Vang Vien

Caves, hammocks and cone karst in the backpacker mecca of Laos

With the headlamp on my head, I squeeze my way between stalactites, swim down an underground river, climb through sinter pools that remind me of Pamukkale… Every fork is followed until it becomes too narrow to crawl. On the way back, the guy from the entrance comes to meet us, because we had been exploding for more than 3 hours and he thought something happened… The caves at Vang Vien are just as fascinating as the dramatic karst landscape outside. Sitting with a beer or fruit shake in fascinating scenery, that’s Laos.

“Beer Lao! Jump jump!” Floating down the river in a car tire is one of the big attractions here. Only there is so little water in the river that it often doesn’t go forward without arm work. To loosen up, there are bamboo jumping towers or swings from which you can jump Tarzan-like into the water – as long as you also drink a beer. More of a party than a nature experience.

On the way from the south, I have spent a day in Laos’ capital, Vientiane. Despite some functionalist concrete buildings, the city with lots of greenery, French colonial mansions now and then and a golden stupa is a quiet small town where the side streets are not yet asphalted. However, there is a lot of construction going on, and the number of cars and motorbikes is increasing rapidly: it will probably look different soon.

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