15th of Feb, TUBING day... this is actually what unfortunately most travelers come to VV for. You hire a tube for 55.000 kip, are driven up 4 km to the river and this is actually where the party starts and most kids start and end the day. It is almost impossible to describe the scenery... along the river lots of bars are established, all of them playing more or less the latest party hits, challenging each other on who is the noisiest one.... around noon the partying starts, everbody gets insanely drunk, taking a swim or tubing to the bars, collecting bracelets and picking up a girl/ a boy for the night... around 6pm you need to return the tubes uptown... I wonder how most of them manage to do so and suppose that there must be organised pickups to bring them back home save. Every now and then kids just die while being drunk, floating on the river, either they simply drown or they die of a heatstroke... nevertheless, everybody advised me that tubing itself would not be dangerous for Kjell (due to possible rapids or else) but more due to drunken kids pushing him out of tube... when you sign up for tubing, they write your "starting number" on your arm and we were going to be the two #4s. ;-) the drunken kids still sound asleep, we went up to the Organic Mulberry Farm, tied the tubes together and off we went, floating along the Nam Song. Kjell had a blast. The water was brilliant, some smaller rapids made him scream for joy and the funniest thing for him was when the water was that shallow that rocks bumped my butt. (honestly, a pain sometime). We skipped the bars as most of them they had not opened anyway and just floated down the river at some point it became really boaring. Talking of fear of rapids, it became a problem that we hardly got to move at all. I had to paddle with my feet as it became clear that this trip would still gon on for a while and the sun was burning our skin - even though soaked with sun lotion....
the result of it was a major sunburn (Kjell only turned dark brown) and controverse feeling about tubing in VangVieng!
As a result one can say, that If I were 20 years younger, I would probably enjoy this place differently then I did now with my kid. VangVieng's stunning landscape is definitely worth the trip and there is lots of other stuff to do except getting drunk tubing.
We finished our stay in VV with a PinaColada Cocktail and a cool Sprite and left the next morning for our last stop in Laos - LuangPrabang!
16th of Feb, travel day.... we left at 11.30 am with a VIP Bus as it was highly recommended to take a slower bus than a faster MiniVan. Kjell slept or iPad-ed most of the time and the 8 hours drive went by really quick. We got in a SongThaew and 5 min later entered Paradise! The Thongbay Resort is hard to desbribe with words. If I were to rebook my honeymoon with Jens, I would definitely end up here.... while Maylyn's Garden was arranged in a more djungle-like wild way, this Garden is worth a prize for arrangement. Light chains everywhere, a pond in the middle, wooden houses arranged around it. Due to the quite "expensive" price of 40 Euro per night, I had only booked a Garden view bungalow but we ended up with a River View bungalow with a beautiful porch and relaxing chairs on it. The room itself is breathtaking with nice little decors and a wonderful smell of insence sticks, ... the pics speak for themselves. It was at this point that I decided that we definitely will come back to Laos and show this beautiful country to Jens!!
The Resort owner presented himself to us, a Swiss man living here with his Lao wife, and perfect for us: they have a little boy Pascal who has exactly the same age and character as Kjell. Thongbay seems more a High Class Resort with lots of stylish dressed Swiss couple. I don't think any of them travel with a backpack.. ;-)
Therefore, I suppose Kjell and Pascal are happy to have met!
17th of Feb, and we had a great sleep under nice, clean sheets on perfect beds! I woke up briefly around 4 am when the Monks beat the Morning drums. What a calming, relaxing sound.... Kjell went out to play with Pascal and the planes we brought from Germany and I even had to reschedule the costfree ride to the Center of the town as Kjell and Pascal were not able to seperate while fishing in the pond. I am really glad he has found a friend. ;-)
LP is just great and I surely found the place where I can completely retire from the stressfull life back home! The pace here is so incredibly slow, the people so relaxed... it is hard to let go when you are a Westener living under pressure and speed most of the times. I get to think a lot about my working life back home. Even Kjell seems to slow down. If it was about making trouble and letting go of his energy at the past places, the tangerine-robed monks that you see everywhere here seem to calm him down. Somehow they are attracted to him... maybe there really is more Asian to him than I thought there would be. People look at him, at me and you can tell, they wonder... this is new to me and I am not sure whether he senses this as well. I tell him that they are just curious and love kids no matter where they are from. Families traveling with kids are rather scarce to find here.
Kjell decided, he wanted to go up and see the Wat on Phu Si (yes, it is actually pronounced "Pussy") . At the entrance we paid 20.000 kip and started climbing up the stairs. Kjell wanted to buy these small birds kept in small cages, as letting them free brings luck to the person. I strongly believe that these birds are trained to fly back to the cages but just letting them fly around freely for a few minutes gave me a better feeling about the whole thing. 20.000 for two birds was a lot of money but Kjell believing so strongly at his theory of saving these little birds made my day. So he climbed up with two cages in each of his hands and at the top of the mountain with a spectacular view on Mekong and side river we let them free. Gladly they flew of into a completely different direction which supported his theory. ;-)
We then again had a very special moment when three monks entered the Wat while we sat there watching the people pray in silence. They all smiled at him, sat down to pray and while leaving again took a while in looking at him, catching his eye, smiling. I don't know how to describe it but these people REALLY make you feel humbled. After this moment Kjell decided that he wanted the enlighten an insence stick himself and say a prayer. So we did....