It was a beautiful, cold morning in Vieng Xai when Alexandre and I woke up. The guesthouse where we were staying was a small, decent accommodation called Long Ku Guesthouse. A one night stay there only cost us 50,000 LAK — which was around 6 USD.
As it was still early in the morning, we felt like we needed to eat something to satisfy our grouchy stomachs. Since our guest house didn’t provide us with any breakfast, we headed out to find a local restaurant where we could eat. Although the heat from the sun was quite intense, the day remained cool and breezy.
We stumbled upon an Indian restaurant nearby. It served both Laotian and Indian cuisines. We ordered a bowl of curry and a plate of fried rice.
While waiting for 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 just before crossing the Laos-Vietnam border.
Sightseeing and motorbike fixing
After breakfast, we went looking around for a workshop. Many local shops were still closed due to the Lunar New Year. Finding a mechanic at that time was pretty tough, but we were fortunate enough to be able to find one.
There was just one small problem: the mechanic didn’t have all of the spare parts needed to fix our motorbike. Nonetheless, we still had some of the major problems fixed. We decided to look for another mechanic to do the rest of the job.
Although Vieng Xai seems like a quiet place, there are actually plenty of things to do there. You’ve got to be a nature lover, or perhaps an adventurer to really like it.
These are some wonderful natural sites you can visit while you’re in Vieng Xai:
- Caves: Nok Ann Cave, Kaysone’s Cave, Red Prince Souphanouvong, and the Theatre Cave.
- Waterfall: Noua Waterfall
While looking for a workshop, we did a little bit of exploring around the small town. We also tried talking to some of the local people. Despite the language barrier, we were still able to understand them. The locals were very nice and helpful.
According to them, there was another workshop around the corner. It was one of the few ones that opened for business at the time. The workshop was actually not very far from where we were. So we quickly made our way there.
As usual, problems occurred and our motorbike continued to giving us more problems. We had to push our motorbike again, and again.
After all the pushing, we finally arrived at the next local workshop. We were their first customer of the day. When we arrived, the mechanic told us to hold on for a little while as he was in the middle of his shower. We could see him enjoying his bath just next to the garage!
While waiting for him, his wife came and served us some food and water. That was very nice of her. Her young son was also outside of the house with her. He was playing with two of his adorable guinea pigs.
After the mechanic was done with his shower, he went on fixing our motorbike. The fixing cost wasn’t very expensive. Thank goodness for that. At least we had our problems fixed.
It was already afternoon when our motorbike was ready to go for some adventures. Alexandre and I decided to go back to our guesthouse to take a short rest and discuss about our next activity.
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 said he was up for it, too. After we both agreed 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 a lot more exciting than the waterfall. It was a quiet (and probably nameless) place with many beautiful limestones.
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 before 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 they were. We weren’t even sure where exactly we were.
Alexandre assumed that it was once a minefield. It was hard for me to believe it at first, but he could be right after all. In 1964, there were a lot of bombings in the country. In fact, the locals had to live in darkness for many years in order to survive.
As we went further into the jungle, our surroundings started to become a lot more quiet. We could barely hear the sounds of birds and insects. The sound from the streams was louder than everything else.
There were two streams we had to cross. In order to prevent our shoes from getting wet, we decided to take off our shoes. Alexandre carried me in his arms while crossing the beautiful streams. That was sweet of him.
That’s what I call team work. Maybe someday I’ll have to carry him, too.
After crossing the streams, we continued to walk closer to the limestone mountains. Stunned by their beauty, we decided to go for a climb. We wanted to climb one of the mountains and reach its peak.
Getting to the peak of the limestone mountain
The jungle seemed untouched. We could’ve brought a machete with us that day, but we didn’t. Finding our way back would certainly be a challenge.
Plants with sharp leaves and thorns were everywhere. Alexandre had all of his back covered with scratches. But not for me. I was covered from head to toe. Nothing could scratch me.
I barely sweated when I climbed the mountain. Alex, on the other hand, was all sweaty. And he definitely moved a lot faster than me.
It only took us less than an hour to reach the peak of the mountain. The climb wasn’t that easy, though.
I nearly tripped on the root of one of the plants there. I was fortunate not to get my head knocked on one of the big rocks just in front of me. Otherwise, things could’ve been nasty, and I would surely not be able to complete the journey. Furthermore, a big rock nearly fell on my head! But I managed to avoid it. Gosh, was Mother Nature upset with me?
Big rocks, sloppy grounds, and sneaky roots didn’t stop us from enjoying an incredible view like this!
Frankly speaking, my picture is not even half as beautiful as the real thing.
We relaxed at the mountain for a while. If we had arrived earlier, we might have had spent more time there. At 5pm, we were ready to make our way down the mountain.
Finding our way back
Getting to the peak of the mountain was indeed a challenge, but going down and finding our way back to our starting point was a whole different story. For me it was a lot harder.
One could easily get lost in the jungle. We almost lose our way. We walked slowly and watched every of our steps. There were many hidden holes and dangerous cliffs around. I have to admit that I was extremely nervous.
Since Alexandre is an experienced hiker, I followed his back the whole time. We didn’t have a compass or other tools that we could use for our explorations. Common sense and natural instincts were our best friends.
Okay, I almost fell off a cliff. Again! When Alex saw me walking towards a cliff (which was hidden within the trees and ferns), he quickly told me to stop and back off from where I was about to go. It was difficult to notice the cliffs as they were less visible. Phew, that was close!
Although we got lost for a while, we still managed to get back to the streams 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 bombs in Laos, with many of them still buried around the country.
I remembered reading about it at the National Museum of Laos in Vientiane. I said to Alex, “Damn, what we did in the jungle in Vieng Xai was dangerous and risky. There might be bombs there.”
Okay, it’s not like we didn’t have any suspicions while we were there. We just didn’t want to assume anything that we weren’t sure about. But for the most part, we just wanted to feed ourselves with adventures and the sense of accomplishment.
That’s the first and the last time I’ll ever do that again. I hope so.