Friday, April 29, 2011

The Long and Winding Road

I have never (until now) been on a bus of any kind for 8 hours. We left our guest house in LP at 7:15am sharp and realised on arriving at the bus station that one ticket said 8 am and the other 8:30 departure! A voice came on the intercom and spoke for about 10 minutes in Laos and then in English said "Eight o'clock to Vang Vien get on bus now." And away we went! CK and I secured the two front seats in hopes of preventing any unfortunate bouts with motion sickness... which also afforded us amazing as well as gut wrenching views! The mountains, jungles and villages along the way, including little children waving as we passed, left us wishing we could slow down a bit and enjoy it. However, the bus didn't stop in any of the scenic spots just at a few road side stands and a market that was muddy, hot and full of flies. Once in Vang Vieng we hopped in a tuk tuk with a few other travellers (including a couple who had been on the trek to the waterfall with us) and found a guest house.

Just a few minutes ride through the small town was enough to make us realise we were not in Luang Prabang anymore. We passed more westerners and backpackers than we did locals. All the restaurants serve 'happy' pizza, shakes, etc and are full of twenty-something stoners watching endless loop episodes of Friends. I couldn't help but think why would you travel halfway around the world to sit in a shack, get high and watch Friends... I think I am officially getting old! The town itself is rather dirty and lacks the atmosphere that LB offered around every unsuspecting corner. Gone are the little old ladies sweeping the streets in front of their homes with grass brooms, gone are the monks pattering down the street at dawn in their bare feet, gone is the silence as the sun sets... replaced by prostitutes soliciting their next marks, hippies with dreadlocks and Japanese tourists singing very (very!) bad karaoke very (very!) loudly!

So with all that being said this is still a beautiful place. The mountains are amazing and riddled with caves. The Nam Song flows gently through the middle of VV and is full of life. We watched this morning as a lady with her coolie hat and fishing gear waded through the water for her days catch. The clouds were low and the sun just barely skimmed out. It was one of the most breathe taking sites. We also took a tuk tuk about 7km out of town to a little village and climbed up a rock wall (maybe I am exaggerating but it was steep) to explore a massive cave with a reclining Buddha. This posture means that Buddha is about to enter Nirvana. The cave had a second opening that allowed sunlight to pour through and directly onto the Buddha. While we were inside a storm passed through and chased off most of the other tourists so when we came down to the blue lagoon outside the cave area it was empty. CK wasted no time jumping in for a quick, refreshing dip. Just as we made it back to the guest house another storm came through... a perfect opportunity for a nap!

On a side note to all this... the moment we dreaded has arrived. I am not feeling well. Likely just a case of traveller's tummy but not very pleasent to say the least. I survived the 8 hour bus ride but spent most of last night in the room and then made a trip to the local hospital this morning. In any other place I would just let nature take it's course but considering most loos here are turkish style I went to the doctor... Actually, I just walked up to a window and talked to a guy in a white coat. There were some rather entertaining hand gestures and after about 3 minutes I was hand a few different meds. The most important being Ciproflox an antibiotic that should kill what ever bug has taken up residence in my tum tum! Here's to a happy bus ride tomorrow as we head further south to the capital Vientiene!

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