Vieng - famed for its dramatic karst limestone scenery with cliffs,
caves and lagoons. Great for rock climbing and the Nam Song River -
tubing and kayaking. Afternoon trip to Pha Poak Hill and cave for a
little workout on a chill out day. Sweating buckets as I climb up the
bamboo ladders and over jagged rocks. Like a mini Pinnacles (in
Sarawak) - see pages 256-257 of my book.
Great view over the
rice paddies and the town. Shame about not getting the peak to myself.
I have to admit I have a bit of a phobia with lots of people standing
on cliff tops. It's not the safest place in the world. I was very
uncomfortable on Wayna Picchu for example. I expect Seiji remembers
I didn't recognise the town of Vang Vieng at all. A lot
of new construction work going on - building sites everywhere. Now for
the exciting bit. Firstly tubing in the Tham Nam Cave, about 500 metres
long by torchlight. That was fun, but would be even better in the wet
season. Then a trip to the Elephant Cave - Tham Sang with a stalactite
shaped like an elephant and some Buddha images.
tubing down the Nam Song and the main event - the rope swings,
consisting of a trapeze which propels you over the river - and then you
drop at the appropriate moment. Looked quite daunting, but after a
couple of Beer Lao I gave it a go.
There were various
acrobatic displays, one guy hanging onto another's ankles, hanging by
the legs, somersaults and some unhappy landings. The structure you
climb up is very rickety and unstable - I was fourth in the queue, when
one of the rope supports snapped. A little disconcerting - not much in
the way of H & S here.
I also think I was the oldest
person doing the swing. But when that guitar riff from 'Zombie' came
blaring out from a nearby bar, I just had to do it. It was certainly
something different. And very different to when I was here 8 years ago.
No bars here then, or swings, or indeed the loud music and huge volumes
of people. And definitely not the water slide. I did give that a miss.
Didn't want to do my back in or crash into somebody else. Must be
getting old!!! But all in all a pretty good day.
Next day, a
bit quieter with a walk in the nearby countryside, swimming in a lagoon
and some caves - one of which I will call the Phallus Cave, because it
had a massive stalactite hanging down at the entrance - never seen one
so big. Well Hung. Actually, I think it was called Tiger Cave.
Vientiane by Mini Bus - a few skids, scrapes and near misses to say the
least, but the roads are a bit better than they were a few years ago.
Not so sure about the driving. Get my lodgings just opposite the Hare
and Hounds, British Pub.
Patuxai Monument and Park. Like Arc
de Triomphe in Paris, but with four archways. Built 1960s, but is now
in a state of some disrepair. The concrete used in the construction was
meant for a new airport - hence the nickname vertical runway.
Surrounded by a well maintained park and a Chinese donated musical
Humidity increasing along with the temperature as
the hot season grows closer. Xieng Khuan - Spirit City or Buddha Park.
Buddhist and Hindu Sculptures designed and built 1958, all in concrete,
but again unfortunately crumbling away - must be the tropical climate.
The best sculpture is the pumpkin shaped representation of hell, earth
and heaven on three levels, connected by interior stairways.
That Luang or Sacred Stupa - the wat is the most important national
monument in Laos. Has been compared to a gilded missile cluster.
Originally constructed 16th century, but restored several times.
Si Muang - Home of Guardian Spirit of Vientiane. It was certainly home
to a stork, that had made its nest there and cicadas - the noise was
deafening. The Wat is famous for being the site of the laying of the
city pillar ( in the shape of a phallus), which was dropped onto a
pregnant woman laying beneath, thus sanctifying the site. In
pre-Buddhist times when human sacrifice was practiced.
from tuk tuk drivers in Laos - tuk tuk, boat ( most towns are on a
river), then hash, weed, opium and if all that fails...lady, or even a
ladyboy. and there were plenty of ladyboys on the streets tonight. 13th
March - to Savannakhet and Pakse.