The drive from Vientiane to Vang Vieng is about 4 hours in a mini bus and takes you through some of the most breathtaking views in Laos. The dramatic mountains resemble the iconic views of Halong Bay in Vietnam but are not surrounded by water. Vang Vieng is nestled at the base of some of these mountains with the Xong River flowing through the middle. While this area is most known for the tubing party on the river, there are several other things to do that do not require heavy drinking.
Laos is known to have several caves buried in its mountain ranges and Vang Vieng is no exception. Only a few kilometers away from the main street are many caves to explore. The best way to reach these caves is to rent a motorbike or bicycle for the day and follow the poorly and inaccurately drawn map provided by the shop renting you your ride. Motorbikes cost between 60,000 – 80,000 kip ($8 -10 USD) for the day while bicycles are about 10,000 – 20,000 kip ( $1-2 USD) . The most popular cave is called the Blue Lagoon and is about 15 km from the main street. Despite being so close the ride makes you feel like you are worlds away from the chaotic tubing and restaurants blaring episodes of Friends or Family Guy. On either side of the dirt road are rice fields, herds of cattle and small, wooden farming homes.
The Blue Lagoon gets it name from the pool of water at the base of the mountain. Although it is not blue – rather a greenish brown – it is still a popular spot for people to escape the heat. The overhanging branches from a tree provide the perfect platform for rope swings and jumping points. Don’t worry about hitting the bottom of the lagoon, despite its small size the lagoon is deep enough that you won’t hit any rocks. In order to reach the cave you have to climb up the almost vertical pathway. Once at the top you enter into a huge cave with a golden Buddha alter at the bottom. Inside the cave is wet and slippery so wear shoes you feel comfortable climbing in. It is also difficult to see the ground in some areas so a flashlight is a good thing to bring along. If you don’t have one though there is someone renting them at the bottom of the mountain for 10,000 kip. Getting to the Buddha is easy, but if you want to venture further into the cave it can be a little more dangerous. There are no guides so you are exploring at your own risk, but as long as you are careful and preferably with other people, you should be just fine.
*Can you see the pathway?
* Can you see the tiny people?
The cave found at the Blue Lagoon is beautiful, but it is also the most popular so expect to run into a few other travelers while you are there. However, the road leading to this well known site is dotted with signs for other, lesser known caves which are worth taking a look at as well. Entrance at all of these caves is not free, but the fee is only 10,000 kip and since the people monitoring entrance to these caves are also the ones living on the land, it is a small price to pay. One of the other caves we visited that day could only be reached by walking through the backyard of a family home. At the entrance, two young girls (probably the daughters of the home owner) offered to be our guide and started leading us through the rice fields on their property. Without them we would have been completely unable to locate the cave, which had a nice, cool pool of water at its entrance.
At the entrance to the cave, the girls handed up headlamps, without which walking through the pitch black would have proved fatal. Once inside there were slippery ladders to climb, narrow walkways over seemingly bottomless pits and cave spiders….which are huge. The girls served as excellent guides though, pointing out low overhanging rocks and slick spots on the ground. After being in the cave for about 20 minutes I was happy to see the light of day, and cool off in the pool. We gave the girls a bit more money ( about 10,000 kip more each) since without them we would have lost, or worse.