The madness continued. The journey to Vang Vieng began in the capital city of Laos, Vientiane. We had stayed in the Sabaidy Guesthouse to start with (cheap and cheerful) and of course toured the sights of the city after crossing the border from Nong Khai in Thailand. Chaz and I had secured a ride to Vang Vieng to go tubing, we booked with the company DD Travel and it was a 2pm departure and was to take 3 hours and cost 3,000 Kip (40 US cents).
I charged my camera battery while waiting with Chaz in the company offices and a truck arrives – we are shoved into the back.
We left the capital just after 2pm. On board we meet Nick (from Banbury, England), Marine (a hippy girl from France) and BK and Kiil (from South Korea). We wait in this truck for 20 minutes before we end up at the side of the road on the edge of Vientiane shoving our backpacks into a shared mini-bus which will take us all the way to Vang Vieng. I start to nickname the town “Vangers” even though I have yet to visit it.
Then the cars tyres need pumped up. We’re chilling in the back of this mini-bus chatting away and it’s all a bit crazy. We end up having to change the tyres on the van before it leaves the capital and by 3pm we are in dreary cloudy wilderness north of Vientiane.
The roads are bumpy and rocky and we slide everywhere in the drizzley rain. At 4pm we stop in the town of Phon Hong for a 20 minute break. I grab some snacks and a drink and check out the random football shirts for sale.
Chat in the minibus is all about the tubing and Vang Vieng. Chaz has been before and is glorifying the madness of it all. Nick and I seem a bit hyper and between the three of us, we decide to room together on arrival in Vang Vieng. Chaz knows the place too – it’s called Nam Song Gardens and is run by Arnie, an old Norwegian bloke who spends his whole life relaxing by the Nam Song river from his garden drinking beer and chatting to everyone in sight. Sounds like bliss. We’re all sorted!
Around 5pm we pass through B Pak Vang, a tiny village and just after that, the rain kicks in for a bit and we are forced to stop. It’s not a problem with our minibus though – it’s the one in front.
Which is also full of a mix of locals and backpackers. That minibus has broken down and while the drivers fix it, we take time out here to enjoy what can only be described as random obscure Laotian countryside. And it’s great.
Soon the other mini-bus is fixed and we both head off towards Vang Vieng. Darkness is approaching and I had a Lonely Planet book with a map and some hostels in it. Chaz leads the chat about Nam Song Gardens and the “island bars” and just before we arrive in Vang Vieng, I notice a Hotel called Pan Hotel (Panny’s Chinese name). But we’re off to search for Nam Song Gardens after being dumped shyly in a car park on the edge of town. None of us have a clue where we are and we’re not in the map in my book so I put it away. Arnie’s place Nam Song Gardens is also not in the Lonely Planet so it’s over to Chaz and the four of us (Nick, Marine, Chaz and I) go walking through the wilderness in the rain.
Chaz leads the way and heads ridiculously south of the town, claiming “there’s a mad right somewhere that leads to Arnie’s place”. We’re waiting and waiting and laughing and laughing at him, Nick and I. We just want a bed, dump our bags down and get on the piss. That’s what the four of us want!
But we end up in a resort that is on the edge of the village and called Vang Vieng resort. It’s the wrong place and Chaz’s hilarious “mad right” was definitely mad! Just after this, we ask some locals and end up walking back to the town centre, a kilometre away only.
By this time Marine decides to go off on her own and look for a place to stay. Chaz, Nick and I just feel like a beer so we do just that. We’re back in the town centre in a wee restaurant with WiFi (Chaz wants to check for Nam Song Gardens to still stay the night there). We order 3 Beerlao’s and watch the sun/rain sink over Vang Vieng. It’s been a crazy day so far. We even pass a bar called Johnny’s Bar (which we pop into later) which also had a Guesthouse which was full.
Then, at the dinner table while we are munching Laotian specials Hot dogs and banana pancakes life is all good and we have given up on walking around looking for Nam Song Gardens. I ask a waitress where can we stay for the night and dump our bags off so we agree to stay one night somewhere else and check into Nammers the next night (a new nickname for Nam Song Gardens).
The answer is obvious – upstairs. We can stay here! We bag a room for 3 for 90,000 Kipp (well there’s a double and a single so we take it) that’s 30,000 Kipp each ($3 US). Bags are dumped off and we return downstairs to the bar. The bar and hostel are known simply as Vang Vieng Guesthouse!
Then, while the lamposts dim, everybody. And I mean everybody just sits in bars drinking Beerlao and watching Friends. Yes, that’s what happens in Vang Vieng, “Vangers”.
Yes, we are all sat there in Vang Vieng watching Friends.
By the way, the madness has JUST begun.