An early alarm and we were first in the cafe for breakfast before we checked out and headed to get our bus to Vang Vieng. Arriving at Sout Chai office we were hopeful that the number of minivans parked outside meant we would have a more comfortable journey however this was not the case. We were directed to the main road where the usual massive bus was parked up. It's seats were again not made for people as tall or as broad as Craig we were able to grab the back row, like the cool kids at school, and settled in for a bumpy 5 hours! We have recently been discussing that we would like to go back to Disney World on holiday however it would appear this won't be required as our bus journey was a bit like riding Thunder Mountain, repeatedly, for 5 hours. 0/10. Would not recommend.
When we finally arrived safely we strapped our bags back on to our backs and headed for PM Hotel, thrilled to find our room was ready, so we could dump our bags and head for lunch. Well, sort of, we were given the key and after taking the elevator to the 4th floor we found housekeeping were still getting it ready, so we lingered by the door for 10 minutes, awkwardly.
Once we were in, bags dumped and freshened up, we headed across the road to the Happy Mango where we had a delicious Thai lunch. Afterwards we headed back to the hotel where we enjoyed a quiet afternoon, doing a whole lot of nothing. We didn't venture very far for dinner either, making it two doors up from the hotel to Gary's Irish Bar. We enjoyed some homely food, Craig even got to enjoy a Guinness, and we crashed in to bed early, ready for an early morning so we could get out hiking.
Craig woke up loaded with the cold and couldn't really face the prospect of heading out hiking so we ignored the 06:30 alarm. Katy didn't need to be told twice to go back to sleep! We eventually got up and headed for breakfast closer to 09:00 by which point it was far too hot to hike so we decided to enjoy another chilled day, we've had a bit of travel fatigue of late so this wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Deciding we really couldn't sit in the hotel room all day we took ourselves to Naked Espresso for a coffee and then on to Luang Prabang Bakery for a delicious sandwich for lunch (we can't tell you how thrilled we were to find somewhere we could have a nice, fresh sandwich!). We really didn't do too much more with our day unless you want to count watching Harry Potter - again!!!
Another 06:30 alarm the next day, and this time we couldn't just switch it off and roll back over as we had booked to go kayaking on the Nam Song river. We were picked up and sat in the back of a songthaew beside the kayaks and were taken 10km up the river where we were deposited with our guide Tun to begin our journey back to town.
We enjoyed taking in the scenery as we meandered down the river, passing through some small rapids. We did occasionally wind up moored on a rock in some places as it is currently dry season and there wasn't a lot of water in the river. We passed by the many bars along the banks of the Nam Song, a reminder that until 2011 Vang Vieng was very much a party town, where backpackers could get their fill of weed or opium, go tubing down the Nam Song river where they could drink to their hearts content and ride on shoddy tyre swings out over the river. With at least 27 tourist deaths occurring in 2011 (a combination of drowning and people cracking their skulls on the rocks) the government stepped in and...enforced the laws that already existed. Drugs are no longer readily available, tubing is still allowed however, only 3 of the 9 remaining bars are allowed to be open on any given day and the shoddy tyre swings have all disappeared. Drifting along the river, under the blue sky, it was hard to believe that it was once a drug-filled hotspot, wild enough to kill!
After kayaking we enjoyed another chilled out afternoon (are you seeing the theme here!?), we enjoyed taking in the view from our room as, just like in Bagan, hot air ballooning is a big thing in Vang Vieng.
Being Valentine's Day we decided to treat ourselves and headed to Il Tavolo for dinner. With a proper pizza oven, you just couldn't beat it! The budget even stretched to a glass of wine for Katy and for us both to have a limoncello (chilled in the freezer of course) for dessert - delicious!
The next morning we had yet another 06:30 alarm set in hopes of this time getting out for the hike we had had planned for our first day however the kayaking had buggered (yes that is the professional term, we're pharmacists don't fight us on this) Katy's shoulder which she had previously damaged when someone drove into the back of Craig's car (in 2016). So having not slept overly well, we again switched the alarm off and turned back over. Our day followed much the same as our first day. We headed to Naked Espresso for a coffee again, this time we took the guidebook to do a bit of research for Luang Prabang, our next destination. Then lunch back at the Luang Prabang bakery. We spent the afternoon watching the rest of Harry Potter, getting ourselves packed then headed back to Gary's Irish Pub. We were enjoying a few drinks when we were told to pick a horse name out of a hat as they were about to show an old horse race on the TV and if our horse won we would get some free shots. Lo and behold, despite being in last the majority of the way, we won!
Two free shots later we headed back to the hotel to crash into bed for our bus the next morning. Luang Prabang here we come!