Southeast Asia travel diary: Days 11 to 15

Day 11: The mice of Kuang Si Falls

If the night buses in Thailand surprised me in a super positive way because they were comfortable, the AC was on point, we were given snacks and blankets and pillows, this night bus that I took from Vientiane to Luang Prabang was from a completely different world. It was a sleeper bus, which means there are actual beds on board. That sounds fancy, but it’s not. When getting in, we had to take our shoes off, and already the humid, soft floormat under my feet gave some indication of how the ride would be. The air was warm, moist and smelt like the same air had been in there for quite some time. The beds were tiny, I fit in the bunk, but anybody even a bit taller than me would have had to keep their legs bent. I can’t imagine how those 12 hours must have been for the tall, Dutch man that was also traveling. In addition, the road was bumpy and had a lot of turns, but that’s obviously out of the driver’s control.

Anyhow, I arrived in Luang Prabang after that wonderful bus ride, dropped my backpack at the hostel and went to get some breakfast. After breakfast, I climbed Phu Si mountain, which is a hill in the center of the town with a temple on top. It’s a nice thing to do, and even if the air was so foggy that I couldn’t see too much from the top, normally there is a good view over the whole town.

I was going to spend my first night in Luang Prabang in a resort next to Kuang Si waterfalls. I met a girl at my hostel who was going there as well, so we got to know each other on the way. Vanvisa resort was beautiful, it was set right on some smaller waterfalls downstream from the actual Kuang Si falls, so you could dip in the water while having some food and drinks at the restaurant, and I had my own bungalow, which was such a luxury after hostel dorms.

After eating coconut and swimming in the waterfall, we went for a walk around the area in the evening, but all restaurants were closing after 5pm, because Kuang Si park was closing at 5.30. Other than the restaurants and shops next to the entrance of the park, there is not much to do in the area.

I went to bed early because of my previous night on the bus, but woke up at around 1 am to plastic crackling. I thought it was the AC, so I turned it off, but the sound continued. In addition, it felt like there was something under my bed, other than the usual monsters. It was getting a bit creepy, but I didn’t know if I wanted to know what was going on. At some point, I heard the plastic being moved across the room under the bed, and I just had to see what was causing it. And so I met my roommate. There was a tiny mouse under the bed, with my granola bar twice its size in the mouth. I don’t know which one of us was more surprised, but we just stared at each other for a while before he ran off. After that, it was actually easier for me to go back to sleep. I don’t particularly appreciate sleeping with mice, but they won’t do anything to me. Now that I knew the source of the noise, I realized that what I felt under my back was the same mouse and its brothers and sisters. I didn’t know how that was possible, but I knew they couldn’t get on the bed, because the granola bar thief tried to and failed miserably. So, after these nightly adventures, I could finally get back to sleep.

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Day 12: The mouse hole, Kuang Si falls and a night out in Luang Prabang

In the morning, the Canadian girl I was traveling with now and I woke up pretty early to visit Kuang Si park before it got too busy. We were there at around 8.30, which was a good time as the park had just opened so there were not too many people in addition to us. The park is a beautiful forest with one waterfall after the other, some of which you can swim in, ending with one huge fall. It was so impressive to walk out of the forest to an opening with this humongous natural wonder appearing in front of your eyes. It was truly magical and clearly one of those moments when you ask yourself how nature can be as wonderful.

As we returned to the hotel, there was a bunch of cats hanging out on our terrace. I opened my door and one of them immediately came in and started exploring. Suddenly it stopped in front of my bed, so I checked what it was looking at. And then I saw it. From behind the frame of the bed, I could see a huge hole in my mattress. A hole in which for example a mouse or a hundred could easily fit, as half of the bed was probably shallow because of it. So, I guess I literally slept in a mouse nest… Well, what can you do, right? I told the receptionist, but the only thing he did was state that this is a jungle and throw the cat in the room. Sure, that’s going to help.

As the village next to Kuang Si park is completely dead in the evening, and the nice resort turned out to not be that nice after all, I would recommend only doing a daytrip to Kuang Si. You can see the park and waterfalls in the morning, then go to Vanvisa for lunch and a dip in the beautiful waterfall. But after this experience I wouldn’t recommend staying overning, Luang Prabang has way more to offer.

In the afternoon we returned to the hostel in Luang Prabang where I had left my backpack and was going to spend the next two nights. I met some people there and did a workout with them in the common room of the hostel, which was very needed but I think my calves are still sore from it days later. After breaking a sweat, I joined my Canadian friend in a bar where she was with some other people she had met a few nights ago. I thought they would be about our age, but to my surprise the average age of that group was probably 45. But that was the group we went to bars and clubs with that night. Quite weird but why not. When traveling I’ve realized that age really matters even less than normally. There is always one thing linking us no matter the age and that’s the fact that we all come from away and are far from home. And that’s enough to make a connection, have a good time and good discussions. You can go clubbing with a 70-year-old grandpa or enjoy your breakfasts at a hostel with a 40-year-old man. And you can learn from them and also teach them something in exchange.

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Day 13: A day to relax

We were out surprisingly late the night before, considering that most clubs and bars in Laos close at midnight. But the group we were out with were expats living in Luang Prabang, so they knew the places that were open later. Pros of meeting insiders. I was quite tired and decided to take a day off exploring to just relax, read a book and watch some series. Hungover or not, sometimes you need those days, even when you’re in new and exciting places and there is plenty to see.

In the evening, I went to this wonderful café called L’Étranger to watch a movie. They have a free movie screening every night in exchange of just ordering something off their menu. In addition, downstairs there are used books on sale as well as some local handcrafts.I love finding that kind of spots that have a real atmosphere, wherever I go.
Day 14: Vang Vieng

I can’t believe it’s already been two weeks since I left home. Time flies when you’re having fun, as they say. Some days I already feel sad for only having just over a month left, others I miss home and would be ready to leave already. I think at this point of the trip I haven’t yet gotten into the routine of travel and it’s just another two-week holiday for now. But when you’re away for longer, you need to switch your mindset, in a way, to enjoy the time you spend away to the most.

I took a bus to Vang Vieng, a town about halfway between Luang Prabang and Vientiane. The ride was a minivan, and I was the first person to get picked up. For some reason, the driver insisted on me sitting next to him on the front seat instead of the back with others. He was a nice man, telling about Lao culture and language, until he wanted us to go for a drink when we arrived in Vang Vieng and wanted to share a room. Thanks for the offer, but no thanks. Other than that and the endless turns and bumps on the road, it was a nice way to see the country side also, small villages, mountains and forests.

I stayed at a hostel that cost 4€ a night, with free breakfast from the menu, a swimming pool, a happy hour for beer and one hour of free whiskey every night. I can’t help but wonder how that can ever be profitable, but I believe they wouldn’t keep the prices as low if it wasn’t. I met some of the people staying there, and we went out that night. After the beer happy hour from 7 to 8 and free whiskey from 7.30 to 8.30, we started going around bars. One offers free shots and the other one has free beer and whiskey from 10 to 11, so you just go along with those who know the system and drink almost for free all night. Slippery slope, as you can imagine. Well, I felt it the next morning, you can be sure of that.

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Day 15: Tubing

Vang Vieng is a small town, and there is not so much to see in the city itself. Still, it’s surrounded by beautiful nature, and there are other things to do as well than party, even if that’s what it’s famous for. Another thing Vang Vieng is know for is tubing. I had never heard of that, but since it was apparently a must-do, I signed up.

Ultimately, tubing is just day drinking. Yeah. You go to one bar built floating on a river, get to know the group, play some games, jump in the disgusting and dirty river from a diving tower. Then, you hop on a tube or float, and you just let yourself float on the river for about an hour to the next bar. Or you grab the boat of the guide and get there three times faster on your tube. So you drink at one bar, you drink in the tube, you drink at the next bar, you drink on the tube, and finally you drink at the third bar. At the last bar, there was a bunch of local kids playing with us. I don’t know if I would let my kids play beer pong at age 6 with a bunch of drunk tourists, but they did, and they were really good at it. And since they were obviously not drinking, they just made us lose and handed all the drinks to us. Same in volleyball, they beat us hands down. And finally, I had a water fight with them in the river, and yeah, they were pretty good at that as well. But it was all fun, and even if we didn’t have a language in common, we had a good time with them.

If you’re into partying, it’s a fun experience even if apparently it’s not what it used to be some time ago, with loads of stops and slides and such. Note also that no one forces you to drink, so even if other people do, you could still go there with a coke and have a fun time nevertheless. Even if it was a lot about drinking, it would be fun sober too. But if you’re not into partying, I’d skip to what I did the next day.

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