Beer Lao Brewery @ Vientiane

After pinning down a hotel on Francois Ngen to stay for the night, I worked quickly to locate an ATM and then a rickshaw. If I accomplished only one thing today I wanted it to be the Beer Lao Brewery. The rickshaw driver knew what I was talking about right away and 20 minutes later I was approaching the guard post outside the factory. The guard ended up having to communicate with the rickshaw driver in order to determine my purpose, but after filling out a line on the sign in sheet I was handed my Beerlao visitor badge.

Streets of Vientiane
Beerlao headquarters

Tham Phu Kham Cave @ Vang Vieng

While in Vietnam I got a couple massages throughout my trip in order to alleviate the back pain which comes on after days of lugging around a heavy backpack. I've been starting to feel that pain again on this trip so I figured I'd try and solve it the same way here in Laos. I located a massage place by my hotel the other night and got a full body massage however the result turned out to be a major disappointment, not wanting to let a single experience form my opinion I sought out another masseuse last night. The similarities between the two massages were that they were both very soft, they used their finger nails to scratch the skin all over my body and they both left me feeling no better. The differences were that the second girl had the skill of being able to text with one hand while scratching me with the other.

 Due to my back pain, a simple day like today becomes much more stressful, but since I probably wont be back in Vang Vieng for a while I've got to use my time wisely while I'm here. Tham Phu Kham Cave was my point of interest today and after drinking some Beerlao to medicate for the pain, I caught a rickshaw out of town heading west. After 15 minutes I arrived at the Blue Lagoon, a pool filled with bright aqua marine spring water at the base of the cave attraction. A short walk past the lagoon I purchased tickets and hiked up a steep dirt and stone path to find the entrance.

Blue Lagoon
Pathway to cave

Tham Sang Triangle @ Vang Vieng

With a new day at hand and a bit less of a hangover then my average this week, I joined some other tourists to go see the Elephant Cave north of Vang Vieng. The ride by rickshaw took about 20 minutes and landed us at the ticket salesman for the cave. Our guide asked us whether we'd like to see the Tham Hoi Cave first.  Without knowing exactly what we were getting into, we agreed to check it out.

Riding in the rickshaw
Walking bridge 

Mushrooms, Ladyboys and Whopping Burger @ Vang Vieng

A night out in Vang Vieng has left me with the impression that maybe this place could be the setting for the next installment of the Hangover franchise. Binge drinking is heavily encouraged and if your not participating someone's sure to give you a free shot of Lao Lao to loosen you up, several of the bars I visited also showed me their special menu, these contained a variety of weed or opium laced items including everything from smoothies to pizzas, some also offered mushroom dishes to serve the more adventurous. The tourists are from all over the world and were interesting to meet but the people who choose to make Vang Vieng their home proved to be a truly special breed. I met several prodigal half brained beings who'd taken a break from their home countries for a life of passing out bar fliers by day and conducting drinking games by night, the majority of these type appeared to have had there soul melted down and trampled over by years of drug use. One less zombie-fied exception I met had come from Ohio to work here as a DJ, but when he arrived he was convinced he'd discovered a utopia here, absent the greed and inequality of the West, he said that as soon as his Laos citizenship was approved he planned to renounce his citizenship in the US all together and start his own business here. There were also the sadder cases like the towns local homeless that were scouring the bar street at 3am looking for a dropped coin or dollar, the immigrant ladyboys from Thailand that littered the bars in search of sex tourists, and the Laotian girl who could only speak in bird chirps and had become the subject of a bet between a group of drunk Aussies. All of these factors loaded into my brain somewhere behind the Beer and Lao Lao and caused my perspective of this town to skew dramatically throughout the duration of the night.

This morning, having lost the ability to speak in complete sentences and now suffering from small hand tremors, I figured maybe today I shouldn't try to attempt to much physical or mental activity. A herd of cows happened to be passing through town so I did a walk over the river to join the heard for a while, I walked with them for about a quarter of a mile before finding myself thirsty and veering near the riverside shack which serves as a bar to the sun bathers. Soon I found myself sitting on one of the riverside lounges drinking Beerlao as the cows walked past one by one.

Friendly cows

Lusi & Pha Poak Caves @ Vang Vieng

After my introduction to drinking "black russians" during my first Vang Vieng bar excursion last night, I awoke this morning with a throbbing hangover and no urge to deal with a rickshaw driver. A little asking around proved there was a cave within walking distance to the west of town, so I loaded my backpack with Beerlao, threw on the cheap sandals I'd purchased the night before and started walking.

Starting my journey @ Vang Vieng

The Winding Road to Vang Vieng

After my third complete day in Luang Prabang, I decided to venture south toward Vang Vieng. I woke too late to take the morning bus, leaving me the options of taking the night time bus or the van. Having survived two van experiences in Vietnam I decided to go for it. This van experience was more tourist oriented, no rolling around town picking up birds and random locals. The road south goes for 6 hours of curvy road through mountainous terrain, so be prepared to be rocking back and forth the whole time if you ever take this trip.

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