Laos is a beautiful tiny country nestled between Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Although the country does not have the tourism infrastructure of Thailand, this shortcoming is becoming its main attraction if you are looking for unspoiled, non-touristy place.
The country's capital is Vientiane, but most of the tourist heads direct to Vang Vieng, which is a major tourist attraction. Vang Vieng is a sleepy little town, which offers everything from tubing to happy pizzas. Vang Vieng is about 4 hours ride from Vientiane. It is easy to book your ride via travel agents in Vientiane. Don?t get scared when you get ticket quotations in a couple of thousand kip. A US dollar is worth about 8000 kip. The bus trip from Vientiane to Vang Vieng costs about 30,000 kips. Once you have reached there, you will see all the trappings of being a tourism hub. Its streets are lined with guest houses and TV bars. Most of the bars have low level seating arrangement with mattresses and pillows and blare out interminable re-runs of 'Friends' and 'Seinfeld'. Yea, nothing like watching 'Friends' while getting drunk on potent Lao-Lao, the indigenous beer. Western food is easy available and even the street side stalls make good enough pan cakes and crepes. If you are feeling feisty, go ahead and gorge on 'Happy pizzas' and 'Happy shakes'. Needless to say, these pizzas and shakes have generous helping of narcotics. But be warned, using narcotics is illegal in Laos and carries a heavy penalty.
But Vang Vieng is not all about Beers and happy shakes. The little town has beautiful scenic beauty to offer, and if you care enough to step out of the touristy zone, you will get to see laid back Laotian lifestyle. The town has beautiful caves and cave temples. It is also very well known for 'tubing'. You can arrange to visit caves through travel agents, which are almost everywhere in Laos. The tours generally consist of seven to eight tourists. These caves are maintained in their natural state and are unadorned with stairways and lights. However, you will get the funky headlights to strap on your forehead and a battery as a necklace. These caves generally have Buddha statues inside them and therefore are venerated.
Yet another type of caves is the water caves with very narrow openings. These caves are accessible through tubes, where you sit in a tube and are steered inside the cave. It is a wonderful experience, when you are inside the caves in total dark and have to depend on your other senses. Generally, these ?spiritual? trips are followed by 'hedonistic' tubing trips over the river. Now, you can choose to go with a tourist agency or may decide to venture out on your own. However, it is more advisable to go with an agency to avoid mishaps. Tubing involves 2 to 3 hours floating down the river with occasional riverside makeshift bar breaks. Well, your outer self is already wet, so why not drench your inner self with local and imported beer.
Many of these bars also have high swings where you go up a platform, take a swing a la Tarzan and then jump into the shallow river below. Combined with copious amount of alcohol, this sport has taken many a tourists? lives, not to mention frequent minor injuries such as ear perforation and bone fractures. So, be careful. By the time, you finish your tubing expedition, sun already starts setting down. Watching the sunset from tube is a wonderful experience. Generally, you can cram up all these activities in one single day, but generally people like to soak up the leisurely pace of life in Vang Vieng and take their time to enjoy. Whatever your style is, Vang Vieng has something for everyone
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