Temples and Tubing?! A Definition of Contradiction

So we left Thailand &  took the slow boat into Laos,… & they weren’t joking about the SLOW! It took 2 days of travelling, 6-7 hours in the boat each day with a night stop off half way. It was beautiful though so it wasn’t too bad, & on the 2nd day me & Nicky managed to land ourselves the prestigious car seats that were the ‘comfortable’ seats on the boat!! We got to Luang Prabang monday night & went to an AWESOME bar for some beverages with our new travelling buddies. In the morning we rented bikes in a 6-strong gang & went around all the temples, finishing up in a crazy market harbouring some of the most despicable looking meat I have ever seen!! Flies galore! Importantly, our exertions were not as tiring as I thought they would be!!… A noteworthy point given the heat!
 
The next day in Luang Prabang we went to a waterfall south of the city for some frolicking fun in the water!! The falls were a series of three different waterfalls, the middle of which was the popular swimming hole, hosting a rope swing & a 2 metre fall to jump in off. We spent the day diving, jumping & swinging into the rich turquoise-blue waters, with the added & unexpected bonus of seeing some black bears at the sanctuary situated at the bottom of the falls. 

Diving into the lukewarm turquoise waters

That afternoon we left Luang Prabang, opting for a minibus with the other people we were now travelling with, & headed to Vang Vieng, infamous for tubing. The views driving to Vang Vieng were UNREAL. By far the most stunning scenic views we had witnessed on our trip so far, especially given the sunset that unfolded. Mountains stretched as far as the eye could see as we passed through villages precariously built inches from cliff edges. 

On the edge of oblivion

 
When we arrived in Vang Vieng we got straight into our element… & went drinking for the day while tubing down the river. A health & safety nightmare, we headed to the 1st bar on the river at 1oam & proceeded to drink buckets… literally… of alcohol. Not only does this day of tubing involve floating down a river to 5 or 6 bars to drink heavily, but each bar has a 20-30 foot high swing, or zip line, or slide… just to add to the already hazardous scenario!! I’m pretty sure FIRE was the only thing missing to involve every single potential health & safety risk known to man! Mud-wrestling, zip lining, diving, swinging & sliding down the river with tubes in hand, it was an absolute riot!
…All was going swimmingly until we started tubing back to town. Nicky & I, & our friends James & Mollie all stopped at the last visible light on the river, concerned that was might pass by the final stop to get out. But, our friends Pete & Monika continued to float passed us as we waved & signalled for them to try & make it to shore. Then Pete, who can’t swim, lost his tube in his attempt to head to the river’s banks!! The current was quite strong & he kept shouting my name as I had mentioned I was a reasonably strong swimmer previously. I left my tube with Nicky, James & Mollie & ‘David Hasslehoff”ed it’ back into the river… Needless to say, I was still half cut at this point & did not think it through at all. Certainly not enough though to warrant heroism!  Pete jumped on my back & we swam down to Monika who was still in her tube but obviously rather panicky about her boyfriend’s previous predicament. Still concerned that we had passed the correct point of exit we walked back upstream for half an hour, holding onto reeds or whatever else jutted out of the bank to try & aid us in fighting against the current. The water wasn’t too deep but the current was very strong & we were unable to make the trek by land as we had no shoes & the reeds were 6-8 feet tall anyway. We finally made it back to the solo light & caught a tuk tuk back to town. All very eventful & emotional!! A few pints later… safely on dry land, & all was well again though. Little did we know that had we carried on downstream we would have reached the proper exiting point, but it was pitch black & our lack of knowledge to this fact was enough for common sense to warrant getting out where we did.
A week of harsh contrasts!… A few days in the peaceful & spiritual, pilgrim-worthy temples of Luang Prabang, followed by large quantities of alcohol in a town reminiscent of an 18-30s club venue!!… & it is those contrasts that make travelling such a brilliant experience. It is that diversity that means every day is a genuinely new adventure.
Rhys
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