I ended up spending a week in Vang Vien. I wasn't particularly fond of the place, but I had come down with some sort of illness that just zapped all my energy, so I didn't really feel like moving too much. I've been getting sick more often in the last couple months than normal. One person I talked to attributed this to it being the rainy season now. I've been in mountainous regions since it started, and apparently when it rains, all the shit (literal and figurative) rolls down the mountains, making disease a lot more common. Before I got sick though I tried the tubing, which is what the town is famous for. I apparently didn't do it right, as I floated past the first few bars that were filled with people, drinking games, and loud music. I figured the party would continue down the river, but quickly realised that most people don't actually end up moving past the first few bars. Instead after about 30 minutes of floating in my innertube, I pulled up to one bar for some refreshments that was nearly deserted. There was one group of people from Oakland, so I got asked about 6 different times if I was from there (I have my Oakland A's ball cap on this trip). After an hour or so, it was getting late, so I shoved off and continued down the river. The ride down the river back into town is about 2 and a half hours, and very relaxing. It's nice to be surrounded by the mountain and just float on the river as the sun shines down, literally just going with the flow. The only problems arose at a couple different shallow parts of the river where I had to sit a lot higher on the tube to avoid catching my ass on the rocks. The sun was going down as I pulled up to the spot where you're supposed to get out. What struck me was how few people had actually gone down the river, as I said, most just go to the bars there and drink the day away, then take a tuk tuk back to town. Ah well, their loss. And I can't really complain about how quiet and serene the water was.
The rest of the week was mostly spent reading and watching movies, recovering from whatever it was that had taken my energy.
Eventually I left for Vientiane, the capital of Laos. My bus ride was, fortunately, much more comfortable than the previous bus ride. It was only half full, and had relatively ample leg room which I was grateful for. Vientiane's a nice city, and clearly has more money than elsewhere in Laos, as all the roads were well maintained, there were nice green spaces, and it was pretty clean. I stayed near the mekong river. I ended up having to switch guesthouses 3 different times as there were different problems with my first two rooms. Luckily I found a cheap and decent room. I walked around and explored Vientiane for a few days, but didn't get too rowdy at night as I was still recovering. I was also more or less just killing time until the 29th for my flight back to Bangkok. The reason for waiting until then was because I fly back to London on the 28th of this month, and I didn't want to get penalised for overstaying my 30 day visa. I had been considering going to a new country for my last month in Asia, but ultimately decided against it. Even though I was recovered from being sick, I was still tired. Not in a physical sense, but just wary. Constantly being on the move, living out of a bag, and dealing with all of the inevitable little hassles that pop up along the way have taken their toll on me. I must admit, I'm done exploring for now. I don't want to learn how to say thank you and hello in a new language; I can't be bothered to figure out the conversion rate for a new currency. I don't care how pretty the next temple is, I just don't want go see it. So I returned to Bangkok on the 29th. On the 30th I received my much appreciated bank card (thanks again mom!) and spent the next two days doing laundry and picking up some supplies. Then I caught a bus down to Ban Phe, where I caught the ferry over to Koh Samet, a small island covered in beaches. Samet is pretty small, only 7 km long. Its geographical location makes it receive less rain that most other places, which is a welcome respite from the rainy season. It is also only 3 hours from Bangkok, so it is the “it” destination for many metropolites looking to escape for the weekend. It is pretty quiet here during the week, but it got very busy during the weekend, with most guesthouses having “full” signs displayed. It was actually refreshing to see the Thais at play, since most places that tourists go to, it is only westerners being catered to by the locals. On the bus down here, I met a nice couple from England and a guy from Austria. We all get along very well, so we usually end up meeting up for a meal or drinks most evenings. It is great to have a bit of familiarity here. It has also been great to relax. Many people ask if I'm on vacation, and I hesitate to say yes. I know I'm fortunate as all hell to be on this trip and it is certainly not work, but at the same time, “vacation” implies a relaxing break. For the reason stated above and many others, I don't necessarily see this trip as a vacation, I just call it a trip. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade it for the world and I'm not complaining, I just don't think vacation is the right word. But now that I'm here on Samet, I'm taking a vacation from my trip. The most stressful part of my day is deciding if I want to swim or get a massage; choosing between Leo or Chang beer; picking out which book to read at the store. Unless I get itchy feet, I'm probably going to spend most of my last month here. After all, I still have a month in Europe once I go back, and I hope to regain some of the energy that propelled me when I started out. Unfortunately for you it probably won't make for an interesting post, but I'll do my best!
One last thing before I head off to read on the sand. I was having a conversation with one of my friends the other night about my blog and why I decided to write it. Basically it is so that I can keep everybody updated who wants to know, but don't have to write the same email update to 50 different people. However I've noticed a downside. The blog is a lot less interactive than the email route. It's just me talking at you, not a conversation between us. In other words, I'm pouting because I don't get enough emails from friends telling me about what's new with you, what I'm missing back home. So, if you've got a few minutes, drop me a line and let me know what's up. I miss you! I should point out that some people are in fairly regular contact with me, and I hope they know much I appreciate them. Anyways, that's all for now. I've got some sun to hide my pale figure from!