29.12.2016 - 31.12.2016 33 °C
Thursday, December 29
Another G Adventurer was rushed to hospital first thing this morning with severe dehydration and was found to have a serious bacterial infection. Our trip to Vang Vieng was delayed a bit until we found out how long the hospital was going to keep him. We finally decided to drive on without him and his travel partner, and have them travel later in a separate vehicle.
The road from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng was breathtakingly scenic. Laos is the Switzerland of southeast Asia ... except perhaps for the condition of the roads. It took 7 hours to travel about 250 km. ... it was a steep climb with lots of switchbacks, and there were quite a few potholes, landslides and boulders on the road along the way! We felt pretty jostled around by the time we reached Vang Vieng.
While the others went for supper and shopping, I (Donna) decided to pamper myself and have another hour-long foot massage for the exorbitant cost of about $8.
Friday, December 30
We had a fabulous morning kayaking and engaging in splash fights on the Nam Song river – FUN!!! The river run reminded us of being on the Torch River near Nipawin, but the karst hill landscape was so different, with the towering green mountains and bamboo bridges. Very beautiful scenery!!
Before leaving Vang Vieng, we climbed through some the Tham Jang caves at the top of a small mountain near our hotel. The travel to Vientiane was pretty uneventful - just lots of activity along the highway (vendors, motorbikes, trucks of all sizes, pedestrians of all ages... We admired the bus driver's ability to stay focused despite everything that was going on around us.
Our group hired a couple of tuk-tuks and did a night tour around downtown Vientiane to see the Golden Stupa and the Victory Gate (a Laotian version of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris). The Victory Gate was a gift from France at the time of Laotian independence from France.
We're definitely feeling like our trip is winding down. One more day together with the G Adventure group and then it's back to our separate lives.
Saturday December 31
Our group decided to break from the G Adventure itinerary and skip the overnight train ride to Bangkok. Instead, we chose to fly to Bangkok so that we could be there for the New Year's fireworks along the river. We had failed to consider that, because of the passing of the king of Thailand in October, the country was still in mourning and there would be no fireworks celebrations this year. Ah well, we had a fun evening celebrating at River Vibe - but the main excitement for us was in GETTING TO the club. Our taxi driver from the hotel swore he knew the location we gave him, but we suspected something was wrong when he drove away from the direction we wanted to go and got into an area where the streets were all blocked off for New Years' celebrations. He dropped us off, saying that our destination was just on the other side of the blocked area that he could not get through. Lots of young people were thronging to the area, a few bands were setting up and starting to perform, and some people had laid out picnic spreads on the sidewalks. We found a McDonalds and the staff there were VERY helpful in speaking to our G Adventure host on the phone and helping us find our way out of the blocked off area, so we could get another tuk-tuk to get us to our party location. Our second driver was about to drop us off in front of a big building but fortunately, we asked - Is this the right place? and found out that it wasn't. The driver spoke on the phone to our host and got the right directions. From that point, he took us down a number of progressively smaller streets and alleys until we were in a very narrow lane where local people were eating their supper. The driver kept asking himself: Dead end? Dead end? but there always seemed to be a way through. Finally, a guy flagged us into a smaller alley, so the driver dropped us off and the guy led us to the club. We were very impressed with the map of the city that the tuk-tuk driver must have in his head! We were so grateful for all the angels along the way who helped us get to our destination: a rooftop club overlooking the action on the Chao Praya River. We were about an hour late, but were glad for the memorable adventure along the way! At the end of the evening, we bade farewell to all our fellow Adventurers and wished them well on their continued journeys.
On our last day in Bangkok (Jan. 2), we hired a private guide to take us to the River Kwai Bridge area at Kanchanaburi, a couple of hours west of Bangkok. Lyle was particularly interested in seeing the Hellfire Pass. It was grim seeing the recreations of the POW shelters and to learn about the abysmal conditions under which they worked. The museum and exhibits were well done. It is tough to learn again about how cruel some men can be to others.
I'm going to wind down the blog now, even though we will be on vacation for another couple of weeks. Our travels will be in Cambodia mostly (Phnom Penh to visit a World Vision project area, Koh Rong Island to enjoy snorkelling, and back to Siem Reap to do some more exploring around Angkor Wat and the nature reserves in that area). We've appreciated our wonderful trip but now we're looking forward to going home and reconnecting with family and friends, celebrating some birthdays of our grandchildren, and rediscovering the joys of winter!
We hope that you have enjoyed travelling along with us!