Vang Vieng: being there
The streets in the tourist centre of Vang Vieng are quiet. It is around 11am, not so long after our breakfast but way past the busy time when locals go about their business and the falangs set off for their day's amusement.
The eateries are open, of course, and so are the internet places and the scores of shops but everyone is winding down for the middle of the day lull.
We wander off, take a few dozen photographs at one of the three temples, and walk through the streets down to the Nam Song.
It is much later when we return to the main street. As the light goes, the restaurants and bars come alive and their signs light up the area amid the noise of people enjoying themselves.
The internet places, quiet earlier, are packed and there seems nothing incongruous about the latest technology existing cheek by jowl with ladies making pancakes – banana, mango, chocolate and 20 other varieties – on their stalls in the street.
Six good-looking girls in skimpy dresses and shorts prowl by ... a couple in their late 50s or maybe sixties ride by on a bike, he standing while pedalling and she sitting on the back and laughing as they check out the restaurant ... a sedate Asian family amble past, dad is in charge as he carefully selects a restaurant and then does what his women want and they eat next door ... young backpackers watch Friends as they lounge and eat ... groups of real friends clink glasses of Beerlao as they wait for their meal orders.
Down the street, there are roars from some event – it turns out to be a kick boxing match, with most of the audience drawn from the current intake of falangs but with a fair number of Lao men.
By ten, the night has changed. The families have drifted off to bed, eager for the next day's outings, and the night people are looking for their meals and amusement. Maybe one of the discos, later ... maybe just a good time eating and drinking with friends.
Maybe, for the 22-year-olds, it's everything ... and then up early for a day of kayaking or rubber tubing down the Nam Song.