21.07.2013 - 23.07.2013 35 °C
We have had a slow few days in Nong Khiaw, pretty much the same as the pace of life in this sleepy village. On Sunday Chelsea was still not hundred per cent well so we had a lazy day, sat on our balcony, reading and talking. We walked over the bridge into the little town and down to the boat station as we needed to enquire about the times and cost of our onward journey. The public slow boat leaves Nong Khiaw for Muang Noi at 11am and 2pm, it takes one hour and costs 25,000 kip (less than £2.50). We then need to get a boat to the next town, Muang Khua where there is then a bus service into Vietnam. The boat up to Muang Khua costs 100,000 kip and takes 4 to 5 hours but it will only leave with a minimum of ten people. Otherwise you have to charter the boat and pay for the whole boat rather than just a seat. Since we don’t think there are even ten tourists up here, never mind ten tourists that have decided to all go to Vietnam on the same day we had to look into getting up to Vietnam a different way. We came back and sat in a little café with the internet to see how else we could get there. There is one other option, the bus. We can get the bus from Nong Khiaw to Udomxai at 9am for 45,000 kip. We then need to change and catch a bus from Udomxai to Muang Khua at 3pm for 35,000 kip. We then will have to stay overnight in Muang Khua and get the early morning 6am bus across the border to Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam….. easy…..yes.
Once we had sorted out our plans it was time to go back to our busy schedule of relaxing.
Yesterday we decided to go on a little explore. We had seen a sign in town that said that the Pathok cave was 3km away so we decided to walk it. It was a nice walk along the quiet road, up and down small hills into the mountainous jungle. The scenery around this area is stunning, huge green mountains with wispy clouds around their peaks, farmlands and the river. We have noticed that there are a lot of butterflies on Laos, all colours and sizes. It took us a while to walk it there in the blistering sun but we soon saw a sign next to the road pointing down the hill. Chelsea has broken her fourth pair of sunglasses back in Luang Prabang so she had to wear Liam’s giant cap and look like a tool. The sign said cross the river and rice paddy so we assumed there would be a little bridge. When we got down there we were wrong. There was a lady in a hut where you could buy tickets and a fast flowing muddy river. We stared at the river for a while and Chelsea said she didn’t want to go. The lady signalled to us that the river was only calf deep so we decided to buy tickets and go for it. (does this sound familiar….. an eventful day in Koh Phayam?). Tickets for the cave are only 5000 kip and we think it is definitely worth it. We took our shoes off and began to cross the river a little scared. As soon as we were in a man came over to help. It wasn’t calf deep but it wasn’t too bad, only the very bottom of our shorts got wet. The water was brown as it is wet season but the floor was shingle and thank god, not slimy mud. There was a little ladder at the other side to climb out. Once across the man started to lead us through a field and we knew he was our unofficial ‘guide’ who we would have to pay. It was extremely muddy as it was right next to a rice paddy and our feet instantly soaked through the grass and were dripping.
It was only a short walk to the cave and then we climbed the steps into the rock. It was quite interesting and is where locals would hide in the war when the country was being bombed. Towards the back it was really dark. The man took Liam through and it opened into a massive, high cave. Chelsea stayed in the front cave as the man asked her if she wanted to see a giant and dangerous spider, she politely declined. After a look around inside the caves the man took us to another cave around the corner. The man again asked Chelsea if she wanted to see the spider and pointed to the cave so she stayed at the entrance. Liam climbed in, as there were no steps on this one. Inside was not as big as the first one but there was a huge nest of killer bees, a snake and a cave spider which they were eager to wake up and show him. He quickly exited catching a glance at the stalactites absolutely covered in giant bees.
After another muddy walk across the field and another wade through the river it was time to head back. We gave the man 3000 kip for showing us around but he wanted 20,000 kip. Given that the entrance fee is only 5000 kip, we thought that 3000 kip was reasonable and said no. The walk back was hard as it was later and hotter and as soon as we arrived back into town we went straight into a café for a cold drink. The cave is worth a look and another 1km on there is a waterfall. Walking is easy but you can also rent bicycles and ride it if you have less time or fancy a change.
The rest of our time here has been spent admiring our view, drinking cold drinks, reading and recuperating. It is very picturesque spot and the sunsets are lovely. Today we have done nothing. Just enjoyed our last day in Nong Khiaw laid in our hammock. Tomorrow we begin the two day journey into Vietnam which we are not looking forward to but will be worth it when we are in Vietnam…