We’ve booked an all day tour to experience this stunning town the best way you can…on the water. We are picked up early morning and make friends almost instantly with our new partners in adventure. They are four delightful young travellers from Asia which is quite refreshing and a nice change from the mostly western travellers we have befriended so far (no offence guys)! Elle, is a Thai 23 year old who is on vacation in Laos with Fei, her Chinese 25 year old boyfriend. They’ve met at Uni in Thailand. Miller is a young Korean man who has been travelling for awhile and is on an amazing journey of exploration. Then there was Raf, who we had met on our bus journey here - a 25 year old from Taipei exploring Asia on a 3 month backpacking trip. I will introduce them to you more fully in my next post as they have interesting stories themselves.
We drive a fair way upriver and Jane reminds me this means we will be kayaking all the way back. I try to not think about this..my kayaking skills are not great…and I am always a little nervous about being in the water.
We are given some basic instruction in kayaking and off we go. I needn’t have worried. There is a slight current in this river and it helps carry us downstream. We don’t have to work to hard and I am sharing my kayak with one of the guides. We don’t go to far before we pull over at one of the villages where we stop for our next adventure.
None of us have ever done tubing in a cave before..so this is a first for all of us. We are given head torches and a massive battery that we hang around our necks. I should have remembered my more modern Kathmandu head torch but this will have to do. We’ve got our stuff in a water proof bag…and we are ready to go tubing….
The cave is quite low in parts but the initial journey is fine as we pull ourselves on a rope that follows the cave wall. We then get to a shallower part and the rope ends. We hear this thudding noise as the guide disembarks and starts banging his tube against the bottom… He explains he is frightening the water snakes away. He has a sick sense of humour..and I know this will freak Jane out a little. She doesn’t like snakes (:
We walk a little further in, admiring the formations along the way and then it’s time to get back in the tube..only this time..no rope to hang to. We hook on to the tube in front of us with our feet and begin to drift further. We pass other travellers who decide they want to splash us. Squeals of laughter disturb the stillness of the cave. We are definitely having a grand time. We stop for a few more tales from our guide..who then decides to regale us with stories of how they had slain some pythons..and cautions us to make sure our butts are not hanging out in the water..of course they are…and we know he is kidding..but…
And then I hear Jane piping up - “Can we go back now please” ! :)
After lunch its time for the serious kayaking. It’s a 15 km trip back to the village and its time to get started. The scenery is truly spectacular and this is without a doubt my best kayaking experience. It’s a hot day and my guide decides to jump off our kayak to cool off…and then teases me that he has been bitten by a snake. I am not playing..and ask nicely that he please not rock the boat over when he tries to get back in. He’s a pro..and he’s back in the boat before I have even turned around to watch how its done! I try not to think about the last time I went kayaking..I ended up in the water..and had to swim ashore…:) !!
It’s been a long hot afternoon and then we hit the party strip. We stop for a taste of Lau Lau – the Lao whiskey..and for a few buckets of cocktails! We are on the quieter side of the river and we watch the twenty somethings on the other side partying. The party starts around 2 in the afternoon and doesn’t end till the next day. I’m glad we will only stay for awhile..
There is one more activity to try though…which was completely out of my comfort zone…and initially I was determined that I would not climb up to the 12 m platform and swing off on the rope swing..so I could end up in the river! But after everyone in the group had given it a go..they all got behind me and supported me in my attempt to try one more thing that I had never and perhaps will never do again! The rush of adrenalin as you step off the platform is quite amazing..! I’ve been strapped with a life vest so I am safe when I land in the water. We eventually leave the party and drift back to town. What a great day.. and the evening is only just beginning…
“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been. Travellers don’t know where they’ve going.”- Paul Theroux