Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Laos: Vang Vieng Cave Explorations

Vang Vieng Laos Lusi Cave

At the hottest hour of a summer day I felt very tired halfway to our destination which made walking a punishment. I was about to complain about the 14-kilometer, two-way walk to a cave in the secluded part of Vang Vieng, but no, we needed to continue. Thinking that it wasn’t the best idea, I surrendered and tried to hail a tuk tuk and upon learning that we didn’t have much money to spare we let it pass by. My world almost crashed. 

Sometimes it pays to have a neat sheet of itinerary so that I could fix our budget better beforehand. We’re nearing the last leg of our two-month backpacking trip around Southeast Asia and with almost depleted funds, we couldn’t afford some basic stuff like transportation fares. We couldn’t avail of the tours that were offered around town ‘coz it would leave us on the streets of Laos so we intended to explore almost everything on foot (check here for discounted tours, transportation and activities in Luang Prabang).

Vang Vieng Laos Lusi Cave

Vang Vieng Laos Lusi Cave

We had a week in Vang Vieng and the bucolic scene we woke up to every day at Vieng Tara Villa was a cheap source of happiness for us. But we wanted to explore more, thinking about what’s beyond those limestone karst mountains that surrounded the town.

We set two days for our cave explorations. Not necessarily spelunking but those visits that will just give you an idea on how it looked like inside rather than just seeing it from the outside. We’re too old for hardcore stuff so we settled for one cave per day quota.

Lusi Cave

We asked the staff from Vieng Tara Villa for the closest cave near the resort and they pointed us toward the west. They gave us a map that featured some nearby caves that we could explore.

Vang Vieng Laos Lusi Cave

There’s a small path leading to the caves but we chose to follow the rice paddies thinking that it would be a much easier route, but no. At exactly twelve noon, we headed to Pha Poak Cave which was about a kilometer or so from where we were. We reached the cave but were taken aback on its steep ascent. We saw a sign leading to another cave, Lusi Cave, and followed it.

Vang Vieng Laos Lusi Cave

The trek was engaging. We passed by some tree tunnels and got up close to the towering limestone mountains. And then it felt like we’re getting nowhere.

Vang Vieng Laos Lusi Cave
On the way to Lusi Cave
Vang Vieng Laos Lusi Cave

Vang Vieng Laos Lusi Cave

We carried on and reached the cave after an hour or so. The place looked deserted with just one caretaker who seemed to be setting up for the day. The last night’s rain made the place cluttered and we asked if the cave was open for visit. The nice guy gave his affirmative nod and asked us 10,000 Kip each (US$ 1.24) for the entrance fee. You may also opt to hire a head lamp at around 5,000 Kip each (US$ 0.62) which would definitely help you to explore the cave.

Vang Vieng Laos Lusi Cave

The guy cleared the uphill trail that was filled with debris. We thought that it was just an easy climb but when we reached the top, we almost quit.  We were so shocked to see small rock crevices with an improvised wooden ladder. I got in first as my buddy would need more time to figure out how to fit his not-so-tiny body inside. It was challenging, especially if you’re not as “adventurous” as us. My buddy had a hard time getting through, but he managed to do it.

Vang Vieng Laos Lusi Cave

Vang Vieng Laos Lusi Cave
You'd need head lamps or flash lights.
We’re at the cave entrance and Vang Vieng looked so tiny on that standpoint. We’re the only ones up there so we had it all by ourselves.

Lusi Cave ain’t for the claustrophobic ones, the headlamps really helped us navigating inside. And because it was summer, the famous lagoon inside was nowhere to be found. There were stalactite and stalagmite formations that were just okay. But the crystal formations were amazing. I was trying to switch off my lamp and see if it still glows, but no. Haha. I laughed on my own stupid thoughts.

Vang Vieng Laos Lusi Cave

Vang Vieng Laos Lusi Cave

Vang Vieng Laos Lusi Cave
Lusi Cave
It took us more or less an hour to explore the cave. As we climbed down, more visitors were coming. The 2.8-kilometer walk back to town was easy compared to our earlier hike. We’re done caving for that day.

Tham Phu Kham Cave and Blue Lagoon

Of all the caves listed on our map, my buddy insisted to check out Tham Phu Kham Cave which is one of the famous caves in town. Why not? It has a natural lagoon right outside it that was frequented by locals and tourists all throughout the year.

It was a 7-kilometer walk, my buddy casually told me during breakfast. I couldn’t fathom how long the walk would take us, ‘coz I ain’t used to measuring. But I’d rather do it than spend our last money on transportation, quite crazy, I know.

Vang Vieng Laos Blue Lagoon

Vang Vieng Laos Blue Lagoon

With the help of our good old map (and my buddy’s digital map), we headed to the northeast village of the Ban Na Thong and commenced the journey, at ten in the morning.


The countryside Vang Vieng with the surrounding limestone karst mountains were the constant scene. The unbearable summer heat almost drained our energies as we reached our first kilometer, we’re not yet even close.

We endured the heat with our 2-liter water pack. We weren’t in a hurry though so we stopped whenever we wanted to regain our sanity energies. You see, we don’t usually do stuff like this, on a normal basis.

Vang Vieng Laos Blue Lagoon
No, not that.
Vang Vieng Laos Blue Lagoon
Midway to our 7-kilometer walk
We were passed by a tuk tuk and asked on a frustrated manner if we could probably hitch, but the driver set an incredibly and insanely high price for the ride. I politely declined and just enjoyed the stroll not thinking about the hardships which in return paved way for much appreciation of nature and people within the communities along the way.

Vang Vieng Laos Blue Lagoon

We heaved a heavy sigh upon reaching the entrance. We paid 10,000 Kip each (US$ 1.62) for the fee and sat down to regroup. The place was filled with locals and tourists converging at the lagoon, as expected. We headed toward the cave and started the steep 200-meter uphill climb. With our shaky legs, we hiked one rock step at a time, not minding the busy flow of visitors coming up and down the cave.

Vang Vieng Laos Blue Lagoon

We reached the cave entrance and felt the cool breeze from inside. We went further the huge cave with different chambers and examined if we could get through. We managed to get to the first chamber where a large bronze reclining Buddha rested. We scanned the other chambers and noticed that it would be a challenging one, so we decided to just head back to the lagoon to freshen a bit.

Vang Vieng Laos Blue Lagoon
Tham Phu Kham Cave
Vang Vieng Laos Blue Lagoon
There's a reclining Buddha inside
The famed blue lagoon is located at the bottom part of the cave. The clear turquoise blue water was so inviting that me and my buddy immediately switched to our swim wears and jumped into it. The water was truly refreshing.

Tree with hanging ropes were all over and people were doing crazy stuff a la Tarzan as they swing off. Branches were also used as diving boards at different levels. I remembered my stint on cliff jumping in Siquijor and thought that I could do it. I slowly climbed up the wooden ladder and positioned myself on the edge of the branch. With no warning, I jumped into the water faster than my buddy could take a snap of me. Everybody cheered as I surfaced back and felt the adrenaline as I swam back to where my buddy was. That was fun!

Vang Vieng Laos Blue Lagoon

Vang Vieng Laos Blue Lagoon
Yes, I jumped!
We spent almost two hours on walking and two hours inside the cave and lagoon complex when we decided to start the walk back to the town. It was easier this time for we were freshened up by our cool dip.

The sun was starting to fade and we couldn’t be much happier about it. We weren’t expecting it but a farm tractor stopped and waved at us, signalling for a hitch, and we hurriedly jumped into it. We’re almost nearing the town but it was so nice of them to give us a lift.

Vang Vieng Laos Blue Lagoon

We were just in time for the sunset and headed to the Nam Song riverside and continued the swim there. We checked our diminishing wallets and agreed on getting Beer Lao (10,000 Kip | US$ 1.62 / bottle) as a treat for a hard day. Yes, we save on transportation but not on beers. Haha.








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