It was a beautiful, cold morning in Vieng Xai when Alexandre and I woke up from our beauty sleep. The guesthouse where we were staying was a small, decent accommodation called Long Ku Guesthouse. A one night stay there only cost us 50,000Kip — which was equivalent to roughly U$6.
Alexandre and I felt very hungry and needed to eat something for breakfast. Unfortunately, it was not provided by the guest house. Therefore, we got ourselves ready for some food hunting. It was a sunny day yet the weather was quite cold. The breeze also gave us the chills.
We stumbled upon an Indian restaurant nearby. It served both Lao and Indian cuisines. We ordered a bowl of curry and a plate of fried rice.
While we waited on our food, we discussed about our activity of the day. We were still unsure of what we wanted to do. We thought it would be a good idea to explore the town and check out what it had to offer. We were just a little worried about our motorbike as it needed some fixing. The exhaust, the starter, and some other parts were broken due to a small accident we had before we entered the Laos-Vietnam border.
Sightseeing and motorbike fixing
After breakfast, we went looking around for a workshop. Many shops were still closed due to the Lunar New Year. Finding a mechanic at that time was pretty tough. But we were still able to find one. However, the mechanic couldn’t fix all of our problems. That was because the workshop didn’t have all the spare parts needed to fix our motorbike. Nonetheless, we still had some of the major problems fixed.
Then we rode around the small, quiet town. Although it seemed like a boring place, there were actually plenty of things to do. You’ve got to be a nature lover in order to enjoy Vieng Xai. Alexandre and I love nature hence we were looking forward to exploring some of the mountains we saw not very far from our guest house. Here are a few natural sites you can visit in Vieng Xai:
- Caves: Nok Ann Cave, Kaysone’s Cave, Red Prince Souphanouvong, and the Theatre Cave.
- Waterfall: Noua Waterfall
After breakfast, we explored the town and did some sightseeing. We didn’t go to the caves, though. We were more focused on fixing our motorbike. We tried to get directions from the locals, but they weren’t able to speak English. Despite the language barrier, they still tried their best to help us.
Based on their body language, we understood that there was a workshop around the corner that was open for business at that time. It was not very far from where we were. So we quickly rode our way to the workshop. As usual, problems occurred and our motorbike was giving us hard times. We had to push our motorbike again, and again.
After all the pushing, we’ve finally arrived at the next local workshop. We were their first customer of the day! The male mechanic was taking his shower just next to his garage. When he saw us, he told us to wait for him to finish his quick shower. While we waited for him, his wife came out of the house and served us some food and water. She was very nice and friendly to us even though she wasn’t able to create any meaningful conversation with us. Her young son was also outside of the house with her. He was playing with his guinea pigs. The guinea pigs were so adorable! So was the little boy!
The fixing cost wasn’t very expensive. Phew! Well, at least we had our problems fixed. It was already afternoon when our motorbike was finally ready to go. We continued our discussion about our next activity at our guest house.
Getting in touch with nature
I told Alexandre that I wanted to go to the waterfall, which was just 5km away from our guesthouse. He obviously said ‘Yes’. After agreeing on the plan, we quickly hopped on our motorbike, turned on our mobile GPS, and headed off to the waterfall. But we never got there.
That was because we stumbled upon something we thought was much better than the waterfall. It was basically a jungle whose name I didn’t know. We saw many beautiful limestones there. The place was very quiet. In fact, the whole country is very peaceful! Of course, there are just 7 million people in Laos. Most of the small villages are also quite far away from one another.
The landscape was breathtaking and we were so blown away by its beautiful surroundings. While we enjoyed the cold breeze that blew through our faces, we gazed upon the turquoise-green river, which was flowing gracefully in front of us. There was nobody else around except us.
We had our motorbike hidden somewhere. Not far from where we had it parked, we found burn marks on the ground. We weren’t sure what that empty space was, but Alexandre assumed that it was once a minefield. It was hard for me to believe it, but what if it was true? I was aware about the Vietnam War that happened between 1954-1975.
The area was extremely quiet. We could barely hear the sounds of birds and insects. The sound from the river was louder than anything else. To prevent our shoes from getting wet, we decided to walk on barefeet, and I was supposed to carry our shoes with my hands. On the other hand, Alexandre carried me in his arms while he crossed the beautiful streams. How sweet of him. That’s what I call team work!
After we’ve crossed the streams, we walked further until we were close to the limestone mountains. Stunned by their beauty, we decided that we will climb one of them and reach its peak.
Getting to the peak of the limestone mountains
The jungle looked untouched. We could’ve brought a machete with us that day, but we didn’t. That basically meant that we were going to have a hard time in making our way back later. Plants with sharp leaves and thorns were everywhere. Alexandre’s body was all scratched by the plants. Not for me, though. That’s because I was wearing a pair of long-sleeved jacket and a pair of trousers. I didn’t feel the cold as I climbed up the mountain. On the other hand, Alex was already sweating profusely.
The mountain wasn’t very high and we took less than an hour to get to the top. I was trying my best to catch up with Alexandre. He seemed to climb the mountain with no sweat at all! I nearly tripped on the root of one of the plants there. I was fortunate to not get my head knocked on the big rock in front of me. Otherwise, things could’ve been nasty and I will surely not be able to complete the journey. Furthermore, one of the rocks above me accidentally fell. Luckily, I managed to avoid it. Was Mother Nature actually upset with me?
Finally, after we’ve gone through some of the obstacles that came along our way, we’ve finally made it to the top of the mountain. The view was incredibly beautiful! My picture is not even half as beautiful as the real thing! If you think the below picture is pretty, wait till’ you see the picturesque surroundings with your own eyes!
We relaxed at the mountain for a while. If we had arrived earlier, we could’ve spent more time there. It was already about 5pm when we were finally ready to head down to where we first started our journey.
Finding our way back
Going up the mountain was indeed a challenge, but I personally thought that going down was a lot harder. One can easily get lost in the jungle. In fact, this was what actually happened: We didn’t really remember the way back to the streams. We walked down slowly because there were many hidden holes and dangerous cliffs. Honestly, I was extremely nervous.
Since Alex is an experienced hiker, he was the one leading the way throughout the journey. We didn’t have a compass or any other tools that we could’ve used for our explorations. Common sense and natural instincts were our friends.
Okay, I almost fell off a cliff. Again! I was very fortunate when Alex spotted the cliff and told me to stop. Slowly, I backed off from where I was about to go. It was difficult to notice the cliff as it was less visible. Hey Alex, thanks for keeping me alive!
Although we got lost for a while, we still managed to get back to the streams on time, just before sunset. Hooray! We hopped on our motorbike and rode back to our guesthouse. It was time for dinner!
Learning more about Laos
Later that night, I did some research about Laos. Apparently, there are still about 80 million of unexploded US bombs in Laos and many of them are still unfound. The unexploded ordnance is still mysteriously buried in the country. I’ve also learned about it during my visit to the National Museum of Laos in Vientiane. I said to Alex “Damn, what we did was dangerous and risky. There might be bombs here.”
Okay, it’s not like we didn’t have any suspicions when we were there. We just didn’t want to assume anything that we weren’t sure about. But for the most part, we had a memorable and satisfactory adventure.
That’s the first and the last time I’ll ever do that again. At least in Laos.