Climbing Limestone Tufas, Tubing, and Fevers

Vang Vieng Travel Blog

 › entry 21 of 26 › view all entries
5.10B-ish. Yee-haw.
Somewhere in my travels someone told me that the rock climbing in Laos was the best in southeast Asia, better than anywhere in Thailand. I haven't climbed in Thailand, but that sounded too good to pass up. Despite feeling under the weather, I signed up for a half day climbing trip.

The climbing shop I went through is just a shack run by a single Lao guy, Apple (spelling?). His brother used to run the shop, but he left for Thailand a while ago. After renting out some gear to some DIY climbers, he loaded up a backpack with gear and we hopped on a moto to head to the crags.

The parking lot was another cow pasture - typical, but with an important difference: this one was guarded by a gun-toting soldier. I asked Apple about it and he said it was to protect the locals and tourists from "bad soldiers" in the surrounding area.
Limestone is crazy.
How many times this year have these bad soldiers attacked tourists? About twenty. Is the good soldier coming with us? No.

The half-hour walk to the cliff was hot and humid, but we didn't see any snakes. It is a bit weird walking on tiny trails through the jungle in one of the most heavily bombed countries in the world. Between 1964 and 1973 the USA flew 580,344 missions over Laos, dropping 2 million TONS of bombs. Even worse, about 30% of the bombs failed to detonate, which left the country riddled with unexploded ordnances (UXO's). As a result, land in Laos can't be used at all until it's cleared of UXO's, a long an expensive process. Any guidebook you read or person you talk to will tell you stick to marked trails and roads and to never venture off path - lots of people still die each year from UXO's.
Just another day of tubing...


Anyway, history lesson aside, we got to the crag and it was everything I hoped for - huge limestone walls filled with stalactites and tufas and everything in between. The wall was overhanging enough that the water drops from above were hitting well behind us. Stalactites the size of schoolbusses were abundant. This is nothing like climbing on granite. We ended up climbing four routes, the hardest being about 5.10B. Tons of fun - I wish there was limestone like this in California.

We got back at 2pm and I immediately met up with Livia for another afternoon of tubing. Same same, but different. I nearly lost the ability to have children after performing a double (triple?) cartwheel off the zipline. By the time we finally returned the tubes and went out for dinner with the Dutch Two, I had a pretty bad fever. One of those feel-like-you're-stoned fevers. I went to bed early and tried not to think about it too much. The next day I was on the 10am bus to Luang Prabang.
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5.10B-ish.  Yee-haw.
5.10B-ish. Yee-haw.
Limestone is crazy.
Limestone is crazy.
Just another day of tubing...
Just another day of tubing...
These are the guys who drag you to…
These are the guys who drag you t…
Zipline!
Zipline!
Dutch Eric and Livia, working the …
Dutch Eric and Livia, working the…
Vang Vieng
photo by: razorriome