1st - 5th September
In the morning i walked up Phou si hill to get a good view of Luang Prabang, it's bigger than i had realised and the view was clear, on the route down the other side there were several buddahs and a monk who i chatted to - he let me take his picture.
I wondered why there are no buildings here on the banks of the Mekong unlike in other parts such as Pak Beng. I checked my emails and found my mate Darren had booked his flight to Hanoi for the 23rd September for a 2 week holiday so now i am spending a lot of time thinking about how best to spend the next three weeks and arrive in Hanoi. However i do it i'll either spend a fortune on flights or a long time on the bus. An Aussie bloke told me there was a public bus that takes 26 hours from Vientiane to Hanoi which would most likely be pretty cramped. I'll see if i can make a number of smaller journeys but that may mean stopping off in some pretty remote places.
At 12.30 i got on the public bus to Viang Viene, a halfway point to Vientiane. The aile is knee high with big bags of sugar and there is no air conditioning, but everyone has a double seat (my luggage takes up one seat) and the wide open windows make it quite cold. The views from the roads through the mountains are so much more spectacular than from the Mekong. We could see for miles and miles of unspoilt green valleys and mountains, we stopped at the occaisional roadside village where the thais on the bus would buy fruit and veg, hardly any of it i recognised but i think there was sugar cane and tiny colourless corn on the cobs. Other villages we passed through filled with kids playing in filthy raggy clothes, people washing at the one communal tap or kids carrying back water along the road. It looked like poverty but the land had provided plenty of food, and they had huts with satelite dishes and the glow from the television inside and all the kids looked happy.
After about 7 hours the bus stopped and everyone got off so i checked into a hotel and went for food where i bumped into the Aussie from the bus who told me this was Kasi, just a food stop and we still had an hour to go. I fetched my bags and handed the key back to a bemused girl who spoke so little English that i didn't even try to explain.
In Viang Viene i had food and Lao dark beer whilst sitting in one of the many tv bars showing 'friends'. I slept well in my 3 dollar room smelling of paint. In the morning i looked around; Viang Viene is a cluster of guesthouses, travel agents, restaurants and internet cafes at a t-junction surrounded by mountains, a real blot on the landscape. Nothing great about this place but there are a lot of backpackers passing through. I booked a bus to go at 13.30 today to Vientiene but the chap for some reason booked it for tomorrow, he apologised and told me there were no more leaving today apart from a pick up truck where i would be standing the whole way, could have been an adventure but i booked an air con bus for tomorrow morning and checked into another hotel without the smell of paint. At least i have plenty of time to kill by catching up on my blog. I went to an internet cafe to burn a cd of my pictures but the computer had a virus and corrupted my memory card, i spent a lot of time trying to recover lost pictures but with no luck. Later i found a guy who copies albums onto mp3 so i now have 9 new albums to keep me happy for only 9 dollars.
The following day on the bus to Vientiene, i started reading 'A short history of tractors in Ukranian', listened to my great new music and met Angela and Emma, sisters from Sheffield who must get on really well as they do a lot of travelling together.
Vientiene is a lot more spread out than Vang viene and if you find the right cafes and bars is pretty chilled out but there doesn't seem to be all that much to do in the day.
I hired a bike for a day and cycled around in the scorching sun (with a bit of a hangover!) and sweated like a scouser in a idendity parade. I spent the evenings with Angela and Emma and had a very good time. The only problem was that the hotels have curfews so we went back to our hotel, took some beers and played shithead.
I found a fuji shop that managed to retrieve my corrupted photos which i was very glad of because they included the long neck women. I took a local bus, packed with locals to the Buddah park; a bizarre collection of huge concrete buddhist and hindu figures and a giant concrete pumpkin that you can walk around the 3 levels inside where there are more small strange figures; you'd just have to see it to believe it!
The girls left before me so i spent one more evening in a bar where i watched a 60+ rat faced, grey pony tailed man with a local girl on his lap maybe 18 years old - nice one fella!