After spending a few days with my travel buddies at Pan's Place I knew it was time for me to cross the river and check out the other side. Before meeting my Canadian counterparts my plan was to spend a few quiet days at Maylyns guesthouse on the east side of the river and I still intended to do so. After saying our goodbyes and making the trek across the bridge I found myself in the waiting area only to be ignored. However, once the staff found time for me and I walked through the gates towards the rooms I knew that I'd be staying for a few days.
Having done the party scene and gone through pleasantries with one too many travelers, I was ready for some old fashion R and R. Generally I have trouble sitting still and actually relaxing, but some minor stomach issues helped me in doing so. I spent my first day at Maylyns wandering through the gardens, reading, blogging and napping, it was perfect! A highlight of this guesthouse location is that it's on the road that leads out to the Blue Lagoon among other caves, which I would soon explore. My second day, when the violent rumblings in my tummy settled down, I set my sights on Pak Nguer Phrang mountain. I really didn't want to repeat the rocky bike journey the boys and I experience on our ride to the Blue Lagoon, so I chose to walk it instead.
The clouds provided some shelter from the blazing hot sun but by the time I arrived at the turnoff for the mountain I was already covered in sweat, and I still had to go up! The sign read "an easy 20 minute walk" while one guidebook quoted "30 minutes but bring good shoes" with my last source saying "steep 45 minute hike" so I had no idea what to expect. For the past week my right quad and hip had been bothering me and they didn't let up as I scaled the wall of rocks, trying to get my left (naturally weaker) leg to pick up some slack. there were a few sections of the hike that were basically vertical, wet and slippery but in all the hike was bearable. Not to mention the view from the top made it all worth it, especially since I was the only one there to enjoy it.
I spent some time allowing my mind to wander (what to have for dinner, do the next day, day after that, next week, next year....) before I began my decent. I've never really enjoyed the downwards climb, mostly because of my weak knees creaking, that or the feeling I'm about to tumble head over heels down the mountain, and this was no exception. Despite the steep and slippery rocks that paved the way I was able to descend the mountain in a quick 30 minutes before I was back in the village, past the cow gate and on my way home.
The walk back to Maylyns went surprisingly fast but unfortunately included a huge step in the mud. The road was completely impassible and I clearly picked the wrong spot to place my foot and quickly sank ankle deep. My shoe looked like a pair of mud boots, not ideal but thankfully my guesthouse was not too far away. Before trekking the mud further I made a stop at the nearby river to wash my shoes, socks and legs before heading back. I could've stopped at some more caves on my way but decided I don't actually like caves all that much, I guess it relates to my fear of the dark. I was perfectly content with spending the remainder of the afternoon at my guesthouse; clean, fed and enjoying a good book on the balcony of my bungalow.
On my last day in town I had plans to be lazy, yet again, but something got the better of me. Instead I decided to explore the muddy path that led upstream and eventually across the river to the other, more popular, side of town. There I rented a bike and ventured off south down the road, in search of nothing in particular. I had no destination in sight and received a few suspicious looks from passing cars (and tuk tuk's filled with foreigners) but throughly enjoyed my ride none the less. I passed the drop off point for tubing, a few ginormous houses, an interesting school and lots of farmland. I made it back to town for lunch and shelter from the rain before testing my luck to the north of town but turned around much faster than anticipated, realizing I was both hot and tired.
Surprisingly I wound up spending nearly a week in a town that I almost didn't bother to visit and I wouldn't have done it any differently. The first few days were a nice change from the solo thing I had going on in Luang Prabang, but my peace and quiet at Maylyns was just what I needed. Vang Vieng is definitely one of those towns that can go either way, party or serenity, or both if you play your cards right.
Often overlooked on the backpacker trail, this is a destination to not be missed. Without the influence of 7/11, Mc Donalds or Starbucks this is a country that offers a raw, rich experience.