Exploring the mountains in Laos

30 Jan

The next day we woke up to lovely warm sunshine so decided to have a coffee upstairs outside by the guesthouse. We were are staying has seven wooden bungalows surrounding a little garden where I am writing this

and a main guesthouse. There is an outside area to eat and drink which is much more sociable than a hotel. The boys who got us the coffee immediately descended so they could try out their English…it was their first day of a kind of work experience arrangement where they study English at school amongst other subjects, and then practice it working in guesthouses or on tourist sites. They wanted to know everything, how old we were, where we had been, where we were going, what the temperature is like in England, what our hobbies were – coffee turned into An Audience With Craig and Sarah which when you’ve just woken up and have only been somewhere a day, was quite intense!

But they were very sweet and had a really cute habit of if when they didn’t know how to say something in English, they’d have a go but just say it really, really quietly :) They taught us the words for Hello (sabadee) and Thank you (cuptai) and laughed at our attempts to say all their names.

We wanted to see what we had missed in the dark bit of the bus journey so we went and got another motorbike (sigh) for 100,000 kip for the day. I hated this stupid bike

because unlike the other ones I’ve been on, it was a manual but with an automatic clutch so it was really jerky. It therefore felt even less safe than the previous ones so whereas I was happy going at a leisurely 30 km/h (and by happy I mean I could stop watching the road for holes/cockerels/children, unclench my hands from Craig’s trousers and look at what we were going past) but over 40 km/h was just too nervewracking as although the roads were quite compared to Vietnam, they are not in as good condition and this happens all the time

 

 

After about 15 minutes we had to stop as the back wheel had gone flat. Luckily, there’s a mechanic every 300 yards because this kind of thing happens all the time. So Craig pushed the bike back to the last one and with some pointing and smiling, we were soon sitting on little bamboo stools, having a cold drink and watching a man repair the tyre

It seems that two white people don’t often do this so we had an audience of our own – the mechanic’s friends actually stopped in their truck to watch us watch him. He patched it up in about 15 minutes and held up five fingers when it was time to pay. I thought this meant 50,000 so gave him that…and got 30,000 change. So two bottles of drink and a tyre change cost a whole £1.60. Reminds me why I left England!

We went out towards the mountains (there’s only one road so even I can’t get lost here!) and saw a little sign in English and Laos saying waterfall 2km. We headed off down the little dirt track and after some serious off-road scootering and trekking through some bushes, we found it

We paddled for a bit before turning round to come back home as we hadn’t had any breakfast or lunch, but on the way back we saw another handwritten sign – “caves, 5km”. We couldn’t go past that so off we went down another dirt track to find them. We soon discovered that it was actually just a quick way to kill tourists – there was a rope tied across the road (handily the same colour as the road) which I saw at the last minute so we stopped just time and a little old man came out and gave us tickets to the caves for 4,000 kip each and undid the rope so we could go over it.

We got to where the parking was for the caves and there was no one around. We walked down many, many steps

 

before coming to a cave that had a sign saying Hospital Cave. As we hadn’t planned to come here, we didn’t have a torch and it suddenly occurred to us that exploring caves in the dark wouldn’t be as much fun as we thought. We walked to the next one to find it was locked and had six huge beehives at the mouth

Worst tourist attraction ever? We turned round to find two guides behind us – we were obviously meant to wait for them when we parked :) They unlocked the gate and gave us torches and led us into the cave. It was enormous…it was used for residence during the war and at one point held 1,000 soldiers. It was hot and you had to squeeze through little gaps to get to bigger caves – we must have been in there for half an hour or so. The guides were very nice and although they didn’t speak English, they showed us their favourite formations and pointed out where bats were sleeping.

Then came the arduous climb back up the million steps to get back to the bike. The guides were giggling as they still had their coats on and hadn’t even broken a sweat, whereas we were puce and sweating. Two more English tourists turned up when we got back to where the bike was and looked positively alarmed until we explained that we had been climbing steps for 15 minutes :)

We got back on the bike to head home and have a shower. We thought we’d have a beer at the guesthouse before finding somewhere in the town to eat…and as soon as we sat down, the four boys leapt on us again with 44,000 questions. I had brought my laptop, hoping to be able to update this, but it soon had to be abandoned as they kept talking and talking. We ended up eating there was it easier, and then Trille, Bror and two other people staying here joined us so the boys lit the bonfire and had a lovely evening

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3 Responses to “Exploring the mountains in Laos”

  1. semplo 31 January 2012 at 7:18 am #

    You guys were brave to go into that cave. Though the pictures are lovely. Glad you’re feeling better. Keep trekking!

  2. Ross McCormick 31 January 2012 at 11:33 am #

    Nice 1 you guys! I’ve been in them there caves! Spooky… Did you swim?

    First time i’ve checked out your blog, well impressed!

    Safe travels,
    Ross

    • toaustraliathelongway 1 February 2012 at 3:06 pm #

      Hi Ross! No we didn’t swim (the scary nurse I went to see before we left said DON’T SWIM IN ANY RIVERS, YOU WILL GET LIVER DISEASE) but it was also fricking freezing so not that appealing! Hope you’re doing ok en France xxx

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