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Day 14: Better than any Drink

Vang Vieng, Laos

As of Day 14, it was time to move on from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng. Roxanne and I spent the entirety of the daylight hours in a bus directed between the two Laotian cities. And it was probably one of the best days I’ve had yet.

Roxanne and I have discussed our favorite parts of the trip at this halfway point, and there are several that really stuck out to me. The highlights of the journey so far, in no particular order, include:

1. Breakfasts. I love hostels with free breakfasts because nothing brings people to one condensed area like the smell of free food. When sitting downstairs with other equally tired but excited travelers, listening to all of the accents thrown about from Thailand and Denmark and Switzerland and England and Australia and China and Japan and Canada and Roxanne’s/my own America, I am in awe every time. Where else can you find such a network of world citizens in conversation, with such interesting stories?

2. Hanging out with the elephants in Chiang Mai. Honestly, I don't think there's a need for more explaining here: we really hung out with elephants.

3. Swimming in the Luang Prabang waterfalls. I still can’t get over the fact that there were butterflies everywhere, on top of the typical, crystal-clear, sunny, gorgeous, warm, waterfalls we encountered.

4. The long drives, especially the one experienced on this particular day. About this, I will go into more detail.

My mother recently gave me a light scolding for sharing more about my nights out than the cultural sights seen so far. What a mom :). While those are (very) fun, they don’t collectively make up my absolute favorite parts of the trip; they do, however, make better stories to write about because there is more action. I could go on for years about the gorgeous temples I’ve seen or nature I’ve walked through, but a collection of adjectives just doesn’t do them justice.

But this is an important aspect to note: there’s no point in traveling to another country if you’re only going to spend your trip going out to bars or clubs; you can do that anywhere. The daylight experiences are really what you’ll remember, and not just because of the decreased chance of run-ins with a drunken stupor.

That leads to #4 of my favorite parts of this trip. We spent the day in a 6-hour car ride from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng. Our van drove through the mountains until we were inside the clouds. I’m not using a metaphor this time around -- we rode so high that trees no longer grew, and we could actually see clouds circle other mountains below us.

The minivan we were in drove past many houses, which decreased congruently with the trees. It was incredible to get a look at daily rural life in a corner of the world that I have never truly comprehended. We passed many huts with grass roofs while many hot pink or robin’s egg blue houses scattered about. People worked in rice fields or bathed in buckets, and cows wandered alongside the road. All the while, gorgeous mountains surrounded us. Is this explanation up to par, Mom? Heehee <3.

Really though, without her very wise advice (she is very smart and, side note, very beautiful), I would have shared what I saw exactly as above. Just watching the daily interactions was better than any tourist attraction in all of Thailand.

By the time we made it to Vang Vieng, it was nightfall and I couldn’t see the surroundings any longer. We walked through the town to Real Backpackers Hostel 2, not to be confused with Real Backpackers Hostel 1, which was a block away. I’d recommend this hostel to any traveler as well, as everyone we would run into within the next few days also happened to be staying within one of its five stories. The WiFi didn’t really work, but it was clean, secure, and sociable.

We received fliers on the walk over for basically free everything anybody would ever need during a night out, and we ended up going to Viva Pub immediately after for the good deal. It was there that we danced and had fun, although not as much fun as we did during the ride up here. We did, however, learn upon entry that the name was a few letters off and would better be described as Viva Club.

It was also there that we made friends with some guys who somehow ended up buying us pizza and crepes. When it became obvious that this was because one of them really wanted to go home with Roxanne, who was not in on this deal, we hid behind a large sign and ran home. Is that kind of shitty? We thought it was smart at the time, but we also didn’t expect to see them the next day while tubing down a river. Huh.

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