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Chicken Run To VV
Rating : ( 4.6 ) ( 11 votes )

Vang Viang, Lao Peoples Dem Rep
Jan 09, 2004 01:37

friendly locals, interesting place
Cons: scamming

As many travellers must do when they move on from Louang Phabang, we had to take the "chicken bus" to our next destination, Vang Viang. We shared the bus with a bunch of locals, the majority of whom proceeded to be very sick into plastic bags so that you could see exactly what everyone had been eating for lunch (the smell when combined with live chickens on board is ... unique), the only people who seemed to be coping well with the 6 hour bus ride were other travellers and a couple of militia men carrying ex-Russian AK's. This made for a very interesting bus ride, and lack of toliets on route meant that we had to scramble down the side of the road every now & then (trying not to stray too far for fear of UXO's-unexploded ordnance & bandits). All in all, the ride was very scenic as we wound through the mountains and past many roadside villages where the women still wear traditional clothing. It wasn't until much later (in Thailand) that we were told by a fellow traveller that the bus ride we had taken had been held up by bandits last year and everyone on board was killed. Good thing we (Nari - Kevin couldn't care less) didn't know at the time!

We arrived to Vang Viang with a shock. It wasn't a bad shock though as we found we were going to get value for money accomodation & free Laos coffee! We loved Vang Viang so much that we lingered for 2 extra days, sunbathing on the river side and eating lots of roti (filled with banana & milo, topped with chocolate and condensed milk). The town is fully geared to backpackers, offering mats & hammocks on a river island reached by rickety bamboo bridge, restaurants showing more vcd movies to entertain you at every meal (one of the ones we went to showed nothing but friends episodes & was always packed!). The highlight was inner tubing down the river against the background of Limestone Karsts, incredibly relaxing... and if you should want a beer while you float down the river there was several rafts offering beer Lao ... hell why not the tour company is called Beer Lao Inner tubing. The other touristy thing we did here was to visit the caves in the area, not quite as fun as the tubing, and typically a scam (pay for 2 caves, 1 is barely more than a hole in the wall, and find that the cave you really wanted to see is not included, its an 'extra' charge and you can't access it 'til you're leaving the other caves).

Reluctantly we left for Vientiane some days later as our time is limited with a 15 day Visa. To sum up Vientiane we found it to be overpriced, & not particularly attractive, so we stayed just one night before hopping over the border back to Nong Kai, Thailand, and to Pizza Company (we both got addicted to this pizza during our time in Thailand, its our one western food indulgence).

Our time in Nong Kai was brief as we were anxious to get back to BKK. There is however a very noteworthy mention in Nong Kai, Dan Nam Nuang - The vietnamese roll your own fresh spring rolls restaurant. For around 100 baht Nari & I stuffed ourselves full of these delicous little parcels of food, leaving us the fattest we have felt since Chiang Mai Cooking School. We are now really looking forward to Vietnam and the chance to eat this again.

Last thoughts on Laos, well worth a trip but the experience would have been greatly enhanced if we hadn't been scammed so badly, and repeatedly by the boat operators. Otherwise the local people were very friendly and generally seemed more happy to see foreigners than in Thailand where tourists are more commonplace. Overall we're glad we took this path rather than a Thai hill tribe trek which can be very commercial.

Sabaidee, K&N