nipples.

After an hour or so, we made our way back to our accommodation, got a 10,000 kip sandwich from our usual lady, had a shower (after eating said sandwich, we’re not into bathing with our food) and promptly passed out for about 15 hours.

The following day was mainly revolved around eating sandwiches, sleeping and resting our weary bodies, and before we knew it the time came to book a minivan to Luang Brabang and we watched Vang Vieng disappear into the distance.

Posted by Lady Mantle 21:03 Archived in Laos Tagged nature travel adventure laos kayaking snake tubing vang_vieng sandwiches water_cave Comments (0)

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