Underground and in the water in Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng is famous for tubing on the river. People get out on the river, drink way too much and continue drinking in the town, going from bar to bar to pick up free drinks. But even if you’re not into tubing and drinking, Vang Vieng is worth a visit. The scenery in this area is simply stunning and the mountains are hiding beautiful swimming holes and creepy caves. Together with my friend I decided to rent a tuktuk out to a place with many caves. After a 13km drive along the main road, we turned into a dirt track, where we were shaken for a few minutes before we arrived at a big parking lot. From here we could walk to four caves, and the driver would wait for us, or probably taka a nap.

We had to cross a bridge which of course cost some money. On the other side we found some signs pointing us in the right direction. Elephant cave was easy enough to find. A friend had warned me it wasn’t worth the entrance fee so we skipped elephant cave and went straight to Loub and Hoi cave. For some reason the sign stood only in the beginning, so when we walked into a small settlement with several roads, we just had to pick one. We crossed some dry rice fields and saw a whole group of tourists coming towards us, so at least we were going in the right direction.

Eventually, via the long way around, we made it to Loub and Hoi caves, which were practically next to each other. There was one entry fee and we were given a light. I asked if we could go by ourselves, but the man pointed to another man, who came running towards us. We followed him into Hoi cave. A big Buddha statue stood at the entrance, but after that it got pretty dark. Our guide seemed to be in a race, probably trying to get back fast enough to get money out of the next tourists. Since I had to watch my feet a lot, I feel like I didn’t get a proper chance to see the cave. Whenever I did look up it was stunning though! There were many glittering rocks and stalactites. At the end the cave gets very small. From here you need proper equipment and a decent guide. We just took a photo and made our way back over the rocky cave floor.

Loub cave was a bit different. Without realising it we were walking in a loop. There were some big rooms and some photo-worthy rock formations. In complete darkness, under the light of us headlights, we crawled through some pretty tight spaces to get into the next bigger room. Then suddenly the guide points out a point we’d already seen. We’d walked in a circle. By then we were nearly at the end. We exited the cave and climbed down the steps to return our lights. Suddenly the guide asks for more money. My friend had warned me about this too. We gave him a little bit, but not the amount he was asking for. I told him to tell tourist at the beginning what the price was going to be, to take what we offered or walk away with nothing. He took the money.

We went off to the last cave of the area, with was the Tham Nam water cave. Yes! This cave is filled with water! Most people visit this cave as part of a tour, but it was super easy to visit it on your own. We walked to the ticket office, got changed and left our bags there. We were given a light and a tube and were good to go. Wait a minute? Why does everyone else have a life vest and a helmet? Not necessary, was the answer. So we went inside the cave, following and pulling ourselves forward by a rope. In front of us was a huge group of Koreans, but they didn’t go in all the way, so they let us pass at some point. Once we were past the big groups, we entered a part of the cave that was empty. We had to walk through a shallow part and then went in a lot further. I couldn’t see much at all and just hoped my light wouldn’t die. At the end of the rope you just start pulling yourself back again. It was a strange experience, but a fun way to explore a cave. The ceiling was pretty low and you had to watch your head and feet so you wouldn’t hit a stalactite or other rough surface, but there was no real danger. The water was shallow, although chilly, and all you had to do was follow the rope. The cave went much further than the rope, but they give you a good distance. It’s like you’re in an attraction in an amusement park, only this is natural and so much better!

After three caves we’d had enough of caves and decided to get back into town for some lunch at our favourite place. With food in our bellies we hired some mountainbikes for the 7km hilly ride to the blue lagoon. It wasn’t easy to ride out there in the sunshine. We just kept thinking of the cool water that was waiting for us. The scenery was once again amazing, passing a few houses and shops, seeing the mountains around us. When we arrived we went straight for the natural pool. There is also a cave, Tham Phu Kam, you can climb too, but we were done with caves. It was pretty crazy at the pool. There were so many people and most of them were jumping in the water from a big tree, with others cheering them on. On the other side of the bridge was a much quieter place. The water was just amazing! But then you are all relaxed and cooled down and… you have to get back on that uncomfortable bike again!

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