Monthly Archives: September 2010

I Love The Nightlife

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again –Vientiane is fun beyond fun. You’re asking about Nightlife? Ooohhh, you so have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.

Back in college, I was underwhelmingly exposed to the Elbi nightlife for two reasons: 1) I had to go home immediately; and 2) I didn’t want my wallet to be harassed. I just curled on my bed at night thinking of what could have been.

So when I arrived here 16 months ago, I wasn’t all into partying mode –for someone who hasn’t been drunk all her life, I was scared to death of the night that I would be. I was wondering what if that night will turn into a total fiasco? Will I fall flat on my face (well, I always do but isn’t it more humiliating when you’re trashed or is it the other way around?)? Will  I get hit by a car?

But my resistance to gaining friends can only do so much.

Romeo

I met Thina, two weeks after my arrival. She’s Lao-American, outgoing and very persistent in inviting me to go out with her friends. She felt I wasn’t “having fun in Laos” so she took responsibilty of giving me Happy in the form of alcohol. That time, I didn’t know I was going to be here for a while so I gave in and went to one of her night-outs. Making the most of out my stay, I told myself.

A tunic top, jeans and flats would have been cool –for malling not for partying. How was I to know?  The only partying I knew was the clubs in my university so the ladies were all… laidback! Not here, they are not.  It’s like a scene from a sitcom where everyone was in skimpy skirts and dresses, hair all coiffed, heavy makeup with falsies and colored contact lenses, scary high heels  and per-fffume, lots of it. Thina was nothing like that though, but still compared to her, I looked like a pitiful girl from the province.

The night always starts with dinner cos apparently, having dinner before getting drunk is a must. So that particular night-out, we headed to Hare and Hound. But what I didn’t get was ordering cocktails and beer that early. I seriously thought the drinking part would commence later that evening –well “later that evening” was actually at 8PM.

Then off we go to the Loft, with a zen-like interior concept, people chill in this part of the city  to drink and chat with buddies. After that, I thought, it was time to go home. It wasn’t a big deal because I was getting tipsy from all the margarita. But no, the mere mention of Romeo sent my head spinning more.

Romeo is one huge nightclub along the highway going to the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge. It has been renovated a lot of times within the course of my stay but one thing has never changed in that place, and that is Johnny Walker. I never liked rumcoke because for every sip, the alcohol seethes through my tongue and throat and I hate the after taste. I’d rather get a shot, like on the rocks, then go for a chaser than drink the whole glass every now and then. Rumcoke hammers everyone. Ew, right?

And you know the best and worst part is? Friends, always, ask you: Meud der! (Muht’deu …sorry, I can’t write Lao and phonetic spellings vary) which roughly translates to Finish it. Being all new in the crowd, I finished every glass. I didn’t know you can NOT finish it. I mean, you can let them hound you to drown in it, but they don’t actually mean it.

So, you can guess what happened next –the spot where I had my first throw-up –is just around the corner.

Marina

It was my 21st birthday. I felt I couldn’t be any more legal. And as a result of my advertisement pitch being approved, I celebrated it in a nightclub with some of my colleagues; pleasantly surprised that my overly-prim-and-proper  friends were all dressed up and partying on a wednesday night.

Marina is one of the famous nightclubs in the city located along the road on the way to the airport. It also has a bowling center so you can play a round or two before getting drunk. It’s small and a little too crowded but that’s just because the Vientiane Partying scene enjoys the tracks in the club so much. It has also been renovated quite a number of times.

Early Nights and Hiatus

I went hiatus from  partying because Thina left for the States but I’ve had early nights with some Filipino friends at Bor Penn YangBor Penn Yang (roughly translates to No Problem, Don’t Mention It… something like that) is a bar and restaurant at the rooftop of one building located along the Mekong River banks. Shoot some pool or chill on the couch, the place is pretty awesome.  You also got the perfect view of Nongkhai, Thailand with delightful lights at night.

Come Second Quarter of 2010

After my unfortunate fall from Noy’s car because of too much whisky from a wedding reception, I  swore I would never ever go out and drink whisky again. But being a foreigner, I felt it was a waste to turn down invites. Mina, invited me one night after she just came from a workshop in the province. I was looking for Noy but she said that Noy was pretty busy. Who knew that Mina and I would be like best gimmick buddies. Whenever Mina, her friends and I go out, we have dinner at Moon The Night or Kong View first. They order bottles of Beer  Lao or Spy, it’s like mainstream wine. Both restaurants got really delicious Lao food; they got an open-air setting so you’ll feel  the nice breeze from the Mekong River. They also got covered areas just in case it rains.

After binging on Lao food, it’s off to Marina. Upon reservation of a table, it entitles you one Johnny Walker, Pepsi and soda water to mix. First I was like, Can we order beer instead? Apparently, we can –they just prefer whisky.

Drinking a little too regular than necessary, I think, helped me build my alcohol tolerance. So most of the time, I don’t get drunk –tipsy, yes –but not can’t-remember-what-happened drunk. Then I watch my friends dancing hell to the core. HAH!

There were also a couple of times where after the clubs close (like around 1-2AM), we park at one of the noodle shops to level down our drunk state to tipsy and beat.

Lie-low

Going out with them and partying at Marina or Romeo or anywhere else is exhausting but totally unforgettable, drunk or not. We dance, drink and we’re allowed to be wild and shrieky and no one will judge. These memories will surely stay, together with the people I celebrated life with.

 

So visit Vientiane, and get a life –a nightlife at that.

Some places worth mentioning. Wind West (located near Parkview Executive Suites, close to Champa) – for music and booze. Champa (under renovation; located near Marina) – enormous nightclub as well

You might also want to check out Vang Vieng Nightlife here

Entry title I Love The Nightlife (Disco ‘Round) performed by Alicia Bridges

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Somewhere Between the Skies and the Waves, I Fell.

You win some, you lose some.

I haven’t had the best luck with my gadgets, gear and gizmos when travelling because I am 1) a klutz 2) careless and 3) selectively coordinated. So I am used to losing one or two during my trips –I even surprise myself when I get back from my adventures and find them  in good condition. This year though, since my average number of travels doubled, I also doubled my irresponsibility.

Beach Weekend

I can’t get over the fact that Laos is in the middle of five countries (Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and Myanmar) and you’re free to cross every so often, passport and VISA requirements met, of course. You can drive around for hours or days, or book a flight, or just cross the Mekong River on a motorboat  –country-hopping in the Greater Mekong Sub-region is always exciting. Unfortunately, there is only one low-cost-carrier flying in and out of Vientiane and that is Air Asia, which has only one destination out and that is Kuala Lumpur. So what we, Lao people, do 🙂 is cross the border to Udon Thani, Thailand, a 1-hour drive from Vientiane, then to Udon Thani International Airport and take the flight to Bangkok or anywhere else; the promo rate is around THB1,700. Not bad!

My friends and I began our journey by crossing the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge around 7PM. After dinner, we checked-in a hotel because our flight was at 7 freakin thirty in the freakin following morning. The girls went out for the night, I stayed behind cos I wasn’t on party mode. I know, hormones. We almost missed our flight but because Eauy Linda (Ate in Filipino) is a scary good driver, she didn’t hesitate to swerve and overtake, swoop and then perfectly curve her way into the parking lot at the airport –we made it just a few minutes before the counters closed. Lucky us, huh? The 50-minute flight to Don Mueang Airport was a breeze. Nok Air is Thai Airways’ LCC, so don’t be surprised when you notice that the color scheme of the aircraft is similar to that of TG.

From the airport, we took a cab to our hotel, The Residence Rajtaevee. It was a rather fabulous family room; two bedrooms, bathroom with tub, a living room, and complete with kitchen amenities (refrigerator, hot pot, microwave, utensils, etc) for THB 1000/day (USD 30). The best thing about this hotel is they got a 7-11 at the corner, then just a few steps, it’s already Pantip Plaza, the electronics capital of Bangkok –then you’re in Platinum Fashion Mall!

Before heading off to the much-awaited Beach trip, we took a detour at Samut Sakhon and visited their Floating Market. Interesting place; you’re on board a motorboat, the driver speeds up when no other boat is around, you stop at the shops where you see something that caught your attention and your wallet. Food and beverages are also available on boats you bump into. From handicrafts to textiles, good finds await your visit.

After another hour, you can just imagine how senses snapped at the sight of the beach. I’ve always loved the beach. It’s beautiful, serene, and relaxing. So we took off and feasted on Thai food along the shores, played around the water, took photos and chilled with beer. It was almost sunset and there were amazing rock formations in the waters and I was like, I am so gonna get a shot of that. So I did. Then it all went downhill from there.

I waded my way toward the humongous rock, I even got cuts on my legs cos the of sharp edges of the rocks and a few slips along the way.  I struggled to climb the slippery wonder, and when I was already on top, I did a sweep panorama of the whole place. The sun was glistening over the waters and I felt that it was the best way to end my travel chapter while I’m based in Laos. Being all sentimental, I slowly walked  my way back. I was just a few inches away from the shore, when I tripped over a submerged rock and my camera was in my hand. A split second rockbottom, the shutter started acting up like it has been possessed, firing multiple frames in seconds and you cannot even view the photos. It says Err 99: Shooting is not possible. I thought about my career, my pending shoots and my blog. My life was over.

We went back to Bangkok the following noon, everyone was tired and sleepy –I was depressed. Suddenly the waters didn’t attract my fancy anymore. My digital point-and-shoot was just a display, I wasn’t in the mood to take photos. I  was really devastated that my partner for almost two years is gone just cos of my utter clumsiness. I know it can be fixed, but it will take some time and it’s going to be pretty expensive that it will be better to buy a new one. Unfortunately, at this point, I can’t afford to get a 5D.

Feeling wretched and down, I wallowed in solitude for the whole night. I wasn’t even up for food and more shopping, I was just looking up the ceiling and thinking what I can do to make this right.  I placed my camera on the nightstand, turned the switch on and heard that blood-curdling shutter sound again. Maybe it was because of too much thinking, I fell asleep. I woke up after an hour, and I pushed the display button of my camera. I couldn’t believe my eyes, when I saw my picture of the sunset.

Err 99

Err 99 aka Mirror Lock is the dark cloud with Canon EOS Cameras. It is believed to be caused by incompatible or filthy lenses, or the camera has already reached the maximum number of exposures. The quick fix for it though is for the 8 golden contact pins to be cleaned with a pencil eraser, and perhaps cleaning the whole camera and the lens; or take out the batteries and CF card and restart it. So the seawater most likely damaged the insides of the camera and that my exposures are almost 7000, that’s why my camera gave up earlier than expected. But at least, it can shoot but cannot render continuous shooting anymore. My memcard is still intact, my lenses are okay and that the camera is working –enough to get me by once I get my full-format. Question is, when?

My trip of a lifetime turned into a stressful soul searching by the beach. However, it also yielded some value-reorientation. My priority is to get a 5D and a new lens, so why am I spending too much on stuff I don’t really need? I wanted to make a career out of writing and photography, so why am I leaving a job that will eventually financially support this ambition? Among other things.

Being a believer of destiny, I know this was something bound to happen to make me more careful with my actions in all aspects. And even if I feel crippled by the fact that my camera will not be of service like before, I will still get there and have that 5D in my hands. It’s time to be results-oriented; if I want to get a new camera, I know what I should do –I am just too darn stubborn to pursue it.

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Dancing In The Rain

Whoever says there’s no fun in Laos obviously didn’t make friends –at all.

If you’re looking for adventure like water sports, treks or you just want to escape from your stressful city, this place is a MUST VISIT. With a fascinating karst hill landscape and the relaxing laidback environment of the small town along the Nam Song River  –Vang Vieng district in Vientiane Province is the perfect Lao getaway.  In this town, there are far more foreigners from all parts of the world than the locals, lurking around in their board shorts and bikinis, barefoot. Most speak English well; but you know, when you are in a happy place, there’s only one language spoken and that is PARTY. Food and drinks are awesome beyond awesome. And FUN, is not just a word –it’s the way of life.

Vang Vieng is a three-hour drive from the capital. The ride, my dear, is nothing but bumpy and full of sharp curves and puddle. If you got motion sickness, I recommend a huge-ass bag. If you are a fan of water sports, don’t miss the opportunity to go Slinging and Tubing *sic*. Play football with the locals on their makeshift field by the river, eat papaya salad and drink buckets of cocktails and beer while you’re high from endorphins. Go around trekking, kayaking, boating, biking and even just walking. And at night, experience Vang Vieng nightlife under the stars –or in our case, the rain. It’s like what the hedonists say, Eat, Drink and Be Merry… = Vang Vieng.

And as for me… let’s say, the night was so intalksicating, I almost fell off the bridge. 😛

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