Laos Series No. 2: The Blue Lagoon and an Almost Successful Caving Experience

While all of my hostelmates agreed to go tubing together (which I will soon explain in greater detail), I and my like-minded friend Juli decided to postpone that “drink in the sun and party surrounded by astonishing views” adventure. Why? Being cultured people, we believed it would have been highly insensitive to go tubing on a day when a national ship festival was presenting its exotic nature to us. No, we can’t skip this exciting opportunity. No, not us.

What we agreed not to skip appeared to be not as exciting as we hoped. Instead of having dropped our jaws down while looking at ancient ships passing by, we were passively observing a rowing competition where a number of nearby villages had a chance to show to us, the only foreigners in the bar right by the river, that ‘small Asian men’ are stronger than they appear. We watched the race, had some drinks with a group of extremely welcoming older Lao men, I had a chance to see how much my Thai language skills could help me communicate here, and after only less than two hours of this much awaited  cultural experience we found ourselves racking our brains about what to do next.

An hour (and a search for a motorbike rental place as well as the closest petrol station) later Juli and I were on a motorbike, carefully driving towards the Blue Lagoon. There are, believe it or not, two lagoons of the same (unimaginably unique) names nearby. I guess we chose the closer one, which, when I think about it, might have as well saved us from falling into mud, having a serious accident, or simply getting lost on the way.

However, what I have just written above does not imply the road to our Blue Lagoon was an easy one. I am complaining, and I was only the passenger! Till this day I should be raising a glass to Juli for her courageous driving: she was keeping the scooter steady while I was already falling onto the gravel in my head which could sometimes stop producing negative mental images. We stopped a couple of times when I felt like rather walking through the mud instead of staying on the motorbike (the name “La ponderosa”, from “Diaros de motocicleta”, comes to mind) and risking of both of us falling onto that soft yet not that sweet surface. Lots of mental images got produced in mind during that ride. But what was way more important than those were the actual images we saw: the most beautiful, the most…expressed, as I helplessly try to explain, mountains that I have ever seen.

This should be the Switzerland of Southeast Asia. With more money and less bombs, of course.

The lagoon was almost as blue as in the pictures and we felt greatly satisfied with our adventure that – hey, we still needed to go back – was not even over by then. I guess to make our trip even more rewarding we said “Yes, why not?” to a question that some guys we just met by the lagoon asked: What about seeing the cave that the sign points to?

Spoiler alert: our rhetoric “why not?” had a pretty literal answer.

But so we followed the “to cave” sign (a missing article made it very tempting to add “or not to cave”) and started climbing that beautiful rock-mountain-hill amalgam. Ah, how long that climbing felt to me! In real time it must have taken 10 minutes only, however, for a person who has a slight – and till this day slightly secret – fear of heights and not-so-secret lack of any climbing experience, it felt like…well, OK, I won’t exaggerate, 20 minutes. The most important thing at that time was that we have reached the place where the narrow entrance to the cave was. “We made it!” I thought to myself and kept it to myself because I realised that for nobody else this seemed like any slightest adventure.

One of guys stepped into the cave, took a couple of more steps, turned around, looked at us and asked a question that should have been asked some hundred metres ago:

“Anybody has any light?”

Yeaaaah, we looked at each other and without saying anything collectively decided that that was the end of our caving experience. Goodbye, statue of lying Buddha, we might see you in some other cave in the future.

As I had feared, the way down seamed even more hazardous to me: just like on my way to the lagoon, I was once again imagining myself falling. This time it wouldn’t have been falling into some soft mud. It would be landing on sharp rocks, tree roots, and – let my imagination take me even further – a pile of bodies of other brave tourists who had decided to follow that damn article-less sign.

Yet, if you’re wondering what happened, I survived! No falling, not even into mud on the way back to Vang Vieng, where more absurd challenges were awaiting.

The “philosophical spin” of this story?

Maybe unsuccessful challenges are way more fun to tell.

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