|Vang Vieng, a land of mist and rain.
And so Chris and Calum arrive in Vang Vieng after an 8 hr bus journey through the winding roads and sheer drops of Laos's highlands. A wonderfully scenic journey worth doing once. But if you're an idiot, and you leave your glasses behind in an unknown guesthouse in Luang Prabang whilst drunk watching football, you get to see it three times! And what makes it particularly special is if you have an entire Laos family vomiting copiously in the seat next to you!
Calum chose to sit that one out and wait for Chris to come back the next day. It was raining (atypically, we were assured), and so was forced to endure 8 hrs of Friends re-runs being shown in every cafe in the town. Not sure who got the worse deal.
Having re-grouped we thought we'd partake in the town's speciality adventure - drifting down the mighty Mekong, beer in hand, in a tractor inner tube. Having tipped it down for 36hrs we felt confident that the clouds would lift and afford us wonderful views of the cliffs as we cruised down the river in the sun.
How wrong we were. 3hrs later, fighting off hypothermia, your heroes dragged themselves crying and shivering back to the guesthouse. No bloody way are we going back in that river!
Except there really isn't anything else to do. Rather than watch Friends re-runs again, we took the preferable option and jumped back in the river. This time we thought we'd mix it up with a caving tour to avoid being wet and cold all day. This was our first mistake of the day. While the cave was normally a comfortable little jaunt in through airy corridors and spectacular rock formations, 72hrs of torrential rain had flooded the thing to within a foot of the ceiling. It was with some trepidation we followed the guide, duck-diving into the mouth of the cave. The helpful Laos Health and Safety chaps had provided a rope to haul yourself in, against the current, so you didn't get lost in the dark and washed away and drowned. From there on in, it was an hour of cold, wet, increasingly panic-stricken caving. Following our crazed Laos guide who spoke no English but sang pop songs at the top of his voice we squeezed, stumbled and swam through the dark, dripping caverns, furnished with candles the like of which you'd be ashamed to have on your birthday cake for light. Never has the light at the end of the tunnel been so welcome.
So we were actually quite pleased to be back out on the river, this time in kayaks, even though it was still raining.
And yes, it rained the day after, so we left.