This year I'm planning to post every 2 weeks, ''I'm doing it, I need to make the time''.
This is the first post that takes us back to my months in South East Asia, I'd already done two months in Thailand by this point, now we're on to Laos (March 3rd 2014)
After spending a final afternoon in Bangkok splashing money like it was water ''I need all of these things plus I might 'never' come back to Thailand so ..'' I soaked up my last bit of Khao San Road by entrusting a 'Yogi' with telling my fortune. We swapped his words of potential wisdom for 2500tb (£50!!). He talked me out of that money, I couldn't say no! ..
He wrote down my Mum's name and my D.O.B on a piece of paper and I was sold, some of the things he went on to say I'm still waiting on happening, some of them are happening for me right now .. I left Bangkok on a high, with the promise of great things to come and set off on the night train to Nong Khai, where I would then cross the river border into the unknown of Laos.
Vientiane Arriving in the capital of Laos didn't grip me like Bangkok had when I first landed in Thailand two months previously, it just felt like a 'place' with not as much character as I had hoped. The overnight train had been great, I'd slept well considering my excitement and spent the last part of my journey in the morning with a cute couple of kids who loved taking selfies on my Ipad. Watching the sunrise from the train window as we neared Laos was a special moment. Crossing the border was easy, don't listen to people who tell you border crossings are a nightmare, they're not! You just need your passport, spare passport photos and the required fee and Ta Da! You're in the country.
I'd booked Sihome Backpackers Garden Hostel for the night with no idea of what would happen the next day but as I walked to the hostel I passed the Sihome Backpackers Hostel (their other hostel, apparently with no garden) .. it was packed with people, had a bazillion flips flops outside, a pool table in reception and a bar behind the desk ''Can I change my booking to stay here please?''. It was fate I ended up there, as soon as I walked into my dorm, the ''Ninjas'' room I felt at ease, everyone in the room just clicked and we made a quick plan to go for lunch together.
We traipsed around Vientiane for what felt like ''about 3 days'' then we settled for ''this place, its the only one open'' ''what the one that looks like someones garage without the car?'' ''yep, lets eat here''. We must have been in the wrong part of the city to eat here but it was an experience and we all sat around laughing about it.
The night in the hostel brought drinking games, getting to know each other and plotting plans, the ''Ninjas'' then left together in the morning for Vang Vieng. I probably didn't give Vientiane a fair chance in just staying pretty much in the hostel the whole time but that was the place to be! Friendships were sealed that night, people had told me so many good things about Vang Vieng I couldn't wait to get there with everyone.
Vang Vieng The hairy scary few hours bus trip onwards to Vang Vieng got increasingly prettier the closer we got. Vang Vieng hit me hard enough to make up for what I thought Vientiane lacked, it was amazing, I'd never seen anywhere like it before ''it looks like Jurassic Park''! My friend Bas had chosen us some lush ''Other Side'' bungalows nestled in front of the mountains and near the river. I had my own little pad, it was fab but it did feel weird being stuck out the back of the field, I kept thinking someone was going to come and kill me and no one would ever find me!
Vang Vieng is a bit of a blur (!!) but here's The Highlights
- Tubing ''it's a backpackers right of passage'' and oh yes indeed it was, what a day! You get driven up to the top of the river, given a free shot on arrival then you hop in what is basically an adult size rubber ring and proceed to very ungracefully and not soberily at all make your way down the river in said rubber ring.
We stopped at 5 bars on route and got a free shot at each, oh and a wristband ''don't forget your wristbands!''. I wore them for the rest of my time in SE Asia. One bar had a pet monkey, every bar had loads of smashed fellow backpackers, it was a hoot! We had a lovely time until the bar with the basketball court, our mate Sina sunk a hoop in style then immediately slipped over in spectacular form, we danced the day away with some nutty Irish boys then hopped back in our tubes to then nearly drown. ''I'm going back for Sina'', ''we've lost Disney Princess, Disney hurry up, get off that rock'' ... the day deteriorated as quickly as we drank. We made it out alive of course, all was well.
- Fat Monkeys ''we start every night here'' was the bar that everyone went to for beer pong, cheap shots, sweating and getting drinks spilt all over you, it was a daily delight!
- Temple Party ''I've just been dancing with a Monk, is that allowed?''. The Temple Party was nuts! I don't know how we got there or who's idea it was but it was crazy. It was full of locals and backpackers and loads of Monks ''Am I allowed to talk to you?'', of course they didn't talk to me. We were popping balloons with darts and danced the night away in the unforgettable venue.
- Jungle Party ''One minute I was dancing on my own stage next minute it was the morning''. The Jungle Party was more like a garden party, it was small but intense with a great crowd and wicked DJ's ''they're from Bristol'', it was brilliant.
- Room 101 ''let's dance!'' a small club on one of the main streets; hot, sticky and rammed with backpackers, most of whom we'd been tubing with all day.
- Street Food ''this is amazing, how is it this cheap?'' VV has French inspired baguettes on its street corners, damn they were good.
- Banana Bar and Other Side Restaurant ... ''What?! They play back to back Friends all day?!'' yes, this was a daily dose of heaven when we were hungover (every day).
VV bits I missed and wish I hadn't
- Hot air balloon ride ''shame we never made it'', it looked amazing but the Jungle Party hungover beat us.
- Easy Go Hostel ''it's the best hostel I stayed in'' to quote my best friend Nyall.
- The Blue Lagoon ''it was so beautiful'', tubing hangover beat me on this one.
All in all the first two places I visited in Laos were fab, so different from each other yet they provided with me so much to be happy about. Vientiane gave me great new friends, many of whom I still speak to to this day. Then Vang Vieng gave me beauty and unlimited fun.
We left Vang Vieng and hit the death roads towards Luang Prabang, we'd heard so many bad things about the winding journey through the mountains, we dreaded it. We regretted leaving as soon as we got to the first lot of endless bad bends at what felt like 200mph ''take us back to paradise'' we moaned as we laughed at each other pretending to enjoy the journey. ''Please be worth it Luang Prabang''..
One of my little mates on the train
Saying bye with Hairy Harry and Collin Farrell
Saying bye to paradise