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Thread: R&R in VV

  1. #1
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    R&R in VV

    Early this month it was visa run time again. My passport has gotten pretty full after about 30 Chiang Mai - Mae Sai runs, and pretty much exhausted all the sites Northern Thailand had to offer. It was time to get the double entry tourist visa from Vientianne.

    Apart from the market towns across the Burmese border, my missus has never been out of Thailand, and very keen to join me on a visa run. I figured we'd make a little holiday of it and go somewhere outside the capital for a few days. Where else than Vang Vieng?

    The plan was to drive the gruelling journey from Chiang Mai to Udon Thani, drop the ute in for a service and make our way to the border. Too easy right? Go to Udon, find the Mazda dealer, drop the car off and get a taxi or bus to Nong Kai. Well without going into detail, the whole thing was a fuck around.

    We left Chiang Mai at about 5 AM and planned to be in Laos late that arvo. One of the most stunning bits of scenery on the journey was leaving Chiang Mai driving into the sunrise below. The rest of the trip was a grind, nice scenery around Khao Yai area but didn't take many photos of the trip across Thailand.

    Just want to mention again, I'm no star photographer, and a lot of the photos here are from a moving vehicle. Some of the best ones have my missus in it, and I can't let you stalking TD bastards get a glimpse, but will post some snaps around where we stayed and through Laos......

    Chiang Mai sunrise.......



    Due to Thais being so bad at giving / following simple directions and having no concept of time, we arrived at the border checkpoint at 7 PM. It started pissing down rain when a taxi hustler swooped on us. 600 THB to cross the border, with them helping out with the paperwork etc. and get us into Vientianne. Sold.

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    As soon as we hit Laos immigration, a massive storm hit. There was a power station right next to the checkpoint, and an alectricity tower had collapsed and killed all the electricity. Our driver, a nice bloke, after waiting over an hour or so for power to come back, convinced the immigration to do the Laos visas manually (by candle light). We were sorted and on our way to Vientianne. The driver suggested we stay at the plushest place in town, we just asked to get dropped off where all the tourists go.

    The area was a street running along the river with a few streets perpendicular with guest houses, restaurants, bars etc. We hopped out and went into the first decent looking accomadation. 1800 THB per night. Fuk that. We planned to eat and drink out, sleep, get up and to the Thai embassy as early as possible.

    A few paces up we found a dingy looking place with a Laos guy standing out front playing guitar. He showed his 'air con' room for 450 THB. Worst room I've seen, but I'd been on the road over 15 hours, mostly driving, and just wanted a beer and food, the room had a bed, so we took it.

    After sealing the deal the guy couldn't get the air con to work. "Sorry, my friend have key, no problem not hot now" he said, and dropped the price to 350. After he left, I fiddled a bit with the air con and found the 'on' switch. Wa-la! free air con! A small consolation for the dirtiest, most overpriced room In all my asian travels. I know of 150 THB per night fan rooms in Chiang Mai nicer than this place. It did have it's own bathroom but the water came in spurts every few seconds, so pretty much useless. Here's a few pics inside and the 'key operated' air con unti.....




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    So we left the Vientianne Hilton and went in search of food and beer. I chose a french restaurant pretty close by, it was OK, I had the beef bourganblabla and shared a vego pizza with the missus who was also very impressed with her mushroom soup. Of course, the best part was the dark Beer Lao.

    The scene around this area was pretty surprising for me. I was expecting a lot of backpacker types and trendy bars aimed at young people. What I observed was a farang culture of upity NGOness. Like, there were stacks of them. Where we ate, I listened in to some yanks in shirts and pants having dinner with a crusty looking type, thanking him for the good work he'd done the past year.

    As we went back to out room, it looked like the bar across the street was the place to be for these NGO types. A balanced mix of farang men and women, very well dressed, politely bidding each other fair well (it was after 10 PM) as they finished off their fancy looking cocktails.

    This was NOT what I was expecting in Laos, and kept seeing it - Prados cruising around with squares with note pads observing and writing. I won't go into how much I despise these people and their little righteous culture, yank NGOs in Laos living it up being one of the most ironic things I've ever witnessed, and will keep this as a travel report.

    Back to the room for a restless night's sleep and up at the crack of dawn for a pommy shower, a nice bread roll for breakfast, then off to find the Thai Embassy.

    The local tuk-tuk / songtheaw / taxi mafia were ready to go. They were asking way too much for the short ride, and when I scoffed at the prices this guy pleads 'no, no, here is the price list' and pulls a list of inflated prices to all the main destinations in town. They wanted about 200 THB for a less than 10 minute ride.

    No one would budge on price, being the mafia and price controlling and all, so we walked into town a bit and flagged down a real driver who charged us 50 THB.

    Thinking I'd be first in line, getting to the embassy an hour before open, it was full of worn down looking farangs waiting for open. I found out from the visa 'service' hustlers that the 60 day double entry was free. Ended up paying him 1500 THB to leave passport etc with him and pick up on our way home. Too easy.

    Next stop was the bus station. Found an Aussie comrade who'd commandeered a van and was footing the bill for a bit of travel with 3 local Laos city gals. Agreed to pay 700 THB to get the back 3 seats for us. Finally, leaving the hustle of city and formalities of crossing borders and getting visas, and heading for Vang Vieng, known for it's partying and readily available drugs.

    Leaving Vientianne in the back of a van.....


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    Quote Originally Posted by 9999
    The rest of the trip was a grind, nice scenery around Khao Yai area
    No wonder you were late, you made a 1,000km detour.

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    There's some lush scenery along the less than 200km 4 hour journey, very green, and noticaeably less developed than Thailand. A lot of shit is similar to countryside Thailand, but there's something, not quite sure what it is, that tells you you are definately not in Thailand anymore.

    Here's some assorted scenery and pics along the road from Vientianne to Vang Vieng...
















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    Quote Originally Posted by Marmite the Dog View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by 9999
    The rest of the trip was a grind, nice scenery around Khao Yai area
    No wonder you were late, you made a 1,000km detour.
    I took the most direct and fastest route. I'm talking about the area around Petchabum, Khao yai right?

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    "My passport has gotten pretty full after about 30 Chiang Mai - Mae Sai runs,"

    That is a hell of a lot of visa runs, why donít you go for longer visas?

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    Here are a few snaps of Vang Vieng. The first is the river the twon is built on the banks of. Then some street shots of the main street. It's lined with restaurant / bars that all look the same and sell the same shit. First thing we did was get a french baguette roll packed with meat and vegies for about 30 THB, and a delicious fruit shake.






  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by jojo333
    "My passport has gotten pretty full after about 30 Chiang Mai - Mae Sai runs," That is a hell of a lot of visa runs, why don’t you go for longer visas?
    Did plan to earlier, but quite enjoyed going Chiang Mai to Mae Sai once a fortnight. The process is so easy at Mae Sai and the shopping is great. Also a keen interest to explore North Thailand and visa runs are a good excuse to do so.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 9999 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Marmite the Dog View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by 9999
    The rest of the trip was a grind, nice scenery around Khao Yai area
    No wonder you were late, you made a 1,000km detour.
    I took the most direct and fastest route. I'm talking about the area around Petchabum, Khao yai right?
    Nam Nao maybe? Not sure, because the quickest, most direct route doesn't go anywhere near Petchabun.

    CM - Den Chai - Chat Trakan - Nakhon Thai - Loei - Nong Bua Lamphu - Udon is the most direct & quickest route and there's lots of stunning scenery to enjoy.

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    We cruised around the small town on a scooter for a bit and chose a guest house along the river. The setting is superb. Just after the river big mountains jut out of the ground creating foresty cliffs (I was corrected and informed in an earlier post that these mountains are the foothills of the Himalayas.

    I wanted a place with a view, and found one, facing west directly across the river to the mountains. At 450 THB for an air can room, fitted out with nice timber, good comfo0rtable bed, decent functioning bathroom and an all round nice feel to the place, I considered it a bargain. Though you can get pretty dam decent accomodation in VV for 150 - 200 THB.

    This photo is the front room of the guest house, with the same type balconies on the back side where we were, and some humble attempts at me trying to catch the sunset from our balcony.....










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    Quote Originally Posted by Marmite the Dog View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by 9999 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Marmite the Dog View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by 9999
    The rest of the trip was a grind, nice scenery around Khao Yai area
    No wonder you were late, you made a 1,000km detour.
    I took the most direct and fastest route. I'm talking about the area around Petchabum, Khao yai right?
    Nam Nao maybe? Not sure, because the quickest, most direct route doesn't go anywhere near Petchabun.

    CM - Den Chai - Chat Trakan - Nakhon Thai - Loei - Nong Bua Lamphu - Udon is the most direct & quickest route and there's lots of stunning scenery to enjoy.
    OK, looking at the map I can see you're route. I went as if going to Kohn Kaen, taking a left before KK for a short cut to Udon. If I'd known taking those inner roads to Loei would be quicker, would have definately gone that way. What a chump I am, next time. Cheers for the info. 1,000 kms detour is a bit over mate, how much distance / time would I take using your route? Oh yeah, Khao Kho, the mountain road passes through this near Petchabum (not Kho Yai, thanks again for the correction).

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    Early morning from the same balcony off our room ......








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    Quote Originally Posted by 9999 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Marmite the Dog View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by 9999 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Marmite the Dog View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by 9999
    The rest of the trip was a grind, nice scenery around Khao Yai area
    No wonder you were late, you made a 1,000km detour.
    I took the most direct and fastest route. I'm talking about the area around Petchabum, Khao yai right?
    Nam Nao maybe? Not sure, because the quickest, most direct route doesn't go anywhere near Petchabun.

    CM - Den Chai - Chat Trakan - Nakhon Thai - Loei - Nong Bua Lamphu - Udon is the most direct & quickest route and there's lots of stunning scenery to enjoy.
    OK, looking at the map I can see you're route. I went as if going to Kohn Kaen, taking a left before KK for a short cut to Udon. If I'd known taking those inner roads to Loei would be quicker, would have definately gone that way. What a chump I am, next time. Cheers for the info. 1,000 kms detour is a bit over mate, how much distance / time would I take using your route? Oh yeah, Khao Kho, the mountain road passes through this near Petchabum (not Kho Yai, thanks again for the correction).
    And thanks for the photos & words.

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    Enjoyable read, thanks and more please.

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    After the first night, we like the place so much we decided to stay 4 nights. Didn't really do much, just explored around the place and chilled.

    The first morning I went in search of Opium, which wasn't too hard to find. I sat down and ordered an opium tea (about 400 THB) and an opium joint (around 300 THB). Felt pretty good after a few hours but not wasted. I think the gear is pretty weak and ultra-expensive but I wasn't about to go looking for some outback opium den to save money. A gram from the same restaurant was 600 THB. I used the internet to find WTF to do with the black tar like substance, and found the most efficient way was to spot off foil. Next thing I know I'm curled over lighting a bit of foil from underneath, smoking the opium through a straw, looking like a real crack-head degenerate. But hey, it worked. Missus looked on in horror, she don't even touch any form of drug except a cocktail here and there, two and she's pissed. When she knew it was opium and NOT yaba (they smoke those orange pills the same way), she was cool.

    Each day was pretty much the same. I'd start with an opium hit and fruit juice packed with weed just before lunch (these were 200 THB or you can get a generous sized but shitty Thai-like weed joint for the same price). This kept me pretty spaced out all day. We meandered around, did some shopping, ate good food (mainly those french bread rolls, delicious) and retired to the air con room for the hot afternoon. Night was more eating and drinking Beer Lao with a few magic mushroom pizzas in the mix, though they were pretty average, just a little buzz here and there but no hallucinations.

    For our explorations we needed a map. If you ever go to VV, stay away from these guys......



    Prime location on the main street. All we wanted was a basic map, they tried to sell us all sorts of inflated price tours, and after failing, wanted 400 THB for their shitty little map. Pricks wouldn't even settle for 250.

    We found this guy down a side street, sold us the exact same map for 60 THB, and will also get you sorted with anything else you need...



    There's not a great deal to explore anyway, though we went to this organic farm which was interesting. It was just a great place to kick back and stay a few days and get high if that's your flavour....

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    It was pretty quiet when we were there, being low season and all. The nightlife wasn't the debauchery I'd read on the internet. Most places were empty. Accomodation and food are cheap and good quality, but if you want to get wasted in this town it'll cost you. I was spending over 1500 THB per day just getting wasted, and pretty tamely at that.

    Now the main attraction in VV is the river tubing. You jump on a big tube and float down the river, while bars lining the river have touts throwing out ropes and offering free whisky (cheaper than soft drink) in the hope that you'll buy some beer, food or drugs.

    We didn't do the tubing, missus wasn't up for it, scared shitless of water she is. We just spent a day walking along the river and string of bars catering to the tubers. Some final snaps of the river tubing and water park area, note how empty it is...








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    Sorry but what's a prado? When I know what it is, I'll probably know why you hate it. Nice post, I think I might visit here sometime.

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    After a very relaxing 5 days we made our way back, were hustled onto the 'VIP' bus for way too much (400 THB each) expecting a proper coach. Ended up on some shitty old bus with a/c that didn't work, but I just slept all the way back to Vientianne, with the missus nudging me here and there for snoring too loud. Must've been all the opium in the system.

    We called the visa guy who delivered as promised, to the bus station within 10 minutes, and then got his mate to taxi back to Nong Kai. The deal was 600 THB to cross the border, same deal as when we went in, but the taxi this time was much older and shittier. The guy drops us off at Laos immigration and says he can't cross the border, so now we argue about the fair. I tell him he gets paid when we cross into Thailand, but he 'cannot do' (doesn't have his shit sorted for vehicle crossing etc), and had to pay him as the crowd of taxi guys started circling me. I gave him 400 THB and spoke loudly in Thai for all to hear to call the cops or beat it out of me if you want more, and that this is about a 200 THB fair in Bangkok and Laos people don't know how to stick to a bargain, and this taxi peasent should make about 50 THB a day. Everyone backed down and I rushed for immigration and found another guy to do the border crossing for 200 THB.

    1 pleasent night in Udon Thani, a city I was most impressed with, where a non-hustling tuk-tuk driver found us the perfect place for price / comfort, and a detour to Petchabum on the way back for another night. The missus was stuffed and crashed early, so I went and drank at what looked to be the local 'bar' near Big C and bought drinks for some gorgeous local girls, speaking all in Thai which was good for my learning process, ended up having a cracker of a night in Petchabum.

    That's about it, two more snaps of VV riverside scenery to finish...




  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobR
    Sorry but what's a prado? When I know what it is, I'll probably know why you hate it. Nice post, I think I might visit here sometime.
    Mini Toyota Landcruiser, one of the best 4WDs ever built.

    This is my 15 year old Prado back in Oz, never missed a beat been around Australia a few times. They're even smaller now.


  21. #21
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    Nice thread mate and nothing wrong with your pictures either. Be nice to know the name of that guest house you used in VV. Looks very nice.
    I've driven a good part of Marmites route and found the roads good all the way.
    Last time I took the route south from Den Chai, the road was like a billiard table. About the only place in Thailand where I've dared to thrash my car to its limit, even though it was only for a few brief seconds.

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    ^ Cheers for the kind words. Will chase down that name for you/

    After MTD's comments on the route, I asked around a bit this arvo. He's spot on and I'm spewing I missed the trip. Will defo do again, I hear the roads are real good. When plotting my course, I assumed the roads would be crap off the main highways as I experienced trying to take short cuts through Surin, Buri Ram etc last year. Was slow going due to bad roads and all sorts of farm machinery etc slowing you down. Well the route I took was no speedway, especially after coming down from the escarpment into Isaan. Lots of congestion.

    My experience in the north is the roads are generally really good, but get worse as you head east (have driven nearly every road west of Nan). After looking at the map in detail again, I see you can drive all along the border too, which would probably be a nice drive. I've hugged the border from Mae Sai to Chiang Kong and further before cutting into Phayoa. I like to take the scenic route but in this case I just wanted to get to Laos ASAP.

    Anyway the best thing about this forum is the knowledge, I've picked up heaps just by reading trips from other people, so hopefully this thread does the same for others.

    Also, thanks to readers for the flood of greens for this. It is a fuck around resizing, uploading and posting all those pics, surely it can be made easier, (I already ranted about this in another thread) so it's nice to get some appreciation.

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    Nam song looks minging this time of year.
    We went new year and the water was crystal clear.

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    ^Was planning on a trip this month to Phayao, want to take the missus's old folks out for a few days. Been to Phayao before and stayed on a real nice place on the lake, seemed perfect to for the 'in laws', but after hearing such good things about Nam Song, might make the trip there instead.

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    nice thread and pics, will have to head back to VV some time. Nice break away from Thailand when you just need to get away!

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