Vang Vieng

I booked a mini van from the hostel and should have learned not to book a minivan for the rest of the trip. You would think it would be more comfortable but they crowd everyone inside with all of their stuff and it is a tight and tense ride on the rough dirt highway. It was the shortest bus ride I would take for the rest of the trip so I should have appreciated it then. Arriving in Vang Vieng you can see the massive limestone krasts from a distance.

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Walking through the city was like walking through a spring break scene from a 90’s movie. I was advised to find a place to stay across the bridge if I wanted to be out of the madness.

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I found myself a nice bungalow and of course took a walk around to find something cheaper for the next night (and explore at the same time). I signed up for an all day climbing trip for the next day a new bungalow and another girl traveling by herself and we had a nice dinner together.

One of Lao specialty dishes is called Lap, (or larp or laab I’ve seen it spelled several ways). It is a minced meat salad with spices including a lot of cilantro, chili served with lime and sticky rice. I lucked out and found a tofu version on the menu and it was delicious.

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Vang Vieng is known for its partying and tubing down the river (the two in combination), it’s bars playing constant “Friends” reruns and “Happy” pizza.

However, I did my research ahead of time and knew it was a rock climbing hot spot in Southeast Asia. The next day I went on my climbing tour with Green Discovery. There were three of us in total, myself and two German guys about my own age. We picked up our gear and made a short drive to there, were three other small climbing groups in the same area and the guides all seemed to be friends so it was a nice atmosphere. We got a quick belay and knot lesson then started with a short 4a difficulty. We all climbed one at a time taking turns belaying each other and the guide when he was leading. The limestone made for great natural grips and it was a lot of fun feeling out your options when there were a lot of good choices.

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After lunch we moved up to 6a and 6b. While we are on the hardest one, a boat pulls up to the shore and three Koreans with camera equipment get out and make a beeline for us. I was strapped in ready to go and the guy with the microphone came up and started asking me a whole bunch of questions then rapidly translating to the camera in Korean. Leaving me to wonder I have been on Korean TV at some point during this vacation.

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after climbing we all met up for dinner including the girl I met the day before and some more people my climbing partners met a few days earlier in Luang Prabang. Most people were generally on the same path, (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, in a loop. Or if you are really an alternative backpacker you went to Myanmar or Burma.) From some people I got the feel that there were like “backpacker creds” of how many countries you have visited and full moon parties you’ve frequented. I found that living in Taiwan gives me some of this “cred” because it makes me not just the usual square out for a winter holiday ( I work an 8 to 5, pay bills, and my idea of a good Saturday night is getting into bed by 10:30, but I’m no square). The next day I spent in bed my stomach not feeling well so I stayed an extra day to wait it out instead of making an extra long bus trip to Luang Prabang.

The next day was my last in Vang Vieng and I would take the night bus to Luang Prabang. At breakfast I saw a girl I recognized from dinner I asked her if she wanted to go to the Blue Lagoon with me. We walked there and spent a good part of the day exploring the cave and swimming.

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Despite its reputation as a party town I found it fairly easy to avoid the party and enjoy the surrounding nature. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, and people are sunk into their space cakes watching friends re-runs on T.V. Strange and beautiful place, for backpackers and Korean tourist groups alike.

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