The slow pace of life is infectious. Although Vientienne is the capital it doesn't even feel like a city; quiet, little traffic and no car horns! wooop! After too long without getting washing done, it was such a relief to have the time to get it sorted. You know its bad when its not whats clean, but what smells the least! The weather being hot and sunny is going to take some getting used to after cold Northern Vietnam. Rick prefers the heat, but not sure im a fan of the sweat and mosquito bites.
We discoverd the delights of The Scandinavian Bakery... so good! Our first afternoon felt like we were in Paris with a trip to Patuxai (Vientiennes Arc de Triomphe replica). It is sometimes refered to as the vertical runway, as it was built with US cement meant for a new city airport, brilliant! The view from the top over the city was pretty cool.
We hired bikes for the second day and cycled alongside the Mekong, passing local houses. At one corner where there was a wedding party. We were waved over to join, the music was blaring, the Laos dancing hilarious and there was alot of beer for late morning. We didn't stop as we would have been rather out of place! After spending the day aquiring a numb ass, we got jugs of beer Laos and watched the sunset over the Mekong. Across Laos there is an 11.30pm curfew, where all bars etc shut, a reminder the countries communist. Not yet used to it, we had to make a dash (unsure on how strict they are) back to our hostel. We had bumped into two girls we met in Vietnam, the time ran away when we were having drinks. Ooops!
As we didn't arrive of the bus till late afternoon we decided to leave tubing to the next day, and vistited a nearby cave instead. The town is nestled by a river, between limestone mountains, really very beautiful. We swam in clear water at the cave entrance. That night we slept on the hardest bed ever, but typical cheap skates we suffered another night rather than move to a more expensive guesthouse!
We woke to rain, we couldn't believe it! It would continue more or less continually for three days. Instead of tubing in the rain we decided to hire bikes and cycle out to a loop of caves. The first we went in went back three kilometres! Our torches were rubbish, luckily there were some there that we could use, plus a village guide.The cave was quite narrow in parts, and ricks cheap shoes meant he was practically ice skating in parts! The cave got hotter and hotter, and seemed to go on forever, we did wonder whether we would end up in China?! It ended with an underwater river, which we were told we could swim in, but the pitch black (unsurprisingly) put us off! The secong cave was a water cave, which we accessed on tubes. We had to pull ourselves along with robes, which was great fun. We returned to town soaking wet and pretty cold, but it was totally worth it.
The continuos rain finalised our decision to push on to Luang Prabang. Determined not to waste our first full day in Luang Prabang due to the rain, we trapsed around in leaky raincoats regardless (requiring another complaint letter from rick to mountain warehouse, supposedly). Despite the rain, Luang Prabang is lovely, in was great to see the mix of Laos and French architecture. We also visited (to ricks delight) different exhibitions for minority groups, fabrics and art work. I really needed a girl!
The rain has finally stopped. We were able to hire bikes for the day, with all the excitement of the sun we went mad and cycled a 64km round trip to see a waterfall. We were chuffed to later read in the travel guide that the cycle is described as 'only for the fit'! Yes, we now apparently fit into that catergory. It wasn't that bad, very up and down, but really momentum was our friend for the day! The waterfall was beautiful and if slightly warmer it would have been lush to swim in. A bonus was that there was a bear rescue centre near the entrance, with several Asiatic bears. They were chilling out in giant hammocks, which after the cycle we were rather jealous of!