I was up at 5am yesterday so that I could go and watch the Tak Bat along the main street at dawn. This is where the Monks form a line to receive alms, an ancient and solemn ceremony where people make offerings in the form of food to the Monks. In return they give food to the poor. You have to make sure you do not make physical contact and you do not talk to them. It was well worth getting up for and interesting to watch. I was able to donate some sticky rice to a temple near the morning market where I was blessed by the head monk.
After that I took in the sights and sounds of the morning market.
Most of the sights in this town are in the old quarter on the peninsula bounded by the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. The best way to explore is by bicycle and so after a light breakfast I was able to rent one for 20000 Kip including a lock for the day.
I noticed it first as we were coming to the end of the session. My leg was shaking uncontrollably. Then I felt as though I was inside a furnace. I became incredibly hot and began sweating profusely. After a few minutes of this the chills kicked in and the two alternated. All of a sudden I felt like I was having an out of body experience and the migraine that followed was excruciating. I don't remember cycling back to the guest house, I felt that delirious. I somehow managed it though, fell into my bed and stayed there for 20 hours fighting a fever and soaking the bed sheets in sweat. Perhaps the Pescatarian gods are annoyed at me for eating meat and this was my punishment? Traveler's diarrhoea affects between 30 & 50% of people within two weeks of starting their trip. I managed to make it to just over a week. I wanted to die. Azithromycin, lots of water with electrolyte tablets and my bed became my three best friends.
And isn't it just fantastic that I had a 7hr journey the next day?!?
The road from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng is not in the best condition. Like a snake with the way it winds through the mountains, it is full of potholes. I'm going to need another massage after what I've just put my back through.
I am not sure how but I managed to make the entire journey without any embarrassing "incidents". After 28 hrs since my last meal I finally had some food in the form of steamed rice. I suspect that is going to be all I am eating for the next few days.
It appears that Vang Vieng is somewhat divided between the travel circles. As I type this I've just heard some chick screech about "where is the vodka?" Oh joy. Yep this is primarily a tourism-oriented town as in young backpackers looking to party. Don Khang is known as the "party island" with bars that are open until 4am. It was probably telling when you see signs posted everywhere asking the foreigners how to behave. Locals have said that the tourism is destroying their town's culture and encouraging crime amongst the children. Drugs are a problem here and are easily accessible to both travelers and locals. Some people appear to have forgotten about Laotian modesty and act like they're in Ibiza instead. I'm more of the tranquility-seeker myself and feeling a little better than I did 24hrs earlier I decided to go off and explore.
The scenery away from the town is breathtaking. To the west of the Nam Ou river you lay your eyes on the jet black jagged karsts. These are home to tunnels, caverns & lagoons and caving is one of the main attractions here.
I'm not sure where I was going but like Dorothy I crossed a bamboo footbridge and began following the yellow dust road through rice fields and jungle. Overhead the heavens grumbled. No lightning but the thunder went on for a good hour.
I kept walking until I reached a padlocked and barbwired gate that led up one of the karsts to Lusi cave. Looks like I'll have to come back a little earlier if I want to do some caving. Still it was wonderful to be away from the hustle & bustle, the "thud thud thud" of music and screeching drunks. I listened instead to all the insects and birds before returning to reality.
Dinner was more steamed rice & water, all whilst watching Friends episodes on TV at a place by the river. If it's not Friends then it will be The Family Guy. This is apparently Westernization for you. There are a small but few places that haven't succumbed but for now, in my fragile state, this will do.