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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

25 Days of Laos (Part 6)

This is a journal of our 25-day trip around Laos on a rented Honda FTR that we fondly called Mustafa. It starts with a long bus ride from Hanoi to Laos and ends with a longer bus ride back to Hanoi.

Day 7: Nong Khiaw

After a nice yoga session in a terrace overlooking the river and the limestone mountains, I decided to go for a walk towards the historical Pathok Caves where people hid during the second Indochina War. It was farther than I thought. It took me more than 45 minutes to get there but since I was distracted by the beautiful landscape, I spent loads of time taking pictures.

As I was walking, a couple on a red, China-made Honda semi-automatic scooter passed by. The girl didn't speak English but the boy was able to ask a question as he passed me. He asked me where I was heading -- I told him I was walking towards the caves. He said, "Caves!" and pointed straight ahead before speeding away.

When I finally got to the area where the cave was, I found a tiny hut where I was asked to pay 5,000 kip for the maintenance and preservation of the historical site. After that, I crossed a small bamboo bridge. It was there I spotted two men doing their laundry and hanging them on their scooters which were in the river. It was quite an odd sight -- 1.) Men doing laundry? and 2.) Scooters parked in the river -- Isn't water bad for the engine?

After crossing the bridge, I made my way through the path that led to the cave. At the mouth of the cave is a stair case. Climbing the first few steps was alright. As I got higher, however, the steps became narrower, making it difficult for me to fit my size five foot on the steps -- Yep, the last few steps were made for babies. In order to make it easier for myself to climb up, I decided to do it side ways.

In the cave, I heard music playing. Seriously -- It was the last thing I would expect. And, I was a bit miffed that there was music but no light. I thought that maybe the people who reconstructed the cave and turned it into a tourist attraction should've prioritized lighting it rather than putting a sound system. I reasoned that maybe it would've ruined it for tourists who wanted the experience of spelunking... Whatever! OK -- I was a bit miffed because I also forgot to bring a flashlight or to get one from the lady in the hut.

Luckily, I met Justine, a Singaporean guy who was also staying in the Sunrise Guesthouse. He had two flashlights with him -- And, I followed him into the cave. The cave was actually quite big -- Nothing like the caves I've been to where you'd have to do a lot of crawling into or climbing up or down tiny passages. It was like walking into a tunnel where the ground is just slightly uneven. It was when I reached a hole overlooking the fields below did I find out where the music was coming from. The two teenagers I met on the road earlier were seated on a bamboo mat eating sunflower seeds and uncooked noodles flavored with the seasoning that comes with each packet and drinking a mixtured of lao lao and orange juice while listening to music from a huge MP3 player. They offered me some lao lao and asked me to sit with them but I refused since I wanted to do more cave exploring.

As I walked around, I thought to myself, this wasn't such a bad place to take refuge in until I saw the bamboo ladders leading to a tiny passage... Justine and I decided to join the two teens instead -- The passage just seemed too narrow, too deep and just scary. Hanging out with two giggly Laoatian teens and drinking lao lao seemed more fun, less dangerous and less scary -- At least, that's what I thought until I got home.

Anyway, before that part, I enjoyed the company of the two teens. Lay, the boy with the cool spiky hairstyle (Honestly, I haven't seen any Laoatian in Nong Khiaw with the same hairstyle) doesn't know a lot of English words but managed to strike a conversation with us. Using gestures and objects around us (realia, as we English teachers call it), he managed to teach us some Laos words and laugh about different nationalities especially how tipsy Filipinos get after a few shots of lao lao... Well, I am a light weight.

On the way back to the Sunrise Guest House, I decided to stop by for some lassi after my long walk. The lassi became lunch when my boyfriend decided to join me. And, after my long walk that morning and my big lunch, I decided to spend most of the afternoon, sleeping in the guest house and watching the sunset from our terrace. The last thing we did that day is get some dinner at Delilah's.

Quick Travel Tips:

The Pathok Historical Caves. It's actually a nice place to chill. The entrance fee is 5,000 kip.

Deen's Indian Restaurant. I really love their malai kofta. By the way, there's an added attraction in this restaurant -- A huge bomb casing which used as a decoration.

Delilah's. They've got both Asian and Western dishes. Watch out! Some of their dishes can be really spicy.

The Journey Continues:

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