Date: 26 September 2009 to 27 September 2009
Where I’ve Been: Vang Vieng, Laos
Where I’ve Stayed: Vilay Vong Guesthouse in Vang Vieng and Mixay Guesthouse in Vientiane
So yesterday ended up being fairly eventful. To give a brief explanation before I go any further, most backbackers come to Vang Vieng to go tubing. This consists of hiring a giant tyre, sitting in it and then floating down the Nam Song River whilst every half a mile or so a makeshift bar set up on the banks of the river will throw you a rope and pull you to the river bank so you can clamber up and drink. Usually free shots are involved, as well as a multitude of dodgy rope swings, zip lines and jumps into the river.
Anyway the three of us were up early and determined to enjoy a day of tubing. Unfortunately things started to go downhill almost immediately…
A BUNCH OF TUBES
We hired our tubes and headed off to the first bar – the point where the tubing starts. We had our free shot on arrival and then before starting tubing we decided to have a quick go on the rope swing. Off went Ben and Mary with no problems, then it was my turn. I forgot one thing, I was wearing contact lenses. I flew off the swing and into the water without any problems, then I came up and realised I couldn’t see anything – I had lost my lenses. I swam blindly to the shore, just about found Ben and Mary and told them what had happened.
I then spent the next few hours floating down the river with Ben and Mary as my tubing guide dogs, pulling me along with them wherever they went. We stopped at the bars and had a few drinks, but we were around ten years older than most people there and the idea of getting absolutely smashed combined with floating down a river (especially when I couldn’t see) didn’t really appeal to any of us. Instead we had a nice leisurely time and returned to our guesthouse still pretty sober.
THE CASE OF THE MISSING KIP
We got back and arranged to get showered and changed and then meet in the lobby area an hour later. I was just about to shower when there was a knock on my door. It was Ben asking if I had had any money go missing from my bag. That morning when we left to go tubing we didn’t want to take all of our money with us and risk losing it in the river so we took a little each and left the rest securely in our bags.
I checked and sure enough 250,000 kip (about £25) had disappeared, along with some American dollars I had in there. Ben and Mary had had similar amounts taken. We knew this for sure as the previous night when we arrived we asked the very friendly guesthouse owner where the nearest ATM was as we needed to get some money out. He very quickly produced a hand drawn map from his drawer, directing us exactly to the cash point. We each took out the same amount and had spent none of it apart from the money we took with us tubing.
Seeing as there was absolutely no sign of forced entry and nothing else was missing then the finger of suspicion pointed at one man – the friendly guesthouse owner who had so kindly directed us to the ATM the previous night. We got changed and then went down and explained, in friendly terms without accusing him, what had happened. We basically said that if the money could be found we would forget about it.
The owner continued to deny any knowledge and we continued to explain that we just wanted the money back. He then started to say he had noticed a taxi driver hanging around outside, insinuating that this ‘driver’ might have nipped into the guesthouse and stolen the money. We argued that there was no sign of forced entry and nothing else had been taken. The conversation went back and forth until we said we would have to go to the Police about it.
He kindly led us to the Police Station, had a laugh and joke with the Police in Laotian and then left us to fill in a Police Report, which was frankly pointless as we knew at this stage that the Police were probably to some extent in on it. Fortunately to us £25 each is not a huge amount of money, whereas in Laos, where the average salary is around £800 a year, it is. We forlornly completed our Police Reports and headed out for some dinner with a couple of guys we met tubing.
ONTO TO VIENTIANE
Today we left Vang Vieng for the Laos capital Vientiane. My impressions of Vang Vieng are mixed, it is undoubtedly in the most beautiful location and visually stunning, but the town itself is a haven for travellers in their teens/early 20s who just want to get drunk and high. The place also has a strange affinity for Friends and Family Guy, literally every bar/cafe has episodes playing on repeat throughout the day!
Anyway our bus journey to Vientiane took us three and a half hours and we arrived about 1.30pm. We found a cheap but clean guesthouse and wandered around the city a little bit (not particularly impressive!) and had some dinner and now back in the guesthouse. We leave tomorrow on a bus to Vietnam.