Does nature mixed with a little bit of adventure sound appealing to you? If so, then Vangvieng in Laos is your destination.
This is a small district just four hours’ drive from the country’s capital, Vientiane.
The first day I arrived there on a recent trip, I went to explore Jung Cave (entrance costs 15,000 kip [RM7.50] if you’re a foreigner). Before getting to the cave, I had to cross an orange bridge which looked like a smaller version of the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco.
I loved how the temperature changed once I reached the cave area. I suddenly felt cooler and more relaxed.
There’s a saying that if you don’t count the steps uphill to the cave, you won’t be lucky. So I counted each step of the long winding staircase up and up. It turned out I was just a number short. Carved into the stairs, it said 147 steps.
Once I was at the top, I realised that it was a way to distract you. If you were busy counting the steps, you wouldn’t realise how far you’d climbed. There wouldn’t be as many complaints. It was quite ingenious actually.
Inside the caves, it’s a tradition to do siengxi (fortune-telling). You make a small donation and then pick up a bottle containing several wooden sticks. Then you shake it until one comes out. It will show you a number. I got “9” so I went to pick the little piece of paper of the same number and read my fortune.
A swim just outside Jung cave was wonderful. I went upstream into a tunnel so it was quite hard going. In the end, I was too tired to go all the way so I climbed out through a hole instead of swimming back out. I thought next time, I will swim to the very end for sure.
Splash of pain
On the second day, we went on a kayaking trip for 8km along the Nam Xong river. The water was very tame at this time of the year so it wasn’t that scary. However, one must consider potentially dangerous rocks when the water is not deep.
During the trip, I enjoyed the green river and the quiet, mountainous scenery. A trip like this costs 100,000 kip (RM50) per boat, including hotel pick up.
Once you’re tired from rowing the boat, you can’t miss the food stalls that sell pancakes, sandwiches and burgers. The toppings and fillings are unique, including banana, egg, chocolate and coconut milk. The price starts from 10,000 kip (RM5) for one filling.
In the afternoon, we went to Poukham cave which is a 15-minute drive along a newly built road. Here, I challenged myself to jump off a huge tree into the Blue Lagoon. After watching many tourists jumping off, I deemed the pool was deep enough to jump into safely.
Climbing up a wooden ladder at the tree, there was anxious anticipation seeing the long line of jumpers. When I was up there on the tree branch, I looked at the water and it suddenly seemed so far down.
I thought if I hesitated too long, I would chicken out. So I spread my arms and just jumped. If you’re wondering if it hurt, it did! My arms were red, as if someone had repeatedly slapped me.
Upon reflection, I should have protected my upper body from the drop, which is about 7m high. What if I had fallen face first into the water? I shuddered at the thought. I wish there had been a sign to explain the safe way to jump.
Sadly, I did not go into Poukham cave or take the zipline (120,000 kip [RM60] per person), because we didn’t have enough time. So I promised myself I would come back another time and do it.
We stayed at the Malany Guesthouse which cost 50,000 kip (RM25) per person. It’s not a bad hotel based on the price and location (opposite the Sakura Bar). It’s great if you want to enjoy a bit of clubbing at night.
When I saw a bunch Korean and European tourists leaving the guesthouse by minivans, I went to ask the receptionist about the price. He told me that it cost 40,000 kip (RM20) to go from Vangvieng to Vientiane and that the van stops near the National Culture Hall. I nodded, the information memorised for next time.
Throughout my trip, recurring thoughts kept popping up in my brain. Next time I’ll do this. Next time I’ll do that.
That’s when you know you like a place a lot. You’re already planning your next visit in your mind. – Vientiane Times (Laos)/Asia News Network/Thipphaphone Channavong