Monday 12th July 2010
Our morning in Luang Prabang didn't start well. As arranged with the company that was going to drive us down to Phonsavan where we wanted to visit the Plain of Jars, we were waiting in front of JoMa Coffee Shop at 8.30am. We were soon joined by another couple that was waiting to be picked up to go to Vang Vieng and also had a very pleasant chat with a guy from Canada who was enjoying his breakfast. Even though we had settled into Laos time keeping we started to get slightlu anxious by 10.30am and after speaking to the company over the phone were told to make our way to their office. When we got there we were told that our bus had hit a group of children on their mopet on their way to school (there appears to be no minimum driving age in this country) and we were told that there was no other bus going that day. I have no idea what happened to the children, I didn't even understand the rest of it, Clare translated
. Luckily, with nothing being set in stone on our trip, we changed plan and took the Mini Van to Vang Vieng instead! After what seemed like the worst journey of my life, 6 hours speedy drive around bendy roads being constantly either thrown to the left, right or up or down, we arrived about 7pm and soon found a Guesthouse. It took Clare and I about 5 seconds to decide that the Lonely Planet was right, you would either love or hate this place. It was crowded with young people in their late teens or early twenties running around half naked and getting drunk. There were more Pizza restaurants than places that offered local food and the Laos people seemed to have adopted to their customers, unfriendly and only out for money. We decided to go and see the Caves the nest day, which was why we had come and to move on soon after that. Tuesday, 13th July 2010
We got up very early as we allowed ourselves the hope of being able to leave by lunchtime. So we rented two mountain bikes from opposite our Guesthouse and started cycling north out of town for about 13km. It was a beatiful cycle although it was the main road out of town. This was the first time we had decided against an organised tour and were fully dependent on the lonely planet. It got us to where the caves were supposed to be, we just needed to leave our bikes and cross the bridge. Unfortunately, there was not much left of the bridge (we later wondered whether the Laos people had destroyed it themselves so they could charge you for taking you to the other side of the river) so a motor-canoe helped us cross. Before we got in, the guy had to shuffle water out of the canoe-convincing!!! Anyway, despite Clares doubts, we managed to cross safely. Now the lonely planet left us hanging
. 'Turn left at the paddy fields'-hmmmmm. Well, there was one cave and we were just about to enter it when we found out it was the elephant cave which we didn't want to see. After one of the locals saw us lost, he appointed himself as our guide (obviously we knew he wasn't doing it for free) and our little trek started. When we arrived the first Cave we both agreed there was no way that we would have found it ourselves and were rather pleased about our companion. The first Cave was about 12km long and absolutely fascinating. We walked for a long time, exploring everything with our torches (Thanks Jon!!!) and there just seemed to be no end. At some point we left our shoes as we had to walk through hip high water. In addition, the floor was so slippery that we lost our balance more than once but our little guide saved us every time. After we reached day light again, we left our shoes in front of the cave and walked up to the second one. This was not quite as long but at least as impressive if not more. You would have to see it for yourselves to know what I mean. After we had survived that adventure, we sat outside with the locals for a bit who were smoking and trying to shoot fruit of trees with sling shots. I had a go but missed, of course. We then moved on to Cave 3, also called the water Cave. Unfortunately, this was flooded to the top so I just went for a little swim before we returned to our bicycles. On the way back we stopped by the bus station and booked tickets to Vientiane for the next morning, glad to be moving on sooner rather than later. We then had a little problem with letting the Bus station know where to pick us up from on return to the Guesthouse (we couldn't remember it's name) and decided to walk the 2.5km back to the bus station to leave them a message. I was rather annoyed and did not have much faith in the Mini Van turning up the next day but it did - phew!