Laos in three Stages

To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, to gain all while you give, to roam the roads of lands remote: To travel is to live.  –  Hans Christian Anderson

It was the third time that I crossed the border to Laos within a few weeks. The first time coming from China and leaving towards Thailand. Afterwards crossing the north of Laos while going to Vietnam and now from the south. Thus, it was also the third time that I had to acquire a visa. The prices were different at all three boarder gates, which leaves a slightly bitter aftertaste …

After leaving Cambodia I spent the first night in Thakhek, a little town situated at the Mekong River and some 500 kilometers north of the Cambodian border. Here I met Sara from Belgium and Rob from the UK on a rainy Sunday morning . They had similar plans. We all intended to see the Kong Lor Cave, an amazing 7 kilometer-long limestone tunnel formed by the Hinboun River. Since it was obviously not easy to reach the Cave at this time of the year with public buses, the two rented a scooter and we met again after sunset in a quiet little village nearby the cave.

After having had some good fun on a Sunday evening, we set out to explore the cave next morning. The Kong Lor Cave can be navigated by motorized small and long boats with a torch. It emerges into a lush valley on the far side which previously was only accessible by foot. The entire boat-trip is an adventure in itself and although we had flashlights, it is to a large extend pitch black.

The boat is controlled by two guys: one is sitting in front and uses his torch to look ahead, the other guy takes care of the engine and the rudder in the stern. The boats are so small that you better don’t make any frantic movements which could endanger the balance. In the end, you depend entirely on the experience of the two boatmen and you can only hope that they actually know every curve and every rock on the 20-30 minute ride through the dark. During a curve-maneuver on our way back a whole lot of water swept into the boat. This caused some short-term panic on our side. You don’t want to think about what happens here, if you actually capsize. It’s just rocks and water surrounded by a deep black night. The safety provisions would probably not fully meet the German standard. Nevertheless, it was a great experience.

In the afternoon I said goodbye to Sarah and Rob and made my way to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. I only stayed there for one night and continued the ride next morning to Vang Vieng. The last days I finally spent in Luang Prabang. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and best known for its many Buddhist temples. It is located right on the Mekong River in the mountainous north of the country. Luang Prabang was the capital of the historic Kingdom of Lan Xang and until the communist takeover in 1975, it was the royal capital and seat of government of the Kingdom of Laos.

This lovely place encouraged me to stay for three nights. After those quiet days I was on my way to find the shortest route to Thailand. It was time for a good service, some repairs and the long-awaited new tires …