The mountainous landscape surrounding Vang Vieng is not only home to some wondrous rock formations, but also some spectacular caves as well. Trekking to the caves is easier with a guide, which you can organise in town very cheaply. The first cave we visited was called Tham Xang – the Elephant Cave. It is approximately fifteen kilometres out of town and lies on the opposite side of the Nam Song river that you cross by traversing a rickety bridge, bouncing under the weight of the new visitors.
After a brief climb past the Buddhist temple you arrive at the cave, famous for the stalactite rock formation that resemble, ever so slightly, a baby elephant.
The next two caves we visited took us across the countryside past rice paddies and deep into the mountains. One cave was called Tham Hoi, or the Snail Cave and the other was Tham None – the Sleeping Cave where approximately 2000 villagers took refuge during the war. Some of the limestone formations within these caves appear to be hollow and will make some interesting, slightly musical, tones if tapped.
Our final caving experience was at Tham Nam – the Water Cave. This is a flooded cave system where you can wade or float in side giant inner tubes as you pull yourself along a guide rope. The water is very cool and refreshing and the experience of turning all the lights off when you are almost a kilometre inside a mountain, has a certain Bilbo meets Gollum kind of feel 🙂
After a BBQ lunch with the obligatory sticky rice, we hiked a couple of kilometres through the countryside, passing through several Hmong villages as we went.
Our awaiting oversized tuk tuk then sped off down the dusty, pot holed track before depositing us on the side of the river so we kayak back down.
On the way back to Vang Vieng the boys decided that we would go tubing the next day. Much of the danger that used to be associated with tubing has been removed, yet the party on the river still sees plenty of action from the buckets of Lao Lao Whiskey through to the triple shot vodka slushies that are easier to drink than a cold beer on a hot day. Thankfully there are plenty of distractions from the constant boozing (bikinis aside) with volleyball, basketball and soccer played at many of the riverside bars. The tubing party is nowhere near over and really is a lot of fun, just take care of yourselves because copious amounts of alcohol and a muddy flowing river do not mix well.
Yes I have more incriminating photos of our tubing experience but as I said once before, what happens in Vang Vieng, stays in Vang Vieng 😉