Day 25: There was some serious rain overnight, with lots of thunder and lightning. We woke to a bit of a mushy day, but once the sun came out, things starting drying pretty quickly. So we decided to press ahead with our planned bike ride.
The guesthouse has mountain bikes for hire so rather than walk into town, we decided to rent two of those. The first two we had to bring back 2 minutes after setting off, as not a single gear was working. The next two were better – in that at least some of the gears were working, and the brakes stop you mostly, so long as you aren’t going too fast, or on a steep downhill.
We set off on what is billed as a fairly challenging bike ride along dirt roads, and wow they weren’t joking. 15km of the bike ride was over rocks and dirt and through lots of mud (at times we got stuck in the mud and had to climb off and pull the bikes out). Lil’s swearing got steadily worse as the morning went on.
Regardless, the scenery was spectacular and while it was a tough ride, it was a really good one. We only saw a few other people on motorbikes along the way – funnily enough we were the only ones out huffing and puffing on mountain bikes.
We got back to Vang Vieng early afternoon, dropped the bikes back, pointed out that the gears needed some serious work (they probably won’t do anything, but Lil felt the need to mention it), then headed into town to buy two bus tickets for our trip tomorrow to the capital, Vientiane.
The first place we went into, we asked about VIP buses and what time they leave tomorrow. The guy said there are only two buses, but they leave every hour throughout the day. We asked again and got the same response. We were confused and he was getting cranky. So we said thanks and continued on.
The second place we went into, the guy said there were two buses, one at 9am and one at 1.30pm. We asked which one went to the centre of Vientiane (we don’t want to be dropped at the station which is outside the town). His mate knew the answer to the question, however he was asleep on the floor and despite repeated shouting, he couldn’t wake him. So we said thanks and continued on.
Thankfully the third place had all the info we needed, so we bought our tickets and headed off in search of a cold drink – it was another scorching day. We passed a recycling mountain as we walked – it’s challenging to know how to reduce plastic bottle usage in countries where water supply isn’t safe to drink. Luang Prabang had free water refill stations around the town, and we saw one in Luang Namtha, and locals buy water in the large 19 litre bottles you put on top of water coolers. But otherwise, we’ve been buying plastic bottle after plastic bottle – which makes us feel bad, but we’re not sure what else we can do.
While we drank our icy cold fruit shakes, we chatted about Vang Vieng and our few days here. We’re still not really sure how we feel about the place. The party town aspect we can do without, for sure. As we walked down the street today we saw a rasta bar advertising ‘Mushroom shake’ and another one selling ‘Happy Balloon laughing gas’ and offering ‘Free shots all day’. However walk just 10 minutes outside the town and you find yourself in the most spectacular scenery you could hope for, with no one around – though we suspect lots of the young party animals never make it that far.
We’re looking forward to reaching Vientiane tomorrow. While it’s not billed as the most exciting of towns, we think we’re ready for a change. Meanwhile, Jim is sitting on his post-bike ride soft towel.