On this day in 2011….Riding through the Laotian mountains to Vang Vieng


9780099437338Up nice and early in time for our ride to Vang Vieng, the home of tubing and reckless river-based partying. Could easily have stayed and explored this mysterious little town but hedonism awaited. We had breakfast with a couple of Swiss girls, served by a waiter who looked vaguely familiar.

“That’s the guy who we spoke to yesterday” one us pointed out, in reference to the Waiter.

“They all look the fookin’ same to me” the other replied, again in our best Northern accent.

Picked up by the minibus driver at the Hotel, we were on our way to the infamous party river by mid morning. I finished The Damage Done while Ben began Dead Babies. He then got chatting to two cute Chilean girls who he sat next to at the back. They wanted to know what he was reading, so he told them in his best Spanish.

“Dead Babies? Right, what’s it about you sick fuck, get away from me!” I guessed were their thoughts.

They were good value, nice pair of sisters, and at one stage I was quite confident we may be able to crack on with them at some stage. With this thought my spirits were lifted as we drove through the lush mountains of Laos. Although it might just be the high altitude and lack of air to my head making me feel this giddy. Nobody’s ever miserable when they’re that high up. It’s not the view, it’s the oxygen deficit. I was really falling for this country and was getting the first signs that I was soon to be able to join the annoying boys and girls (girls especially) who you always find discussing travel experiences with vague phrases such as “Oh, I Love Laos” with particular emphasis on the o’s and h’s.

We arrived in Vang Vieng just after nightfall and the party was in full swing. Well, by party I mean a load of Aussies with their shirts off covered in body paint urging anybody in earshot to “get fucked up, cunt(s)” while traipsing from one backpackers hang-out to another. And that was just the girls. Along with the Chilean Girls (and their Mother) we went and found a hostel. We found one with a downstairs that housed one of the famous Family Guy bars, in which they played back to back episodes to the stoner faced masses.

Me and Ben went out to explore the town and after finding the only bar which was not a breeding ground for mindless Australians, we opted for one that was showing Manchester Utd Vs Liverpool and watched it with a Kiwi called Paul. Kiwi Paul. He was staying in some riverside huts across on the other side. He was paying half the price we were at our place and had a whole bungalow to himself! After the game he would take us to have a look.

During the game I noticed the group in front thrashing their hands needlessly at the screen. I didn’t think the ref was having that bad a game.

“What’s their problem?” I asked Kiwi Paul.

Turns out the four travellers were using sign language to communicate. Paul would often take his eyes off the game to communicate with them. He had been working at a deaf school in Singapore for the last year and knew the language well. Impressive stuff. But what was even more impressive was the fact that these deaf guys had all come travelling by themselves and through blogs and forums had all arranged to meet at various stages of the Banana Pancake Trail. Me and Ben had only managed to get here from Bangkok by talking English very loudly and slowly in the ears of a confused and often scared South-East Asian. I had to take my hat off to them. It was far more impressive than Steven Gerrard’s long ball or Wayne Rooney’s shot from just inside the box. You’ll hardly see pages and pages dedicated to these guys and their achievements in the daily newspapers. Not to sound patronizing but I really believe this is what people should be looking up to, not some bloke on silly wages kicking a ball about for 90 minutes a week. Although after a while it did get on my nerves and they were now having a full-blown conversation in front of the screen and I almost missed Ryan Giggs take on two players.

After the match, we headed across the river via a bridge consisting of just a few planks of wood to the conveniently named Otherside Bungalows. It was perfect.



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