November 25, 2020
In the morning, after a quick breakfast, we set off to Vang Vieng. The route leads through the mountains. We drive at an altitude between 1,200 and 1,500 m above sea level, looking at the clouds covering the valleys below us. The roads are winding like spaghetti, running next to the abyss of several hundred meters. It is so high that we feel dizzy from time to time. Fortunately, the beautiful views do not let us close our eyes. We also drive through mountain villages that make a great impression on us. We see how the residents work, do the laundry, collect wood and other plants, carrying them home later, going uphill. They are often accompanied by their children, helping them to collect or carry the wood. Oh, no easy life here. And yet, seeing our bus full of people, they wave at us with sincere smiles on their faces.
Finally, we reach our destination. The city is mainly famous for the so-called tubing, which is kind of rafting on the river on a tube. Mainly Western youth use it, getting drunk in bars along the way and making noise until late. Apparently, the locals are not happy about it, which should not be surprising. We do not have tubing in our plan. Our goal is to visit some caves that appear densely in the surrounding mountains. Today we visit one of the Jang caves, located near the city. We go there on foot, a little over a kilometre. After getting inside, we find that it does not make a great impression on us. Probably because not so long ago we visited much larger, and more impressive one. However, the view of the surrounding area from the cave’s entrance deserves special mention. We end this day quite early. Firstly, the journey made us a bit tired, even though it was only 6 hours long. Secondly, we want to regenerate as much energy as possible, which will be particularly useful tomorrow.
Despite going to sleep earlier, it is not easy to get out of bed. We finally manage to do it, and after a quick breakfast, we rent bikes. A caves and a waterfall are on our list for today, located a short distance from the city. The weather is good, the sun shines brightly, from time to time hiding behind the clouds. The first goal is located 7 kilometres from the city centre. The road leads between fields surrounded by fairy-tale mountains. The roads are not in the best condition. It is good that we took mountain bikes, which can handle the hardships of this trip better. After we get there, it turns out that the crowds came faster than us. Luckily, most of them are concentrated near the blue lagoon, right in front of the cave. We may go for a swim later, but first our main destination, Pou Kham cave. There are quite steep steps leading to the cave, which is a challenge at this hot weather. Cave's entrance is wide, which allows the natural light to illuminate the first room. A shrine can be seen, and this is where most people come. It is just a small part of this cave. The rest, which is deeper, is unlit and "raw", which is what nature created. Armed with decent shoes and headlamps, we squeeze through narrow rock corridors. There is less and less natural light, almost zero, just like daring people willing to visit this part of the cave. After some time, it is just us, although not completely. We know that bats and spiders live here. We even encounter one small creature resembling a spider with exceptionally long antennae. As we delve further into the darkness, it gets more and more interesting. We go through various corridors and passages leading to the next chambers. The sound of dripping water accompanies us all the time. Water, which shaped these beautiful drips glistening in the light of flashlights. We must be careful all the time, as it is very slippery in places, not to mention holes and crevices that appear quite often. At some point, when we stood for a moment, we decide to turn off our lights. Total darkness has fallen. Amazing impression. We feel as if we are discovering a new world. Suddenly a strange noise can be heard. For a moment of lack of attention, Alex hits his head against the sharp and low ceiling, slightly cutting the skin. Luckily, we have a first aid kit with us. Wiola puts on a dressing quickly and we continue our exploration of this beautiful place. After about two hours, we get to the surface. The warm air hits us again. Daylight is more dazzling than usual. There are still crowds by the lagoon. Today is a national holiday in Laos. Many Lao people spend the day picnicking. We let go of the bath in the lagoon and go on. On the way, we pass a river in which we take a cool dip.
To get to our second destination, we must go back to the city and go the other way. We have 6 kilometres to ride, on similar roads as before. We travel through the villages where the local people, especially the children, greet us warmly. We are already a bit tired when reaching the Keng Nyul waterfall. We are almost alone. The waterfall itself is not as impressive as the one we saw before, but the possibility of taking a bath justifies everything. We feel like we are in a huge shower. Water falling from over twenty meters high, crashes on the rocks and our bodies, giving a great refreshment and such a relaxing massage. What a great reward. After such a bath, a person feels recharged. Unfortunately, we do not stay there long. We must move on, to be back in the city before it gets dark. The way back is not that hard. Before us, the sun hides behind the mountains, creating a unique picture that makes pedalling more pleasant.
“You don’t have to be rich to travel well” – Eugene Fodor