The most legendary adventure partner on earth is named Chad (that’s him on the left drinking whiskey straight out of the bottle with a dead snake in it!!). He and I took 6 weeks to backpack through Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. On the topic of hangovers, Chad reminded me of an adventure during this trip that makes simple Changovers seem like a Sunday afternoon in the park by comparison. It all started in Luang Prabang, Laos a “mystical” mist filled mountain town just off the Mekong River. After a few days of enjoying this beautiful, slow-paced paradise, we decided to take a mini-bus through the mountains to a town that everyone who visits Laos must see, called Vang Vieng. Here’s the tale….
We woke up a bit late, still tipsy from the night before, with the guesthouse owner banging on the door because our mini-bus came early. Couldn’t manage to get our things together in time so the bus left to pick up some other travelers and came back for us. Not a great start to a long ride as everyone clearly disliked us because we delayed the bus. Luckily this bus only drove us to a bus station where we got onto a new mini-bus that wasn’t full of passengers glaring at us with hateful eyes. Another bonus was we saw a group of three cute British chicks at a waterfall the day before, but never got a chance to chat with them. Fate placed them on this bus with us which made us very happy (partially as we were still a bit boozy…). Despite having great convo with the British chicks, my body began to take a wicked turn to Hangover Land. Although I had been previously warned by a friend to “ABSOLUTELY NEVER BE HUNGOVER FOR THE BUS RIDE FROM LUANG PRABANG TO VANG VIENG”, it happened anyway. All I can say is that it was honestly the best advice ever given to me, as what came next was too awful to even put in words. I was in the very back of the extremely hot, cramped little mini-bus for 5 hours on the most windy, bumpy roads you could possibly imagine. Being violently shaken, I literally had to hold back from throwing up while pressing my face against the glass trying to get my mouth as close to the tiny back window vent as possible, desperately trying to suck in fresh air. Impossible to sleep as my face was being smashed into the window every 10 seconds by a new bump and the mini-bus going top speed on the sketchiest road ever, brief chats with the hot British chicks were the only thing that kept me alive.
Just when I thought the world couldn’t get any worse we noticed a MASSIVE plume of smoke coming from the valley which we were entering. As we drove closer we could see that it was a huge forest fire and as this was the only road, our options were to drive through the fire or return 5 hours (which we probably didn’t have the gas for anyway). Starting to get closer to the fire we could see it was burning on both sides of the road getting dangerously close to engulfing the entire road. A local farmer came up and exchanged some Laotian words with our driver and kept shaking his head. The driver decided to slowly approach to see if the road was on fire yet. Thick smoke began surrounding the mini-bus, and pieces of ash started raining down upon us. The driver slowly moved forward to the point where flames were right near the mini-bus then decided to STOP!? All the passengers started to get very nervous and yelling at the zero English speaking driver to just speed through the smoke as the flames were nearing our vehicle!! He continued to sit as flames got closer and closer and I literally felt like I was in a movie for the most horrible experience on earth.
So hungover that I could barely speak, my thoughts were consumed with thinking the end of Alex and Chad was rapidly approaching. Eventually he stepped on it and accelerated through the smoke. Waiting for the explosion I eventually opened my eyes to see that we’d come out the other side of the fire, still hungover but alive nonetheless. We finally arrived in Vang Vieng, grabbed a guesthouse with the hot British chicks and celebrated being alive. The madness that is Vang Vieng, Laos I will save for another story, but to sum it up there’s a river that you float a tube down with an epic mountain backdrop, dotted with bamboo bars offering free Lao Lao shots, crazy rope swings and zip lines.