Thursday, December 13, 2012

Catching up: Vang Vieng and Vientiane, Laos

We split our last week in Laos between Vang Vieng and Vientiane, which is a good idea considering the extremely windy 7 hour bus ride between Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng. We were very happy to finally arrive in Vang Vieng.

Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng has struggled with its reputation as a backpackers party paradise, where booze, "magic" shakes and a rocky river have made for a deadly mix. In 2011, more than 27 tourists died here. Yes, here. That's where we are right now. Party central with a 2 year old.

But very recently things have changed here. The government closed all of the bars that had cropped up along the popular tubing route, where drugs and booze had been such a deadly mix. The government is desperately trying to get this little town in a gorgeous setting under control. It now has plans to build a wide promenade along the scenic Nam Song river.

Watching Friends.
In our 2 days there we took advantage of the beautiful landscape and went tubing down the river and visited the blue lagoon. Tubing took about 2 hours and was sooo much fun for Simon. When the river wasn't moving too fast, he was swimming between our tubes and just swimming around. We chose not to bring the camera on that excursion - so no pics! At the blue lagoon we climbed up to see the caves just above. If someone has warned us we would not have brought Simon. He was on my back and it was a very steep climb. As we started our descent, Simon was clinging to my back saying, "careful Mama." And I was, and we were fine. At the lagoon he loved watching his parents jump or swim into the water, where he was of course waiting.
Overall we did not feel too strongly about Vang Vieng. The appeal of the town is the beautiful scenery, and it really is breathtaking. However, the town itself wasn't all that charming.


Vientiane, the capital of Laos, sits directly on the banks of the mighty Mekong, with Thailand just on the other side. When we first arrived, it was hot and the city felt a bit grimy. But once the sun went down and a pleasant evening breeze blew in, we enjoyed strolling through the night market and eating at one of the street vendors. Simon managed to get an entire meal from a group of Thai tourists sitting next to us, who kept giving him food very time he walked up to them. This included his own small basket of sticky rice, grilled pork, grilled shrimp, and salted fish. Everyone was happy.

Simon's basket of sticky rice.
We took a morning trip out to Buddha Park, where Simon was able to run around freely.
Protecting our heads.

The next day was all about Simon. We had found a playground....a playground. Our first in nearly a month! Simon was so excited, and he had it all to himself.

After his nap we set out to find some sort of a carnival we had heard about. We knew there was a bouncy house, and we were determined to find it. And we were successful!

Not only a bouncy house, but some rides too!

It was definitely a good day for Simon.

The next day brought very, very exciting news. Just 15 days after her due date, Simon's new cousin made her debut in Sacramento, California. Weighing in at 8 lbs, 5 oz, Sakhile (sah-KEY-lay) Neva Mazwi was born. Could she be any more beautiful?? Marie, Khiza, and Sakhile are all very happy and healthy. Times like this make me feel very, very, very far away from my family.



  1. Great post! I love the picture of you guys watching friends. Where is that? Looks like a store with a bed and a tray of condiments...
    Oh my Sakhile is just beautiful. Congratulations to the family!!

  2. I love knowin Gotham every time I post a new blog entry, I have no doubt that you will read it shortly. I some times feel like these posts are my personal letters to you, just keepin group up to date on what we are doing.

  3. Great post!