Southern Laos, November 2008

Sabaidee from Laos where I have escaped to on my latest detour from the life ordinary.

The laidback style of this little country has already captured my heart.  I started my journey in Vientiane, the capital (or Wien Chang – the Sandalwood city, as it was originally called before the name was Frenchified during the colonization of Indochina).This is as relaxed a city as you could imagine – a rambling collection of buddhist temples, Presidential palaces and other official buildings bedecked in gilt doors and carvings as well as ramshackle, shuttered colonial French villas all sprinkled along the banks of the Mekong River in the shade of Frangipani trees and climbing bougainvilleas. It hasn’t taken me long to discover the simple things in life again – dinner $6, 1 litre of beer $2 and one and a half hours of Lao massage $3!  Why travel any further?

However the itchy feet have been begging to be scratched and I have already returned from a 3 day trip in Southern Laos to Phu Hin Bun national park in Khammouane province. I cycled 50km through small Lao villages towards towering limestone peaks to arrive at Kong Lor cave.  Then a welcome quick dip in the sapphire green lagoon at the cave’s opening before a longtail boat ride – disappearing into the blackness along the 7km underground river that runs through the cave.  A truly astonishing place! It is difficult to take in the scale of some of the massive caverns, smaller winding tunnels and dripping stalactites overhead as you pass through. But luckily, after staying overnight in a nearby village we were able to kayak for a couple of hours back through the subterranean labyrinth.  Sometimes it’s hard to believe the immense beauty hidden away in this world!

So now I am heading north in Laos – currently in Vang Vieng, another pristine location nestled by the NamSong river in the shadow of massive limestone karst cliffs.  This is another playground where I have a couple of days trekking, caving and kayaking ahead – and undoubtedly imbibing my fair share of BeerLao as the sun sets on another day in Laos.

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