Vang Vieng : Bike rides, caves and countrysides.
Vang Vieng Travel Blog› entry 121 of 268 › view all entries
Yesterday segues into today practically without sleep. Itâs early morning. Real early morning. Again. There are an awful lot of those on The Road you soon learn. I caught the night bus from Luang Prabang last night and travelled down towards next stop Vang Vieng. The bus deposited me - only me - besides the abandoned air strip at the towns periphery at 3.00am. Nowhere to stay. Nowhere to go and hardly any bearings to speak of. I stumble across the night-obscured gravel and grass fusion of the old runway towards the nearest significant source of light.
Sat against my bag I stare into the distance a far off lightening storm offers a dramatic introduction to my new surroundings by revealing the silhouette portraits of the mountains all around. Momentary brooding glimpses before everything returns to uniform, flat black night. Itâs some hours before a more permanent source of light begins to waver up behind those same hills and reveal the landscape to me. I pick myself up, and dust my trampy self down before relocating to the front porch of the guesthouse I wish to stay in here. Panâs Place. The proprietress Pan, I think is quite surprised to be greeted by me when at 7.00am she lifts the iron shutters up from within and stares at this orange-haired dawn apparition through bleary eyes in her nightie and flip-flops.
A room is later made available for me. This turns out to be Neilâs âspareâ room. Neil being the New Zealand born husband of Pan. I am privileged to be in his male bolt hole. Two framed family photos reveal this to be the case along with a third, tastefully framed âartsyâ colour nude portrait of (I think?) the rather attractive Pan herself. His wife. I couldnât say for 100% but Iâm pretty certain. And no, I didnât ask. Hmm? Friendly bunch at Panâs Place!
Breakfast down me and surprisingly awake I hire one of the guest houses mountain bikes (20,000 Kip/ $2.50) to take myself out to some of the fabulous countryside and mountainous scenery that looms over the rice and corn fields of Vang Vieng.
Once across, you are entering the agricultural territory of the local Lao people. Large flat expanses of agricultural land, sparsely populated by livestock spread north, south and west.
Whilst I have a couple of key destinations in mind itâs hard to keep the mental map (thatâs all I have today) accurate. The most famous in the area I will be in today is Tham Phu Kham with its accompanying Blue Lagoon. Pretty much any old hole in the wall around here though will be signposted and flagged as a major site of interest and once you reach the conclusion of the particular cycle path there will invariably be some kids or an old man needing 10,000 Kip ($1.
Clambering down from my first cave of misdirection I am lucky though to have happened upon some cycle buddies for the day, all of whom had trudged to the same cave. Ian and Brad (aka âBasketsâ) from Canada and Mark and Nicole from New Zealand. We cycle along the bumpy, pebble strewn roads through little Lao villages. Kids and animals playing in the fields. By the road sides. Our progress accompanied by the usual little retail outposts that seem to survive, no matter how far out in areas where tourists are known to drift.
We do eventually arrive at Tham Phu Kham. âAnother 10,000 Kip thank you very much!â. And once climbed up to (quite hard work!) it is an impressively large cave. My headlamp to our aid and a few candles snatched by Ian and Mark from a Buddha shrine (âNaughty boys!â) and weâre off into the dark depths.
Back in town. Bike returned âThank f**k!â. I join the gang a little ways up the road from Panâs Place where two ladies around sunset every night stand and barbeque pork ribs that are beyond compare in their succulent, gorgeousness in all of my gastronomic experience. Priced generously by the weight and chopped into plastic bags with an optional sachet of tasty crushed chilly dressing this is one of my number one favourite meals of my entire travels to date. Couldnât be simpler. Couldnât taste better. They donât have much produce each night and when itâs gone itâs gone so get there in good time people. Itâs a knockout with the locals too. Just about 200 yards north from Panâs Place on the same Luang Prabang Road. I will sleep H.A.P.P.Y. tonight!