DAYS 109 & 110 – With our flights back to Australia not for another three weeks, and we only had another three days riding until reaching Luang Prabang, the endpoint of our tour, we decided to take a few days off in Vang Vieng to explore some of the caves in the area.
We originally intended to use our bikes to explore the region, but leaving town along a rocky dirt road we decided not to risk damaging the bikes unnecessarily, and instead hired a scooter for the first time on the trip. A days rental of a scooter came to 40,000 Kip (US$4.50) if we returned it by 8pm, or 70,000 Kip for 24 hours.
We opted for the 8pm return time and were handed the keys to a Chinese made scooter, on which we rode out of town towards the caves along a rocky dirt road. We were soon convinced we made the right choice in hiring a scooter for the trip as the road condition deteriorated and the day grew warmer. A few kilometres out of town we saw an hand painted sign for some caves, so we turned off the road and rode along a small dirt track for about a kilometre. We reached the end of the track, parked up and walked across a large field towards the limestone cliffs on the other side, following the flags, placed as indicators for the way to the caves.
At a small bridge before the entrance point to the caves stood a local man, collecting a 20,000 Kip entrance fee, which included rental of a head torch. We paid the man, collected our torch and for the next fifteen minutes followed a narrow and steep track which led us upwards towards the cave itself. On arrival we saw a small opening, which led into a large cavern, about the size of a house, full of stalagmites and stalactites. We had the cave to ourselves and spend a while exploring and peering into some of the crevices which led off the main cavern.
After taking some photos of the cave we climbed back down the narrow path and walked to the swimming point, which turned out to be an underground pool of fresh water, in which I had a quick dip.
We walked back to the scooter and rode along to the next cave, a lonely planet recommended spot, which was full of rowdy backpackers, swimming in the pool outside the cave, jumping into the water from a high tree branch, and generally making a lot of noise. We stayed only long enough to see the huge cave and have a quick dip in the pool, before riding the scooter back towards Vang Vieng for a late lunch.
We used the scooter to ride around town before returning it just before dusk, not wanting to ride in the dark, after which we had a few drinks with Grace and an English couple – also on a bike tour. Later in the evening, after all bars had closed, we found ourselves in the only nightclub in Vang Vieng, mixed with some locals and a few late night revellers.