I have naively in the past collectively called all the 'temples' temples. Of course there are many nuances that I have failed to pick up on which are crucial in separating a pagoda to a wat. However, for the time being there were mainly pagodas in Vietnam and there are mainly wats in Laos. We visited several of them in Vientiane and then more later in Luang Prabang.
To say the wats were particularly inspiring would be an aggrandisement. I thought they were interesting but at the same time I found the ostentatious nature of them slightly ironic given they represented a culture that stresses its displeasure with western ideals. The white temple 'wall of hell' is something I'll talk about next time but for now I'll tell you Kung Fu Panda, Neo and Converse Shoes all featured.
We spent a couple of days in the infamous town of Vang Vieng, where the priggish traveller is confronted with the hedonistic explorer. Thankfully it isn't mutually exclusive and you can enjoy the 'tubing' without taking 'happy milkshakes' and admire the incredible scenery without wearing an anorak and a superior frown on your face. Tubing is the divisive activity which everyone talks about. It involves renting out a rubber ring, drifting down the Nam Song river and stopping off at various bars as you go.
It was a great day, we went with the group of people we were travelling with and had our first real experience of monsoon torrential rain. You tended to drift down as a group and at one point we had over 40 tubes all connected, meandering its way through the landscape. It was one of those surreal moments where you looked around you and struggled to believe you were actually there. Mountains and never-ending green forests lined the river on either side while you seemingly drifted into the middle of nowhere watching the sun go down.
After a couple of days in Luang Prabang, which included our brilliant Snake and Dog barbecue, we caught a long boat to travel along the Mekong river heading for the Laos/Thailand border. It was a relaxing couple of days with stunning scenery following us as we went. The time was spent honing my cribbage skills against Joe and reading The Great Gatsby which was subtlety provocative. We have a few days in Northern Thailand before heading off to Singapore.
Aggrandisement - The act of increasing prestige or power
Prig - A self righteous overly moralistic person