Tuk to the Road

The trials and tukulations of Jo, Ants and Ting Tong the tuk tuk and our three-wheeled odyssey from Bangkok to Brighton...in aid of the mental health charity Mind. For more information please see www.tuktotheroad.com

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Tubing, BeerLao and sunburnt ferrets

Vang Vieng, Laos

Our second night in tourist-tastic yet beautiful Vang Vieng. This is definitely the most white people I have seen in one place since England.
Today we both woke up knackered, even though we had had plenty of sleep. We had planned to go on a full day of excursions but neither of us felt like being super energetic. After a huge pineapple pancake and cup of tea (yoghurt and rabbit food for Ants) we decided that we had to make the most of our day here, because the surrounding environment is breathtaking. We pottered into town and went to a tour operator recommended by the Lonely Planet. Within a few minutes we had sorted out a bespoke itinerary and went back to our bungalow for an hour before they picked us up.

We first drove a few km out of town and then ended up by the river to begin our first adventure, kayaking. I went kayaking aged about 12, but thought it must be quite easy as I have seen it lots on TV. The thing is, if someone makes something look really easy then it actually means that it is difficult and they are pro. I was put in the back and given the task of steering. I lost all knowledge of left and right, forwards and backwards and before long I was sitting on a rock in the middle of the river and Ants had jumped ship. I was then told to paddle rather than steer and I swapped to the front of the kayak. I am not particularly fit at the moment but I managed to propel us down the river at a sort of doggy paddle speed. Ants was much better at steering and there were no more rock incidents. My arms started to get pretty tired and I was glad when we stopped for our next adventure.

The next adventure consisted of two large tractor tyre inner tubes being given to us, which we put our butts in and pushed off into the river. This was a far more relaxed way to see the mountains and rocks at a half doggy paddle speed. Luckily we had a wonderful guide with us called Pon, who told us which way to go to avoid the rocks. We stopped for lunch at a riverside shack and had beer and spring rolls. There were lots of other tourists there who we had a nice chat with. We explained about our trip, which some other Brits had read about on GapYear.com- it's strange how many people we meet who have already heard about our trip one way or another. They only put two and two together when they see us in TT. Ants had started to look a bit lobster-like and had really caught the sun on her arms and chest. We are taking anti-malarials and one of the more common side effects is photosensitivity. We borrowed some factor 60 and covered Ants in it.

After lunch carried on our tubing and stopped at a water cave called the sleeping cave. The reason is that during the second World War about 200 people lived in the caves for a few months as the Japanese invaded. We didn't have torches and so swum in only a few metres. It was pretty amazing, but I get a little scared in deep water and Ants and I asked Pon repeatedly if there were any snakes, spiders or alligators. He assured us there were none.

Back on the river and soon it was time for another BeerLao break. I was a chicken but Ants threw herself off a 20ft rock into the river. The Loas family at this shack kept a pet baby monkey, which they had rescued after its mother fell off a rock and died. It was very cute and had a punky grey hairdo. Ants wanted to touch it but it squeeked and ran off when she approached.

Just as we approached Vang Vieng the skies opened and we got drenched. I found the experience very beautiful and refreshing- high tree covered mountains surrounding a river valley with no sign of modern life. It was one of those very peaceful and special moments.

Back to our hotel and quick wash before supper. Off to Luang Prabang tomorrow and we anticipate a good 7 hours on the road, providing we get TT up the muddy stony steep slope.



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