Very sad to say goodbye to laid-back Luang Prabang but the journey must continue south to Vang Vieng.
We took a mini-van to Vang Vieng 200km south of Luang Prabang. The route 13 between Luang Prabang and Vientiane used to be one of the most dangerous roads in South East Asia due to the Hmong guerrillas shooting buses passing by. It is also famous for dangerous half-sealed road with very large potholes everywhere which caused two out of five minivans to get a punctured tyre(but luckily not our van). Usually a 200km journey should be no more than 3-4 hrs but it took us 8 hrs! The minivan can’t go any faster than 30-50km an hour due to the maze of avoiding potholes. However the scenery is magnificent and great to see Lao people’s life in the villages along the way.
We finally arrived in Vang Vieng, a tiny little town but rapidly growing as a pit stop town on route 13. Vang Vieng boasts stunning scenery of Limestone Mountains and caves to explore. It is sad to see such an amazing location has been saturated with rapidly and poorly developed tourism. The town is lined with restaurants all selling the same menu (and drugs) and playing repeats of American sitcoms at full ball.
So that’s why we decided to go for a bike ride out of town to get away from the town with backpackers just lying about all day drinking, smoking and watching repeats of “Friends”. We rode 15 km north of the town to Tham Sang Triangle which consists of three amazing caves. Riding through local villages was a great experience, we felt like riding the “Tour De France”, everyone is waving to you and saying hello as you pass by. Lao people are extremely friendly! When we arrived at the caves we were a bit lost and a lady from the village offered to guide us through the caves, and this was a very good idea as these are natural caves that are not set up for tourist access. She provided us with a headlights and took us through a very deep, dark caves. Deep inside the cave we were so glad we came here with her as it was like a maze in the dark and wouldn’t have known our way around. She also took us to the water cave that you need to swim into. Hiro went in a bit but came back as he was too scared to get lost in the dark.
On the way back we stopped at an organic farm and enjoyed a delicious Mulberry Shake. The farm is training local villagers to use sustainable, natural methods to produce food and fibre for themselves and for sale. Profits from the farm are used to support and educate the local villagers through projects that include a community centre, English school, and a school bus.
After the long ride we were exhausted but it was worth the sore legs the next day. We are now off to Vientiane known as the most relaxing Capital City in the world.