So, that didn't work out so well...
The trip was fairly uneventful. The road seems to have improved a lot in the last 5 years – the 6 -8 hour journey on potholed dirt described in my guidebook was achieved in 4 hours. They seem still to be improving much of the road, mind – it's a work in progress.
Having heard from a fellow traveller in Vientiane that LPB had only one hostel and was very expensive otherwise for accommodation, I was concerned when the first few guesthouses I tried wanted $10 a night for a bed. However, after asking a random stranger at the coffee shop to watch my things while I went to top up my phone, he directed me to his guesthouse, that had a dorm for $5 a night. I gave them 4 nights' money, and went to explore this apparent utopia.
And was singularly unenamoured.
Set on a peninsula between two rivers, it's a pretty enough setting, but after the dramatic scenery of Vang Vieng, it was almost disappointing. The town is attractive, but it's extremely gentrified, and every building on the main street is either a coffee shop or sells very expensive souvenirs.
Cheap food can be found, though, in the form of street buffets where you pay 10,000kip (about $1.50) for a plate, and then put as much food on it as you can. The food is good, which is useful.
Out for breakfast the next morning, I bumped into Tina and Sebastien from Bangkok, who'd arrived in LPB on a three-day kayak trip from Nong Kaiew (There are may spellings of that place. I think I use all of them. I have no clue which is the official one). They'd loved the town, and given that I was already disappointed with LPB, I decided to have a look at going there the next day, as an extra step between LPB and China.
Between that and the hostel, it could have been an unexpectedly cheap stay in LPB, except that $150 was stolen from my bag while I was out for breakfast. It's not catastrophic to the trip, but it's annoying and inconvenient as it's a fair proportion of the money I've been saving in southeast asia to compensate for how expensive Japan will be. I should have had the money with me, I know, but I try to spread the risks by not having everything in one place, and there's a limit to what you can do when you're on your own. Carrying absolutely everything all the time just isn't possible.
I'll have to have a rethink on how I handle that.
Fortunately, they hadn't taken Jessica's camera, which she'd left in Leila's bag in Vang Vieng and which I was returning to her as Leila's gone to the Plain of Jars.
I met Jessica and Hana for lunch, returned her camera, and then tried to get to the waterfalls outside town with Hana.
To further the comedy of errors, we tried to find more people to share the tuktuk so it wouldn't be so expensive, and then an argument ensued over which falls people wanted to visit. We ended up not going, and wandered around the town taking photos of Wats instead.
The next task for me was to try to pursuade the hostel to refund me the two nights I was not going to use, and book a bus to Nong Keiw.
Having done that (they were reluctant, but I was determined, and poor), I checked my email, and found one saying a card balance was now £0.00.
This was not the balance it had been in the morning.
I spent the next two hours trying to contact the card provider to check what was going on, and working out how much shorter I'd have to make my trip if the money was gone.
I didn't manage it before dinner, and was very bad company for poor Hana! I abandoned her about an hour later to go and continue trying to sort it out – she headed to a bar to meet up with Jessica again, so I didn't feel too awful about it.
Eventually, I managed to ascertain the balance issue was unrelated gremlins, so there's no lasting damage from the LPB Episode.
Still, it was a relief to get on the bus and head away from the city to Nong Kiew.