After Luang Prabang, I am moving on to Vang Viang on the Nam Song river with mixed feelings. Apart from the beautiful karst hill landscape, Vang Viang was known as a party town for tubing until about 30 tourists died, drowning or diving head first into rocks (The Guardian). To put an end to this, the government decided to shut down all bars along the river selling cheap alcohol and offering rope swings and zip lines in mid 2012. However, the surrounding area is beautiful and I decided to take a motorbike off the beaten tracks. At nighttime, bars give out free rice schnapps, sell laughing gas and offer beer pong contests. Korean tourist are everywhere in town due to a Korean reality show taking place at the Blue Lagoon. I like the place though.
Moving on to Southern Laos, I stop for a mandatory visit in the capital city. In Vientiane, it is boiling hot once again. I take it easy and watch an amazing sunset on the Mekong river. Thakhek is next on my list. I team up with a dutch guy and challenge the loop – a 500km motorbike trip through the remote provinces of Khammuan and Bolikhamsai which takes three days. Chinese Honda Wave copies take us over dirt roads to small villages. Filling up petrol in the middle of the night is an adventure itself. Parts of the area suffers from deforestation because of a the newly build Nam Theun II damn, which left a heavy footprint on the environment.
In Konglor, I check out the 8 kilometre long cave by boat between sacks of rice. A river runs all the way through it, connecting a small village at the end. The cave is up to 50 metres high and full of stalagmites and stalactites. It is immense! The wet season is about to start and I realise that I am travelling off season. Back in Konglor, restaurants are closed and my guest house does not serve any food. I bike around and end up eating at my boatman’s home. On the way back to Thahhek it starts to rain and I am soaking wet by the time I arrive.
The rain only stops occasionally when I am heading further south and I decide to skip the southern swing – a 450km motorbike trip through coffee plantations. In Champasak, I get to see Khmer architecture. Only a few tourists are scattered around the six terraces because most people are drawn to the temples of Angkor. On my way further south, I visit Don Det – an island in the Mekong river known for its party scene. It does not stop raining and a funeral seems to be the only thing that is happening on the island. It is time to move on. I am heading to Cambodia.