Our entry into Laos came via the Friendship Bridge over the Mekong River, connecting Nong Khai, Thailand, with Vientiane. The capital city is still some distance from the immigration checkpoint so, after obtaining our visa (payable only in U.S. dollars) and changing Thai baht into Lao kip (I became an instant “millionaire”) we hopped aboard a local bus for the journey to town. We were in Vientiane just long enough to catch another ancient bus north to Vang Vieng. The only reason we’d chosen to overnight here was that it’s roughly the midway point on the trip to Luang Prabang and we wanted to do the mountainous final portion of the trip in the daylight which turned out to be one of the better decisions made on this particular holiday.
Vang Vieng is stunningly beautiful featuring numerous limestone outcroppings, reminding me of the karst formations surrounding Phang Nga and Krabi without the bay and throngs of tourists. At the time of my visit in April 2010, Vang Vieng was still the tubing capitol of Southeast Asia but the party atmosphere has since been squashed by the government. I’m sure it’s even more charming now. The rock known as Pha Tang is pictured in the card above.