From Vientiane, we took a bus to Vang Vieng, which is probably one of the most infamous locations on the backpacker trail. This sleepy town is known primarily for tubing, as well as its limestone karsts and caves. It’s an absolutely beautiful setting, particularly when the tubers are out for the day, as the three “main” streets are basically deserted.

On our fist day in town, we rented a motorbike and took a bumpy 7 km drive to the Blue Lagoon, a natural swimming hole with bright blue icy water. There is a cave right next to the lagoon, so we hiked up (slowly) in our flip flops, and were treated to an impressive cave with a small buddha statue. We hadn’t quite gotten the hang of Lao currency at this point, so neglected to bring enough cash to rent a flashlight, which meant we couldn’t venture too deep into the cave. It was intriguing and spooky at the same time, and I’d recommend others explore if they have the time.

Cave sneakin'

Cave sneakin’

The next day we partook in “In the Tubing,” as it’s been immortalized on all the t-shirts. A few years ago, tubing was an absolute free-for-all, with tons of bars lining the river, along with rickety swings and slides. Unfortunately, people got fatally injured, so the Laotian government scaled things back significantly. For our visit, there were three bars in operation, and we still had an absolute blast. It’s more of a pub crawl with float breaks, and of course, house music. Each bar has a ton of drinking games, from frisbee to flip cup, and we had a great time challenging Aussies, Canadians and Brits to beer pong. No comments on how our first challenge turned out, but we did learn some new rules!

Two casual Americans blending in

Two casual Americans blending in

On the river!

On the river!

River party

Floating down the river…

The next morning, we slowly boarded our bus for the 8-hour journey, only to realize that our VIP bus was not VIP enough to have AC or a bathroom. It was not the most comfortable trip, but we made it.

View

VIP View

Luang Prabang is a lovely little colonial town in the mountains, and is known as the spiritual and cultural capital of Laos. It reminded me a bit of Chiang Mai and Cusco for its pretty architecture, as well as the plethora of western food options. Here, we rented a motorbike to cruise around the river and visit temples.

Driving the hog

Driving the hog

We stopped in at the UXO museum to learn about the mines and bombs that remain after the US bombing, very heavy stuff but important to learn

We stopped in at the UXO museum to learn about the mines and bombs that remain after the US bombing, very heavy stuff but important to learn

Muddy

The mighty (muddy) Mekong

We had an awesome time grilling our own dinner at Lao Lao BBQ, which had individual BBQs at each table. After dinner, we headed to a well-known backpacker bar called Utopia, a great hangout with a bar, yoga platform and volleyball court. I decided to spare the lovely Lao people the trauma of seeing my volleyball skills, so while Travis played, I hung out courtside and made friends with a group of Brits. LP has a midnight curfew, so when the bar closed, we hopped into a tuk tuk with our new friends to hit up the only late night venue in town: the bowling alley.

Grilling our own dinner, Lao style, using Pork fat! Water buffalo is tastier than one might expect

Grilling our own dinner, Lao style, using pork fat! Water buffalo is tastier than one might expect

At the bowling alley, Travis had a run in with the feisty Laotian patrolling the lanes which resulted in the guy trying to kick Travis and Travis offering him a bottle of water as a peace offering.

Travis's buddy mean mugging

Travis’s buddy mean mugging

The highlight of this trip was a visit to the Kuang Si Waterfalls. We followed a friend and climbed up two smaller falls to a secluded natural infinity pool at the very top, where we spent a few hours diving into the water and peeking over the falls. It was fantastic to get away from the crowd and enjoy the views, and at one point, we looked over the falls to see a group of monks sitting peacefully on the rocks.

The main pools

The main pools

itsuphere

We hiked to the top of these falls, and you can just make out the people at the infinity pool

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“AHHHH!!”

 

Finally, on our last day in town, Travis hit up the Luang Prabang Golf Club, which was incidentally the nicest course he’s ever played. The course is set up along the Mekong River and the views are truly stunning. He says the course was nice and it was so formal it required golf shoes (!) and a caddy (!!). I trailed him on the golf cart with a Beerlao and enjoyed the views while making small talk with our lovely caddy.

Travy and Caddy

Travy and Caddy

olf

From LP we flew to Hanoi, which was our jumping off point for Halong Bay. More to come!