Vang Vieng, Laos: karst mountains, caves, underground rivers and much more…
Route 13 lead our bus for hours through steep, jungly mountain ridges. From Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng were only 231km, but the continuous road serpentines took almost 8 hours to get there.
Out of boredom we decided to study the guidebook . “In a February 2003 attack on Route 13, twelve people, including two Swiss citizens, were killed and many injured. The Lao government has characterized these attacks as “banditry,” but given the extreme violence of the attacks, political motives are likely. In light of the Vang Vieng-Kasi area attacks, especially along Route 13, the Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens avoid travel by road between Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. Due to these security concerns.” Yes, great attacks had happened here once, where 30 armed men stop a bus, kill the passengers and push the bus off of a precipice. Nobody knows for sure who the attackers are but it is mentioned that they are khmers because they use Khmer language.
We were finally there by the sunset. Amazing, what else can you say. We will go in the mountains, crawl in the caves, sail along the rivers; basically we will actively relax.
Before going on the streets we decided to read, what our guidebook is recommending.
Константин Генш revealed in his book:
“Official site of drug-tourism in Laos. But by some reason all international travel guides escape to talk about that directly. Instead of that they invent characterizations like ” backpackers”, ” ecotourism”, ” trekking” etc. And somewhere at the end in very small font they write about toadstools you can purchase in local bars. In reality town lives because of special cafes, furnished with sleepers and selling different happy meals….”
Well, it is time to put something on from Tracy Chapman for the right mood … (click and enjoy some background music, it will really help to get into the mood of Vang Vieng)
Next morning it drizzled a bit. The men we hired from the adventure agency seemed to be very spry and placed our boats on the roof. Soon we drove up along the river – to a huge labyrinth of caves from which our voyage will start.
At the entrance Buddha was laying therefore we had to look for another entrance.
Unfortunately, one of them was already sitting there and blocking the entrance. We explained that we can`t donate anything because yesterday we had already … well, yes, donated everything we had.
The first floor turned out to be dry and innavigable. However, a careless step could easily result in the floor below because the rusting holes in the ground weren`t confined.
After a while we came to the outset of the river. The sailing through the cameras turned out to be harsher than we expected at the beginning. First of all, to get forward we had to row backwards. For the back of my head it all ended with bumping into a sharp stalactite. Second of all, the torches were unable to feed the insatiable incandescent lamps even though they had batteries of the miners. Before the next turn I dropped back and suddenly it was a complete darkness. I had to row forwards with my legs held up high so that I wouldn`t get under another sharp needle.
After an hour the river pushed us out through a narrow slit. We decided to switch to bigger boats in the bigger river. Our kayaks were already waiting.
Giant gallows appeared on the riverside. We took the guidebook again: ” there interesting constructions appear all around the city. You can swing approximately 15 meters to jump into river”
Each gallows indicated the location of a bar. We stopped by. The speciality turned out to be mushrooms.
While we were having dinner, I decided to dry the water-soaked roll of bills on the billiard table. It was funny to watch how the locals started to gather around the table and play as if the money was not even there. We imagined how the balls roll over the money, wrap in it and one after the other disappear in the black holes. We heard Clepton playing in the bar, a couple holding hands glided past along the river. What an atmosphere!
But we were again on the road. To the capital of Laos – Vientiane. Something weird happened during the trip – I asked to stop the car in a village in the middle of nowhere, stood by the central crossroads of the village and with the first shot I shot a motorcycle rider. When the switch of the camera clicked, he drove away with his bike across the wet asphalt. The army patrol standing next to me looked me up and down while I was conspicuously inspecting the shot to convince them that the camera is real.