After Luang Prabang we took a six-hour ride south to Vang Vieng.
We were crammed in a van of backpackers whose stench drove us Pinay bayots crazy. Ugh, I cannot help hating them. Not even the sight of imposing karst cliffs in the distance could divert our attention from the reeking smell of unwashed hair and who knows what else.
Thank god there were stops along the way that allowed us to breathe a bit... such as our stop in a place called Cleanext Village.
We found ourselves in a guest-house fronting yet another river. Not too far away from the banks of the river were more tall karst formations draped in low clouds.
We wasted no time in exploring the area. We crossed a small bridge towards the other bank, leaving behind a trail of unbridled camwhoring.
The river is obviously important in the life of the people of Vang Vieng. We saw kid who came from school stopping by the river to take a dip in the murky water. Ladies wrapped in their sarong wash their hair on the other side of the bank and not far from it are men cleaning their motorcycles.
The river also draw numerous backpackers to Vang Vieng, which has gained reputation for river tubing and kayaking. Gibo and I were really planning to go tubing as well until we saw the muddy water. Honey, I don't want to contract some bloody skin disease over such a brainless activity as tubing.
It was drizzling early the next day. This worried the bayots because the main agenda of the day was the photo shoot. Fortunately the sky cleared up later on and the shoot pushed through.
Oh dear, where do I start about the shoot? I was in the unbeatable creative hands of Gibo and Don, for whom I have profound admiration for their passion.
I was only willing to werq the modeling part like my life depended on the shoot. A model does not ask questions... he/she simply follows instructions. When Gibo says leap, I leap the life out of me. And I think the whole collaboration worked sensationally, the result of which you can see in Fuschiaboy and Window Exit. I know you love us, bitches.
The next day, Don had to ride back to Luang Prabang to catch his flight the following morning.
Gibo and I had a day to explore Vang Vieng. We decided to rent bicycles and explore the cave about six kilometers from the town... unpaved road that is. The scenery of karst cliffs, lush rice fields, meandering streams, etc., was breathtaking. Perfect for more camwhoring indeed.
That evening Gibo and I wandered around the town and ended up crossing a foot bridge to a tiny island that sits in the middle of two tributaries of the river. We wished we had discovered the place much earlier coz the location was just supreme.
The bar was made of separate huts, each having a couple of hammocks. We watched the sun set behind the karst cliffs while sipping Lao Beer and smoking sticks and sticks of cigarettes.
We had to go back to Vientiane the following day. The ride is a short four hours and we were in the capital at about lunch time.
Again, Gibo and I rented bicycles (his bicycle kept on breaking down, and our hands ended up looking like a mechanic's). We dropped by the Putaxai, supposedly Vientiane's Arch de Triomphe, and Pha That Luang, the national symbol of Lao PDR.
Other than that, I find Vientiane charmless and lifeless, at least compared with Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng.
Predictably, Gibo and I ended up in the banks of the Mekong. Just across the river is Thailand. We can even hear the karaoke bars from another country! We caught a mesmerizing sunset in one of the bars perched over the Mekong. The sunset drove us nuts, we took dozens and dozens of pictures.
Gibo flew back to KL in the morning and I took a tuk-tuk and a pick-up truck to the Thai-Lao border and all the way to the Udon Thani airport. Just as I crossed the bridge I was totally relieved to be back home.
To say that I had wonderful memories of the trip is an understatement.
First, it was a joy to have Gibo and Don in the Lao experience. It was incessant talakfest again with topics ranging from the war in Iraq, solving poverty in Africa, and the Kyoto protocol. Hihihihihi.
It was bonding galore! And we are planning more trips ahead of us. (Feel free to join us, bitches!)
I realized how different our traveling styles are. Gibo is very spontaneous, Don is laid back and enjoys just sitting down and feeling the mood of the place, and I like planning activities down to the last detail and I follow it strictly (give me something to plan and I'm there). Our contrasting styles, surprisingly, complemented each other and no sampalan and sabunotan happened... although that would have been a better story to tell, dontcha think?
Second, Laos is such a treasure of unparalleled beauty. It truly exceeded my expectations and I want to see more of it... probably the south, such as Savanaket and Champasak, next time around.
Oh, did I mention that the Lao boys are exceptionally gorgeous? Holy Mother of God, they are mesmerizing and if there's any other reason for me to go back to Laos, it would be to ogle at them men of raw beauty. Why didn't anybody tell me about this?
But then, I would understand why, because like Lao, that has to be kept a secret.