During the bus ride we noticed a huge change of scenery. We were going further to the north of the country, to the mountainous region of Laos, and that was clearly visible. Vang Vieng, a town with the reputation as the perfect destination for people eager to party a lot (not our cup of tee) surprised us with some amazing nature! Nearby hills covered with thick vegetation, rising abruptly from the surrounding flat fields attracted us immediately :) There are also a few famous blue lagoons, caves and even viewing platforms on the top of some hills. If you are an adrenaline junkie there are plenty activities to try: tubing down the river, rope swings into blue lagoons and zip lines. Unfortunately, it is also the place were many accidents happened (luckily it is getting better since the tragic year 2011 which brought 27 fatal accidents). Worth to remember is that access to medical care is very limited in Laos. The town is not very big, a few main streets with places to sleep, eat and drink, a few temples, … The bus station close to the city center makes it easy to reach and explore the beautiful area.
Now I regret that we were only able to spend one day in Vang Vieng as we already booked a few nights in a hostel at our next destination, Luang Prabang. Of course if you want to be really spontaneous, you need to count time spent on looking for a room to stay which can take a while if you are not lucky. But indeed, some places had this special charm keeping us there longer than planned, like Don Det :)
After renting a bike, first what we had to cross the Nam Song river by a wobbly wooden catwalk used only by pedestrians, bikes and motorcycles. There is a real bridge for cars nearby but there you need to pay to get across.
After cycling around 6 kilometers on a good, concrete road, we turned right on a fork and stopped to visit the Blue Lagoon and Tham Phu Kham cave. First we passed by the Blue Lagoon, full of kids and teenagers jumping in the water from the pretty horizontal branches of a nearby tree. The colour of the water was indeed, really intense.
A steep and slippery path led to the entrance of the cave. Head lights are really necessary to enter the cave (it is possible to rent one at the entrance to the cave) and of course good shoes, at least hiking sandals but even better trekking shoes because it’s really slippery inside. There was quite a lot of water inside so you will definitely get muddy and wet. Two, small boys who didn’t have any light followed us and tried to lead us deeper inside the cave, wearing, as we noticed later, only flip-flops :) Inside the cave there is a small shrine, nicely highlighted by the incoming light, where people gather to pray.
We noticed many stalagmites growing from the cave floor and some stalactites (hanging from the ceiling) but these were more difficult to spot since we didn’t have powerful lights and the cave was pretty big. It looked like we could go deeper and deeper inside the cave and those small boys tried to convince us to follow them but, to be honest, these kind of dark, unknown caves make me a little uncomfortable. My boyfriend was even less at ease, he has a little phobia for dark, slippery places and shuns this kind of activities ;) (He still refers to this cave as “The Cave of Certain Death”, which is probably slightly exaggerated).
Our next idea was to cycle a few kilometers more to the south (see map below) to explore the rural area around Vang Vieng and try to reach the lake visible on the map. First we stopped in front of very tiny shop to buy some cold sodas because it was getting extremely hot and sweltering. As you know from the previous post people were still celebrating Lao’s New Year and Sebastian got blessed today again with the bucket of water while cycling :D I’m curious how long kids were using this excuse to pour water over random passers. We initially missed the tiny path leading to the lake through the forest. At the end of the path there was a tiny wooden barrier so we left our bikes and walked the last few meters to have a better look at the lake. On the other side of this small lake we noticed a few houses and many water buffalo walking slowly on the shore.
On the way to the restaurant (Lao Valhalla) we noticed wooden signs indicating a view platform on one of the nearby hills and we decided to try it out after lunch. The weather however disrupted our plans! While the morning was warm, calm and sunny, perfect conditions to cycle and to explore the area, the weather conditions in the afternoon changed really fast! Heavy rain and strong winds started less than 15min after we left the restaurant! The woman who runs the restaurant blessed us while leaving and warned us about an upcoming storm and she was right! We found shelter below one of the houses with cows from a nearby field (animals were running faster than I could cycle to find shelter!). Many people kayaking on the river overturned but luckily it was really shallow in this part and they managed to ge out of the water. It lasted only 30min but all streets immediately became really muddy so when we reached the renting place with the bike the owner of the place offered us a water hose to get rid of the mud from our legs and arms :D Great, I again looked like a real lady on holidays! As this was only the start of the rainy season, we immediately bought some waterproof bags for our phones and camera.
As indicated on the map, we cycled around 24 km. The end of the top branch is the spot with cave and lagoon, bottom branch indicated the location of the lake.
In Laos we quite often noticed huge jars filled with some strong alcoholic beverage with animals inside (this one holds a monitor lizard, but snakes, centipedes and scorpions are also common) standing in bars and restaurants. These drinks don’t look very appealing to me but apparently it gives very unique flavour.
How we got to Vang Vieng was described in a previous post.
- renting a mountain bike - 30k KIP per person, as always the condition of the bikes left much to be desired (at least this time my tyre didn’t explode!)
- entrance to the cave - 10k KIP per person
- waterproof bag - 60k KIP yeah, people were still crazy about Lao New Year celebrations and didn’t stop pouring a water on everyone for many days :D
- dress bought on the night market - 40k KIP
- lunch/dinner - 60k KIP for both of us A.M.D Restaurant or Lao Valhalla Restaurant
- minivan to Luang Prabang - 110k KIP per person
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