A street musician from Luang Prabang. He was playing his stringed instrument one night when I was wandering on the edge of the tourist night market.
Hello, Namaste, and welcome to Far East Adventure Travel-The Podcast brought to you by Far East Adventure Travel Magazine-Remote Northern Laos-Close Encounters With The Ahka-now on the iTunes Newstand-just go to the app store-search Far East Adventure Travel-download the app and subscribe today.
Hi there, I’m John Saboe the publisher of Far East Adventure Travel Magazine and in this week’s edition of the podcast a look at Vang Vieng, Laos-what could be the adventure capital of the country.
Vang Vieng is about a 3-4 hour bus ride north from the capital of Vientiane.
The town has a very colored past. It was once the center of operations in Laos for Air America-the C.I.A.’s cover airline that operated there from 1955-1974. Running everything from cargo, refugees, sabotage teams, and even Richard Nixon.
The Airstrip is still there but is basically agiant dead space between the town and the main highway that travels north and south. I had a lot of fun renting a motorbike and driving up and down the old runway. Imagining how much activity took place there and how crucial the area was for operations for the Vietnam conflict.
Today there’s a night market there and some couples have their wedding party there.
Vang Vieng used to be party central in this part of South East Asia. Backpackers made this place a destination for drugs, drinking, and tubing down the Nam Song River. The government cracked down in 2012 because there were so many of them drowning in the river after going overboard on the partying. I hired a guide for the day to take me kayaking down the river. We passed by some of the bars along the river that are all mostly closed down.
The town is trying to transition from a party town to more of a pure adventure center and it’s an awkward transition for them. They have been hurting as there are less backpackers visiting now and there’s not enough awareness for this place to be positioned as an adventure center. Appealing to a slightly older crowd that’s here to have a good time but more along the lines of like kayaking, exploring the many caves in the Karst topography of the area, rock climbing, mountain biking and motorbiking through the absolute beautiful dramatic landscape of the area. It really does look like an old asian master painting and the sunsets are glorious.
Comparing it to some of the more developed towns like Luang Prabang and of course Vientiane Vang Vieng has a more rural feel which is really quite refreshing-it’s very laid back but still has this backpacker atmosphere with bars and cafes playing reruns of Friends.
I liked some of the restaurants and cafes in the town, the people that run these places are so laid back and their energy seems to rub off on everyone. You can take your time, order a beer, no one is in a hurry, order some food, play some pool. There are several bar with huge decks that line the river and look out for the Karst hills, a great place to watch the sunset.
Back to the adventure sports-I did hire a guide for the day that took me on a 7 hour kayak ride down the Nam Song which included a couple of stops to walk through some of the caves in the area, and also a stop at a local organic farm. Which included some free entertainment complimentary of a group of college students with their upside down drinking challenges. There were some fairly fast running rapids we went down but if you really want a ride June and July-the wet season is the best time to go. I have got to say the ride down the river is breathtaking, these Karst hills carve these amazing dramatic shapes into the landscape-very Jurrasic Park.
Walking through the caves in these Karst mountains is a great experience. I was there during some of the hottest days of the year, in the upper 30’s celsius so a break in the caves helps to cool you down when you are walking.
I also took some rides on the backroads on a rented motorbike. I just loved the Karst hills and I wanted to get a closer look plus go through some of the villages in the area. There is a 26km loop you can do and anyplace that rents motorbikes will give you a map with directions and the stops in other caves along the way. Some of the caves have beautiful crystal clear swimming holes. I went through one called the Tiger Cave-most of the caves come under the territory of a village so there for 10,000 kip you can go inside, sometimes with a village boy as your guide. I went through the Tiger Cave without a guide and it wasn’t a complex cave but it could have been really easy to get lost for awhile and with only a headlamp it can get a little claustrophobic. My advice is maybe to avoid the caves that don’t supply a guide.
I loved this ride which took up most of the afternoon with a couple of stops. I travelled through the villages when kids were coming home from school on their bikes holding umbrellas over the head to shelter themselves from the intense tropical heat. Watch the line of bikes traveling toward me with the Karst hills as a backdrop was dream-like. One of my favorite memories of Vang Vieng.
Go to far east adventure travel.com search Laos and there are a couple of stories on Vang Vieng with a video tour of Lima Site 6 – Air America’s old airstrip.
That’s it for this weeks edition of Far East Adventure Travel-The Podcast-brought to you by Far East Adventure Travel Magazine The Podcast. Remote Northern Laos-close encounters with the Ahka now on the iTunes Newstand-go to the app store, search Far East Adventure Travel-download the app and subscribe today. Now available The Far East Adventure Travel Newsletter-5 great smartphone travel tips-5 things I wouldn’t do without when I travel with my smartphone now available-go to breezy-size.flywheelsites.com sign up for the free news letter today.
Thanks again for listening, til next time this is John Saboe, safe travels and Namaste!
Swayambhunath-“The Monkey Temple”-Kathmandu, Nepal-Captured this morning at 6:30 while observing/filming Gunla, the month long Buddhist festival observed by Newari Buddhists. The Newaris are the original inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley. This month long ritual of praying, fasting, playing music, and singing is believed to originate from when the monks retreated from the monsoon rains to meditate. Loud, but full of joy I only recently discovered this festival with the kind help of a ticket attendant at Swayambhunath who let me use my entrance ticket a second day,(never happened before), to see the Gunla ritual. Inspiring to see young and old followers enjoying the warm spirited atmosphere at this storied site. Energy/vibe-crazy amazing!!!#nepal #himalayas #kathmandu #annapurna #podcast #photojournalism #trekking #backpacking #buddhist #away #tripme #traveling #alone #photooftheday #travelblogger #new#happiness#travelingram #instago #instatravel#traveltheworld #instago #beautifulplace#travelpics#travellife #wildernessculture#instafollow#travellife #igtravel #travelphotography #mountainscape
Kathmandu, Nepal-More From Gai Jatra 2018 Festival this past Monday. Some of my best moments spent in Nepal besides trekking in the Himalaya have been observing the various festivals whether they’re Hindi, Buddhist, or Newari. The indescribable aura especially with the mix of beliefs and people that come from all over the country to work in the Kathmandu Valley is magical, unlike almost anywhere else I’ve visited. Sometimes I wonder did I find this place or did it find me. On my 8th visit in as many years… #kathmandu #hindu #hinduism #nepal #festival #podcast #photojournalism #trekking #backpacking #away #tripme #traveling #alone #photooftheday #new#happiness#travelingram #instago #instatravel#traveltheworld #instago #beautifulplace#travelpics#travellife #wildernessculture#instafollow#travellife #igtravel #travelphotography #WeAreSherpa
Kathmandu, Nepal-Gai Jatra 2018, “The Festival Of Cows”! These boys are dressed as cows leading processions of people who have lost a loved one this past year. Cows lead the processions but if one is not available a boy dressed as a cow is an acceptable substitute. They accept offerings from people in the street. Young children are dressed in bright colorful costumes and adults sometimes dress in funny outfits. It’s all to help those see they are not alone in their suffering and to help relieve the pain of loss. I felt so much joy and community today in Kathmandu. Once again the spirit of harmony and compassion unfolded itself in a beautiful ritual in the Kathmandu Valley. #kathmandu #hindu #hinduism #nepal #festival #podcast #photojournalism #trekking #backpacking #away #tripme #traveling #alone #photooftheday #new#happiness#travelingram #instago #instatravel#traveltheworld #instago #beautifulplace#travelpics#travellife #wildernessculture#instafollow#travellife #igtravel #travelphotography
Varanasi, India-The look in their eyes. Sometimes I turn the camera the other way just to capture moments like this. A group in this boat staring up at the ghats of the great Ganges each with their own perspective, different reasons perhaps of why they are there. Do they have a relative who’s body was cremated or are they waiting for someone to finally pass on to the next life? Are they simply just tourists admiring the ghats and city for the first time. Or could they be reminding us to always feel gratitude no matter what’s currently happening in our lives. Varanasi goes at many speeds with layers of activity that can sometimes only be felt days, even years after the fact…. #varanasi #nikon #puja #incredibleindia #hinduism #streetphotography#photojournalism #away #tripme #traveling #alone #nikon #flowers #photooftheday #new#happiness#travelingram#instatravel#traveltheworld #instago #beautifulplace#travelpics#travellife #wildernessculture#instafollow#travellife #FF #igtravel #followme
The Hungry Ghost Festival 2018 in Taipei, Taiwan
The Hungry Ghost Festival 2018 in Taipei, Taiwan
Mt. Kailash,Tibet-The highest point on the kora of Mt. Kailash, Drolma La Pass, 5630 meters. This is one of the most unique adventures on the planet. Travel to remote Western Tibet, Walk for 3 days on a pilgrimage around one of the holiest places of Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, and Bon followers. They say doing one kora around Mt. Kailash wipes away the sins of a lifetime. Some believe after you do a kora, circumambulation of Mt. Kailash, you will go on to do something good for humanity. It’s an incredible awakening and it helped change my life! #tibet #buddha #buddhism #hinduism #photojournalism #trekking #india #backpacking #away #tripme #traveling #alone #photooftheday #travelblogger #new#happiness#travelingram #instago #instatravel#traveltheworld #instago #beautifulplace#travelpics#travellife #wildernessculture#instafollow#travellife #igtravel #travelphotography #mountainscape
Hanoi, Vietnam-I think we’ve lost so much in the way of individuality and charm when it comes to retailing, let alone how it’s impacted our cultures and society. So many governments encourage big business and multinational chains with tax breaks and incentives while making it increasingly harder for an individual to start a small business- shameful! The Old Quarter Of Hanoi is still filled with family businesses that offer products, services, and style that’s quite unique for a capital city these days. From a traveler’s perspective it’s so refreshing to walk around a city and not see the same stores that are showing up everywhere else on the planet. I want more LOCAL at home and when I travel! #vietnam #hanoi #fuji #myfujifilm #fujifilm #streetphotography#photojournalism #away #tripme #traveling #alone #photooftheday #walkingstreet #nightmarket #new#happiness#travelingram #instago #instatravel#traveltheworld #instago #beautifulplace#travelpics#travellife #wildernessculture#instafollow#travellife #FF #igtravel #followme #travelphotography