Day 30 - Vang Vieng, Central Laos

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February 16th 2018
Published: February 16th 2018
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Thursday morning, lest we forget. Wake early after a great night's sleep, turn over and have an extra 10 minutes,only to wake at 9 am to realise breakfast service stops at half past.

One thing we do, when travelling, if breakfast is included in our hotel deal, we feast, it fires us up for the whole day.

Trip advisor reviews of breakfast here, not good, but as long as copious amounts of tea/coffee and a slice of toast, we're good to go. Breakfast is much better than expected, but as we are late the food a little cool. Choosing a table overlooking the river, stunning views of the huge Limstone Karsts surrounding us, we start to eat, but are immediately engaged by a lone German Lady called Heather, who is a seasoned traveller. Nice Lady, so we eat slowly as she engages us with her many trips and Asian experiences panning 20 years! Despite our cooling food we, enjoy the dialogue and she is keen to chat. But, we were supposed to pick up our pre-ordered bikes by 0900 hrs, we are already at 10.30 hrs.

Then, our Canadian traveling friends from the bus yesterday call us to suggest we share a private mini-van to Luang Prabang on Sunday, as our onward plans coincide. Weirdly, Frank and Joanne are staying in the hotel next door to us so we arrange to meet at our reception area and book a fare of $100 for the four of us to take private transportation on the 'new highway', cutting down a public bus schedule of 6-7 hours down to 5 hours, and as its only $13 each per person extra than the bus and several hours less and a lot safer (we hope),easy option. Transport booked, we head to our bike hire people, no surprise, all gone! So we wander on into town and find another outlet. We hire from a particularly rude lady and wonder whether commercialism that so evident here doesn't damage the spirit of what up until now has been such open and lovely people. Anyway, enough philosophy, we set out and decide to walk our bikes across the bamboo bridge and find a safe route towards the hills!

Plenty of water on board, we name our bicycles, as we usually do, in case we lose them, we have Fred and Ginger, can't tell them apart, but Fred is definitely male!. They may not be classy, but definitely 1940's builds, so off we go! A great hour cycling amongst these magnificent karsts, having had to dismount here and there because of the hills, rather than our lack of fitness, lol, we see a sign for 'Cave and Swimming, only 400 metres'. We detour along a deserted track to who knows where, to be eventually greeted by a sole Laotian man, sitting in a shack, playing Western style pop music. We meet, greet and cool down with a small Lao Beer, before buying tickets for a natural freshwater pool where you can swim, and a cave with difficult access to a sub-terrainian pool. The cost of this is less than one pound per person. Leaving Fred and Ginger with the old man, we walk the 1 kilometer track, crossing bamboo bridges and paddy fields full of butterflies and cattle, There are very few people, it is silent, apart from the birds and what we think are Apes in the trees, but walking in these hills is so peaceful and beautiful.

We really enjoy the experience, despite the heat and humidity. Having traversed two bamboo bridges that were just about held together with string, we feel accomplished and on reaching the open first cave and pool, are delighted by its easy access and Crystal clear water full of small fish. A definite Gara Rufa experience, for sure. We didnt bring swim wear, stupidly, so couldn't enjoy to its full potential.

Just one other couple there, no masses, could have been amazing place for a swim! So, heading back, we stop in town for a cold beer in a typical Laotian riverside bar, no seats, reclining beds and pumped up cushions , before returning Fred and Ginger, walk back to our hotel and then sit, admiring river activities, taking advantage of Happy Hour! It certainly is!Tomorrow we are trekking in the morning and Kayaking in the afternoon. But today at sunset its dinner at our hotel and an early night. Isn't life splendid.

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