Vang Vieng

After our more than interesting journey up north to Vang Vieng, we were glad to find our guesthouse easily. Champa Lao The Villa was an amazing placee, a little bit outside of the bustle of the village and definitely not in the middle of the backpacker party zone. When I told my brother that I was heading there I had to hear that last year 22 people died due to the rapids of the Mekong (and probably heavy inhibitions of LaoLao). But since I am not 20 anymore but a responsible adult, I didn’t foresee any problems.

After checking in we went first for lunch to get some energy and then I convinced Dudley to book a tour for the next day.

Since we had made such good experiences with Green Discovery Laos I wanted to book with them and they offered us a three caves visiting tour with kayaking in the afternoon. After finalizing our plans for the next day Dudley went back to get some rest while I sat down to write some postcards and to get a pedicure (so not worth it).

The next morning we had breakfast at the guesthouse where they served an amazing soup.

  
Right on time our pickup arrived with two girls from South Korea already in it. Minnie and Jinnie were way better prepared for the rainy weather than us. With rain coats and shoes which could get wet they were perfectly adjusted for the day. I of course didn’t bring neither but was at least wearing my bikini underneath.

  

We had a 14km drive ahead and when we finally arrived near the first cave it was raining even harder. I decided to remove my T-Shirt and just walk around in my bikini top. Really no point in getting everything wet.

IMG_7176IMG_7174From the Elephant Cave we trekked for a while through the rain. The first couple of hundred meters I still tried to save my shoes but eventually I gave up and waded through the pools of mud. There was just no other way through.


By the time we reached our lunch place I looked like a drowned rat. Since we would visit two caves before eating I put my T-Shirt on again, no need to get cold in the caves.

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We left all our things at the table and started with the snail cave (Tham Hoi cave). After the caving experience in Vietnam the caves in Laos were of course disappointing. Nonetheless we walked through the first one for about 45 minutes and the second one maybe 10 minutes. The formations were better in the first one but still insignificant. In the second one was a large Buddha at the cave entrance though.IMG_7461.JPG IMG_7375.JPGOnce we finished with the second cave we went back to the rain shelter and had our lunch. Now this was a tasty affair, Laotian BBQ at its best.

IMG_7183 It was still drizzling when we left for next cave. After a short trek we arrived at Tham Nam (water cave) where I shed my T-shirt again because as the name implied this cave could only be accessed swimmingly or as in our case with tubes.IMG_7295.JPG IMG_7323.JPG IMG_7285.JPGThus we explored the last cave for the day. As with the others there was not much to see but it was fun tubing inside, using a rope to not get dragged along by the current. When we exited the cave the sun was out and all of a sudden it was hot again. We had another trek ahead of us to visit a Hmong village passing through some rice fields.IMG_7233.JPG IMG_7258.JPGIMG_7270.JPG IMG_7273.JPG IMG_7467.JPG IMG_7483.JPGIMG_7275.JPGWhen we finally crossed the bridge we were all hot and sweaty and ready for the last leg of our tour. The tuk-tuk truck was waiting for us and with the canoes we made our way to the Mekong. We had a good two hours of kayaking ahead of us and we all wanted to get into the water.IMG_7262.JPG IMG_7245.JPGIMG_7201.JPG IMG_7204.JPG IMG_7205.JPGWhy Dudley was mostly taking pictures of me when I was not rowing, I really don’t understand.IMG_7291.JPG IMG_7476.JPG IMG_7391.JPGBut at least we didn’t capsize due to my unwavering support. Eventually we all made it to the last bar along the river before the village. Here we stopped for some sustenance in form of chips and beer. That “happy water” was served along the beer we didn’t know before but it had the desired effect.IMG_7184.JPG IMG_7189.JPG IMG_7190.JPGIMG_7191.JPG We stayed a while longer and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere with our guides and Minnie and Jinnie. What difference a little “happy water” could make, suddenly we were not strangers anymore.

After so much exercise we were really hungry that evening and Dudley managed to eat the biggest burger available in Vang Vieng. Yours, PollybertIMG_7200.JPG

Exploring Don Khon

After an interesting breakfast watched over by a hawk

(Ok, maybe he was looking in the other direction) Dudley and I rented a bicycle and got ready to explore our island. In the area of the 4000 Islands there are three islands which I found mentioned online and in the guide-book. Don Khong, the largest and the most quiet place, and then two smaller ones, Don Khon and Don Det. Don Det is the backpacker place with cheaper bungalows (and after seeing them I know why) and lots of parties while Don Khon is the place in between in every way.  So the perfect place for us.


Next to the rental place I saw fish hanging outside for drying. I am not sure if I want to eat it though.

Looking at the map we decided to try the Somphamit Waterfalls. It was just a couple of kilometers to get there and after paying our fee to get into the park we walked around following the sound of water. Doesn’t the bamboo bend like this make for a great walkway?

The falls themselves stretched over a large area and were impressive. In some places the river was channeled for electricity.

  
     

There were signs to guide us to a beach area and a bit later we arrived at a small restaurant.


  
  

Once we saw the hammocks we fell into them spent a couple of hours there. It was so comfortable and when I was hungry Dudley just ordered a mix from the menu.

Around 3pm we decided to try out the beach. The park was closing at 5pm and we still had to walk back so no time like the present. The beach was a small sandy cove where I could walk in the first two meters and after that I needed something to hold on to because the current was so strong. We couldn’t swim so much as just getting wet and holding on for dear life. Especially since the current was also constantly shifting.

  

On the way back to the hotel we decided to cross the French Bridge to Don Det and give the train a visit. Both islands had a train during the French colonization. Not much was left of them, especially no tracks but two locomotives were still here for everyone to see.

  
  

Not so much left from the locomotive either, but it was still there as sign of former glory. We left the small museum (around the locomotive were panels with the history of the area and the train) and headed back to the Auberge. Nothing could beat a swim in the pool now. Yours, Pollybert

Moving South in Laos

Dudley and I had a leisurely breakfast and then got a lift to the airport. We had decided to fly to Pakse and from there Dudley had arranged for a pickup to the 4000 Islands.

  

Once in Pakse a driver awaited us and two hours later we arrived in Ban Nakasang, a small port that was as such not recognizable (but since we also stopped there on the return, it was the official gateway to the islands).

The boat ride on the Mekong was not much more than 30 minutes and eventually we arrived at our floating bungalows at the Auberge Sala Done Khone.

  
  
  

We spent our first afternoon by doing exactly nothing. Just swimming in the pool and talking to my nice neighbors from Australia. They had been in the area the last couple of days and had some good input on what to see.

Before dinner I took a couple of sunset Mekong pictures and it looked almost too beautiful to be true. But it was and we enjoyed our first dinner which included a 4000 Island cocktail and millions of mosquitoes. Yours, Pollybert

  

HCMC and the Mekong Delta

My train arrived in Quy Nhon with a little over an hour delay. Something I quite liked since my estimated arrival time in HCMC was around 4:20am (this train was actually not my first choice but on the later one the soft beds were fully booked). So whatever delay we could get I was happy with. It just meant I could sleep a bit longer and arrive at a more humane time.

We ended up arriving with a two hours delay. What a bliss to sleep until 6am and have time to brush my teeth. I had arranged for a pickup service and my driver was waiting with a sign for me.

In the Beautiful Saigon 2 Hotel my room was not ready to check in and there was no shower in the communal area. But they had a bathroom at least and before breakfast I could freshen up a bit. While drinking my coffee I perused the tour menu and saw that the city tour and the Cu Chi tunnels could be done at the same day. Since this would save me a day I could spend one day seeing the Mekong delta.

I was not too sure about going there because the reviews I had read online didn’t sound promising. But since I had an extra day I decided on making the tour.

I booked the tour with the reception and after breakfast I was already on my way. Looking out of the bus window this city appeared as crazy as Hanoi. Probably even more so since it had a lot more inhabitants (ok, around 5 millions more, I looked it up).

Once outside the city traffic was less and we soon stopped in My Thon to visit the Vinh Trang pagoda. There was still a slight drizzle but this would eventually stop.

  
   
Back on the bus we drove just a bit until we arrived at the Mekong. Here we all got off and got on a boat that brought us to our lunch destination on Tortoise Islet. Lunch again was not great, so no pictures from there.

  

With the boat we went to the next islet where we visited a family that made coconut candies. The coconut is first shredded, then cooked, in a next step molasses is added and cooked some more and finally the mass will be spread on a board, cut into stripes, cut into squares and wrapped individually. Quite a lot of manual labor for a candy that didn’t taste great.

After the visit we were put on a hand-rowed sampan in pairs and I ended up with a rower who looked like Freddie Kruger.

The boat ride was no longer than ten minutes, but it was enough to get three new mosquito bites. Next stop was a honey bee farm where we sampled lemon tea with honey and got entertained with local music.

For the music please click here, it was interesting in an awful way.IMG_5402

And that was basically it. After that we got on the bus and drove back for two hours to HCMC. While still on the bus I got a text from Willemeijn that she was already at the hotel. I had met her at the Farmstay in Phong Nha and then again in Hoi An. Only this time we had decided to share a room.

So when I arrived at the Beautiful Saigon 2 Hotel she was already waiting for me. We shared our travel stories and then we walked for dinner with people she had met in Dalat. And with walked I really mean we walked. Forever actually!

The taxi wouldn’t take us because the street was right around the corner, but the place we were going to was at ‘district’ 9. I don’t really know how the numbering worked but after a while numbers were starting over with a different ‘district’ number. And we started at ‘district’ one….

I am just glad it was worth it. Her friends were really nice and the food was amazing. The place we had walked to was outside the usual tourist area since the couple who discovered it was renting an apartment around the area. At 11pm or so we called it a night. I had another tour planned and she was meeting her friends at the War Remnants Museum. You’d, Pollybert