By bus it’s about four hours from Vang Vieng to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, but a more interesting option exists. It turns out you can cut that driving time in half in exchange for about three hours of kayaking, so guess what I did my last day in Laos?
The kayaks were two person ones meaning I was paired with Andrea, a Canadian law student studying in Singapore. We were immediately dubbed the “girl boat” as the rest of the group were strapping young European lads eager to prove their prowess on the water, but despite this Andrea and I led the pack for most of the paddling.
And then, because we needed to have a little excitement, we came to the rapids-
Here’s a view of the second half of the rapids, so you all can be appropriately impressed-
Now I’ve done whitewater kayaking in New Zealand and had a dry bag for all the things I wasn’t willing to leave in my bag as it was transported (ie camera, money, passport), but perhaps because of the nature of those items I really wasn’t willing to test the durability of said dry bag. So we crossed our fingers and set off, trying to follow the same path as the guide a few kayak lengths before us.
Then Andrea noticed something in the whitewater. “Oh my God, the guide flipped!”
It took me a second to realize he had in the whitewater, but there was no mistake. “Oh, shit!” [At this point the author would like to say that while she prefers to keep things family friendly, if you’re not allowed to curse when approaching rapids on a jungle river in Laos and your guide didn’t make it there’s really no other time you’re able to.]
So anyway, we paddled like mad, assuming we would inevitably befall the same fate and taking on buckets of water. But then incredibly enough… we didn’t. We made it to the calm part of the water hardly believing our fortune, still patting ourselves on the back to watch the subsequent entertainment of everyone else coming over the rapids. Verdict: all the guy boats flipped. Feelings of awesomeness from the girl boat ensued.
Anyway, the kayaking was fun but after that and a few hours in the back of a crowded pickup I was dying for a bit of rest by the time we got to Vientiane. But luckily there was something I had been looking forward to for weeks there- as the capital of a former French colony, it turns out Vientiane has lots of wonderful French restaurants!
Now let me tell you this about travel in Asia: while you can always find some sort of Western fare on the tourist trail, it is inevitably a burger or pizza or something equally uninspired. Needless to say, after two months I was a bit starved for some more interesting bits of the cuisine I was used to, and spent about fifteen minutes surveying the menu with glee. Here’s what I finally chose though, a duck l’orange that was absolutely magnificent!
See that glass on the right, by the way? My first glass of wine in two months, as wine is not exactly common in Asia (it’s usually only imported for tourists but is naturally expensive). Not a big issue as the beer in this part of the world well makes up for it, but the second I had tasted this glass I had no idea how I had held on for so long!The appetizers looked appealing but I knew I needed to save room for dessert instead, and I was right. I swear I almost cried when I got this pastry, as firstly I haven’t done much desert lately and secondly chocolate isn’t common at all around here outside of bar form.
Total cost of the debauchery? Just under US$15. Man, am I in for sticker shock once I hit Europe.