TUBING IN VANG VIENG
Okay, I am way too tired to write, and this internet cafe charges an arm and a leg to use their computers so this entry is likely to be filled with all sorts of mistakes. That's my disclaimer, now onto the fun.
We got a "VIP" bus out of Pakse to Vientiane, which was like ten hours away. It was an overnight trip which is really the only way to travel, I think, if you have such a distance to cover. The VIP bus was surprisingly, well, VIP. I say "surprisingly" because I've learned to not attach western meanings to western phrases in eastern countries. But the bus was a double decker with plenty of leg room, a nice blanket, and a wonderful meal of fried rice with three pieces of candy for dessert. We even were given an American movie to watch, but it was dubbed in Laotian so it was of no use to us. I did, however, prefer the movie to the blaring Laotian music videos that look like they were made in the 80s on a shoe-string budget.
In Vientiane we killed time at a Scandinavian pastry shop (which was amazing) with a young British couple. We've been on a Rummy kick lately, though we really should go back to Spades. Janice somehow always pulls out the most frustrating straights on us. We were all in a better humor when we played Spades.
Anyway, sorry for the tangent. We arrived in Vang Vieng yesterday afternoon. So far all the towns in Laos have been so quiet and relaxed. In Vang Vieng, all the restaurants have lay down benches covered in pillows with tables in the center. They all have TVs too where you can catch an episode of Friends, the Simpsons or any number of movies. A lot of tourists relax for hours watching TV. I know it sounds like a waste of time, but after you've been traveling hard for several weeks (or months in the cases of every Westerner EXCEPT Americans), it's nice to lay down for an hour or two and watch TV. Yesterday we didn't do much but play cards, eat some terrible Indian food, and drink lots of strawberry shakes. I was pretty tired so I crashed at 6:30 (I wish I were kidding) and didn't get up this morning until after seven.
Around nine o'clock today, we rented inner tubes and were taken by tuk-tuk up the river a little ways. We spent about five hours tubing down the river, swimming some, and exploring a really cool cave. The river was pretty slow for most of the ways so we were all ready to be done long before we ever saw the "Tubers Stop Here" sign. We all got a little toasted too. But it was definitely fun and relaxing.
This afternoon we ate some more Indian food, which was good this time, and then became those lazy tourists camped out in the restaurants watching movies - the very ones we criticized yesterday!
Tomorrow we leave for Luang Prabang. I don't know what we'll do there, if anything. It's really time for us to head back to China. It's going to be a long trip home, and the only thing that would make it worse is if we caught the trains going back during the peak traveling time for the Chinese (which is a few days after the Chinese New Year). We're going to attempt to travel on the day of their new year since everyone will be spending this time with their families, and hopefully we will be back home before all the tickets get bought up. Otherwise, it could be a REALLY long trip home!