Friday 25 August, showers, low cloud, 30°
We got up at 6am, packed our room, grabbed our take away breakfast ( bread ) and got picked up for our bus by a tuk tuk, and taken to the bus station about 3km south of town. We exchanged our booking voucher for the actual tickets ( well our tuk tuk driver did for us ) and then we jumped on the bus. It has been drizzly rain since we got up this morning which could make for a slow bus ride. We had booked the VIP bus for a bit more comfort, but it wasn't anything special just a normal coach. Although we were happy to be on a big bus ( rather than a mini van ) as it would limit the drivers ability to tailgate and overtake on blind corners.
The bus was due to leave at 8am, but we didn't wind up leaving until 8:45am ( we suspect the bus driver was waiting for the bus to be full as we left as soon as the last passenger got on, and he had only just bought his ticket ). So we pulled out of the bus station and immediately starting climbing up into the hills south of Luang Prabang.
Virtually the entire trip from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng is either climbing or descending through the mountains, with a couple of sections of valley floors. And it is winding, and not that wide for a main road. Often when we passed a truck or another bus we had to slow down and squeeze right over to the edge of the road. Most of the way along the road were houses, often literally only just touching the ground at the front door with the rest of the house on stilts hanging off the edge of the steep slope, often with their garden plot down the slope even further. Interestingly though the biggest areas of flat land that we saw where the petrol station forecourts, which were simply enormous.
We also saw lots of tunnelling and construction work associated with the new rail line all through the mountains today.
We stopped at 11am for a break (on the side of a hill in the rain ) and then another stop at 3pm ( we were due in Vang Vieng at 2pm ) near Kasi in the bottom of a valley. Back on the road at 3:30pm, through another pass in the hills and out into the valley where Vang Vieng sits. We were dropped off at the "bus depot" at 4:30pm, in the rain again, and the bus carried on to Vientiane ( another 4 hours away ). I have to say the bus drivers ( we think there were 2 ) were very good and the journey was very comfortable.
We grabbed a tuk tuk ( along with another person off the bus ) and drove through town to our Hotel for the night ( Thavonsouk Resort ) and checked in, walked to our room and had a lie down. It looked resorty from the outside but the room was very plain and not resorty.
We needed supplies again so we headed to town and had a look around, and then to a shop for water, chocolate etc. Vang Vieng doesn't feel like a real 'town'; it is a backpacker haven with lots of bars ( Aussie bars anyone? ), takeaway places and hotels. But there are no temples, or any of the normal things you find in a town in SE Asia. Maybe they were elsewhere in town but they weren't where the tourists were. It seems to be there solely as a stopover between Vientiane and Luang Prabang, and as a party place. So it was no surprise that when we walked back to our room there was a nightclub next-door to the resort pumping out Chinese dance music, through open windows, at 5:30pm
Across the river from our resort were the main scenic attraction of Vang Vieng; a series of limestone karst mountains rising straight out of the river plain. Unfortunately the tops ( and at times all ) of these mountains were shrouded in mist, but they were very impressive. Also next to the hotel was the 'wharf' for the long tail tour boats which take people up and down the river. They were fairly busy, even in the rain.
We grabbed some tea at the resort restaurant rather than brave the bars in town, then back to the room to wrestle with the free wifi ( a constant source of trouble in Asia is the quality / consistency of the internet / wifi. In this room we could only connect by leaving the front door, even though they had repeaters all over the resort ). Then time for bed.