10/02/2016 - Once we arrived back in Luang Prabang we checked into our third guesthouse in the town, we felt like we were doing a good job at exploring the various accommodation options that Luang Prabang had to offer by this point. After a quick freshen up we went and had an interesting flavour combination in one of our crepes for lunch. The savoury one was chicken, tomato and egg. On reflection it doesn't sound the worst but i can assure you it was odd. Luckily the strawberry and chocolate one made up for it (and yes, for all those that know me to well I'm well aware this goes against my fruit and chocolate rule!). As did the fresh papaya that we also had. We then spent a leisurely afternoon in the town and even managed to top it off with a happy hour gin and tonic in a local bar. Later that evening I was feeling a bit down but Fleur came to the rescue with pizza and a bar of Dairy Milk , which in Luang Prabang is no easy feat, and saved the day.
11/02/2016 - We woke up early and were ready and waiting for our pick up at 9 to go to Kuang Si Waterfalls. The drive there took about 50 minutes and in the back of the tuk tuk it was freezing. It started off as a really grey and dreary day but began brightening up the closer we got to the falls. As we had booked a private tuk tuk we had a blissful couple of hours to explore the falls without the hoards of tourists who would eventually arrive later with their scheduled tours. The waterfalls were stunningly beautiful, the water was bright turquoise and the pools that ran off it were all filled with this magical coloured water. We walked all around, possibly taking far too many pictures. We went to the main waterfall and climbed up the side of it to get an amazing view. On the way down from the Waterfalls there was a bear sanctuary and we got to see some very cute rescued bears. We felt a little smug as we left as the crowds were definitely now entering the park. Once back in Luang Prabang we struck up conversation with a really lovely pair of Scottish couples in their 50s who were on a ten week travelling adventure. The highlight of the whole conversation had to be when they thought we were fresh out of university...make up free and slightly bedraggled I thought we'll take that, thank you very much! In the evening we went out for dinner to Khaipaen, where they train and support deprived local young people. We had some delicious tapas style Laos dishes, our favourite being the spicy aubergine dip. From dinner we went to the night market, which it was becoming obvious that it was our shopping weakness. We both bought some more souvenirs and gifts before heading back for the night.
12/02/2016 - We woke up really early in order to see the local people giving alms to the monks. It happens in all Buddhist areas but as Luang Prabang has such a high density of temples in such a small place it was meant to be more of a sight to see. We got into a good spot by our nearest temple and waited and waited and waited. Nothing happened, looking back on it we were definitely too late but at the time we were just far too sleepy and confused to fully understand what was going on. We headed back to get ready for our 7 hour journey to Vang Vieng. We had bought tickets for the VIP bus but soon realised that in Laos VIP didn't mean the same thing as it does in England. The bus was just grotty and run down, everything looked like it needed a bit of a clean. On the plus side we got a free bottle of water and lunch at the three o clock stop. The last hour or so of our journey passed through some beautiful scenery of limestone rock formations and mountains and lush green countryside. Once into Vang Vieng we had an early dinner and then had a wander around the town to try and get our bearings.
13/02/2016 - After a lie in, we had a nice big breakfast with a view across the river. Then we went and saw the old airstrip, which was a bit of a no man's land and an old communal well before heading back to the centre. We crossed the river and walked to Pha Poae and then to Luisi caves. The walk was really lovely, through the countryside with the cliffs providing a dramatic backdrop but it felt like it took forever in the blistering heat. On the way back a small red snake crossed our path, Fleur was a little freaked out and I got to be the brave one reassuring her that it was only tiny and hopefully harmless. Once we made it back to the river we sat at on of the riverside huts and had coconuts whilst dipping our feet in the river which was needed after the long walk. For dinner that evening we went to a Laos Austrian fusion restaurant and had some amazingly fresh, delicious and quirky food.
14/02/2016 - We had a very relaxed day on Sunday. After breakfast, where Fleur had porridge that tasted amazing but like it could have been dessert we went back to the huts on the river and sunbathed and watched the world go by. Some adorable but mischievous local boys, probably around 4 years old, played in the river by us. Splashing us with water accidentally every now and then. They also managed to catch some type of shellfish and brought it round to all the people sat in the huts in an old crisp packet, proudly showing it off. We had a quick lunch in one of the remaining TV bar/restaurants...a remnant from the time when Vang Vieng was the place for hedonistic travellers seeking, alcohol, drugs and tubing. Since a spaite of tubing related deaths in 2012 when the death toll reached over 20 the town has tried to remarket itself and shed it's former seedy image. There are still people who come to Vang Vieng for the crazy partying but you feel that they are a few years too late.
We then went back to the hostel and freshened up before going to our tour agents for our hot air balloon ride! We arrived at the agents a little early and were given seats and beer to pass the time, a pleasant surprise. Our pick up arrived soon after and took us to the field that we'd be leaving from. When we arrived there was a small group of us and three hot air balloons, it all seemed fine until a larger group of tourist arrived and we were informed that we'd all have to get into the three balloons. We watched two balloons go up before 8 of us squeezed into ours. Once up in the sky the experience was amazing , the sky was a tiny bit hazy but on the whole the views of Vang Vieng were spectacular. We were up in the air for just over 30 minutes, we began to see the sunset and it was magical. After dinner we both Skyped our families who got to meet a little lizard that had found its way into our bathroom.
15/02/2016 - After breakfast we checked out of our hostel and waited for our bus to Vientianne. When it finally arrived we realised it was a minibus when we had been expecting a coach. The seats were pretty uncomfortable and the driver seemed too young to be driving but he drove well and smoothly which was a relief after some of our previous minibus journeys.